Do You Have An Information Security Policy?

You cannot afford to overlook information security. Here are the details on what an information security policy is all about.
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Do You Have An Information Security Policy?

One of the most significant weaknesses for any company within the San Francisco Bay Area regarding information security is its employees. The reason is that every strategy a firm adopts to secure in-house data right from investing in technological defenses to setting up physical barriers, is dependent on the proper use of each of these options by workers. For that reason, you cannot afford to overlook the importance of information security and an information security policy as an entrepreneur. Below is a definition of each and details on what an information security policy is all about.

Information Security

The term information security refers to the sum of people, processes, and technologies you implement within your enterprise to protect your information assets. Further, the focus here is preventing unauthorized disclosure, modification, disruption, access, and use of such information assets. The three principles of information security known as the CIA triad are;

  • Confidentiality – Focuses on guarding data against unauthorized disclosure.
  • Integrity – Relates to protecting information against unauthorized modification while ensuring completeness, authenticity, non-repudiation, and accuracy of the same.
  • Availability – Entails protection of information against unauthorized destruction and ensures data is available when you need it.

Information Security Policy

An information Security Policy (ISP) refers to a set of rules, procedures, and policies for ensuring that all users and networks within an entity meet minimum IT security and data protection security requirements. Indeed, these rules support the CIA triad and define the who, what, and why regarding desirable behavior. Also, information security procedures have a direct impact on a company’s overall security posture.

Additionally, an information security policy can be organizational, issue-specific, or system-specific.

Organizational Policy

In the case of an organizational information security policy, the management will;

  • Dictate the setting up of an information security program.
  • Layout the goals of the program.
  • Assign various responsibilities.
  • Explain the strategic and tactical value of information security.
  • Lastly, outline the procedure of carrying out enforcement.

An organizational information security policy should address relative laws, liability, and regulations issues and how a firm will satisfy all that. Note that an organizational information security policy provides scope and direction for all future security activities within an enterprise. The policy also explains the amount of risk that senior management is willing to accommodate.

Issue-Specific Policy

Also known as a functional policy, an issue-specific policy focuses on particular security challenges that management feels require a more detailed explanation and attention. The intention, in this case, is to build a comprehensive structure and ensuring that workers understand how they should comply with the set security protocols.

For instance, a firm can have an email security policy that dictates what management can and cannot do with employees’ email messages for monitoring reasons. In turn, that specifies which email functionality workers can and cannot use and addresses particular privacy concerns.

System-Specific Policy

A system-specific policy refers to the management’s decisions relating to actual applications, computers, and networks. An enterprise can have a system-specific policy explaining how individuals should protect a database containing sensitive data, the people who should access such information, and how auditing will take place.

A company may also have a system-specific policy defining the locking and management of laptops. The policy focuses on one or a group of similar systems and how to protect the same.

The Importance of an Information Security Policy

When writing an organizational security policy, the goal should be to provide relevant direction and value to employees on matters pertaining to information security. Here are a few reasons why having an information security policy is critical.

  • It acts as a mechanism for holding individuals accountable for compliance in line with desirable behavior regarding information security.
  • It defines the obligations of your employees from a security point of view.
  • Supports a company’s legal and ethical responsibilities.
  • Reflects the risk appetite of the executives of a particular firm, and it should also paint a picture of the managerial mindset regarding security.
  • Lastly, provides direction for building a control framework to protect an entity from internal and external threats.

Programmer working under an information security policy.

Key Elements of an Information Security Policy

An information security policy can be broad enough to cover security training, IT and physical security, lifecycle management, and the use of social channels. As much as that is the case, below are the important element that an effective information security policy should feature.

1. Employee Responsibilities and Duties

Your workers will play an important role in educating, implementing, responding to incidents, reviewing user access, and initiating periodic updates once you roll out your information security policy. As such, the policy should provide insight into;

  • Incident management
  • Security programs
  • Disaster recovery
  • Acceptable use policies
  • Data security
  • Network security
  • Incident response
  • Physical security
  • Risk assessment
  • Business continuity
  • Security Awareness
  • Lastly, access management

2. Purpose

There are several reasons why an organization may create an information security policy. These include;

  • Protecting customer data and responding to inquiries and complaints concerning non-compliance with data protection and security requirements.
  • Creating an organizational model for information security.
  • The need to uphold ethical, legal, and regulatory requirements.
  • Detecting and preempting information security breaches resulting from computer systems and mobile devices, third-party vendors, applications, misuse of networks, and data.
  • Lastly, guarding a company’s reputation.

3. Security Awareness Training

It’s no use having an information security policy that no one follows. You can ensure that such a policy fulfills its mandate by assessing whether your employees understand the part they should play in this case. That implies that you need to train your staff on such security requirements like access control, data protection, data classification, and general cyber threats. Security training should also include;

  • Acceptable Usage – Workers need to know what they can use their office devices and the internet for and the restrictions in place.
  • Social Engineering – Teaching your employees about spearphishing, phishing, and other common social engineering cyber attacks is paramount.
  • Clean Desk Policy – Advise workers to avoid leaving documents on desks. They should also take their laptops home at the end of a workday.

4. Audience

You need to define who your company’s information security policy applies to and those it does not affect. Note that the policy should also account for vendor risk, third-party risk, and fourth-party risk, regardless of whether you have a legal or regulatory duty to protect your clients’ data from leaks and breaches or not.

Remember that customers can blame your firm for breaches beyond your control, and the reputation damage, in this case, can be significant.

5. Data Support and Operations

Outlining how you will handle data at each level after classifying it is paramount. There are three components you should focus on in the case of data support and operations. These are;

  • Movement of Data – The communication of the data you classify should be in a secure manner, and you also need to encrypt it. You should also avoid transmitting such information across public networks to avoid man-in-the-middle attacks.
  • Data Protection Regulations – Protection of entities that store sensitive data or personally identifiable information (PII) in line with industry compliance standards and regulations, organizational standards, and best practices is mandatory.
  • Data Backup Requirements – Explain how a firm backs up its data, the third-party service vendors it uses, and the level of encryption it relies on.

6. Information Security Objectives

When developing your company’s information security policy, you need to have well-defined objectives regarding security and strategy. Also, management should agree on these objectives. Otherwise, any disagreements in this context may render the entire project dysfunctional. Remember that an information security policy focuses on the CIA triad.

7. Data Classification

Classifying data into levels that dictate an increasing need for protection is advisable. Below is a breakdown of the various levels.

  1. Public information.
  2. The details your firm keeps confidential and whose disclosure will not cause material harm.
  3. Any information with a risk of material harm to persons or your enterprise in the event of a disclosure.
  4. The kind of data with a high risk of causing severe harm to people or your firm after disclosure.
  5. Lastly, any details that will cause severe harm to individuals or your establishment immediately after disclosure.

8. Authority and Access Control Policy

Deciding who has the authority to determine what data employees can share and what they cannot share is not an option. That is what an authority and access control policy is all about. An access control policy can help you outline the level of authority over IT systems and data for every level of your entity, and it may also include network security.

9. Other ISP Items

An information security policy may include other items such as references to supporting documents, virus protection procedures, physical security requirements, malware protection procedures, consequences for non-compliance, among other things.

Learn More About an Information Security Policy

Downloading IT policy samples from a website for use within your organization is a careless attempt to readjust your policy goals and objectives to fit a standard that is too broad. Adopting a high-grade information security policy will prove a wise decision in this case. If you need a free immediate quote for such IT services and more, contact us today!

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