Information security policy plays a vital role in protecting data confidentiality, integrity, and availability. Learn how to develop your policy.
The modern business operation environment is challenged by the constantly evolving cyber security needs and an increasingly complex compliance environment. To effectively balance these challenges, organizations should create and maintain a comprehensive information security policy, or simply infosec policy. An effective infosec policy enables businesses to coordinate and enforce a security program and communicate security measures and requirements to employees and third parties.
This article discusses some of the most critical aspects businesses should consider when developing an information security policy.
An information security policy is a documented statement of rules and guidelines that employees and partners must follow when managing company data, systems, and other resources. It defines the “who,” “what,” “when”, and “how” regarding data security. The main goal of every infosec policy is to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of organizations’ and customers’ information assets. Along with this, a well-written security program helps address many other important objectives, including:
It is important to add that a security policy is a “living document,” so it must be continuously updated and improved following the state of organizations’ security landscape, compliance requirements, technologies, and business processes.
Information security policy plays a vital role in protecting the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data. It sets frameworks and requirements necessary to address information security threats, manage risks, and comply with regulations.
A well-written security policy must define roles and responsibilities for information security within the organization. It should outline the roles and responsibilities of employees along with timelines for when particular tasks and procedures should be completed. The policy should define not only the employees’ commitments but must also specify the roles and responsibilities of other individuals who use the company’s resources, including partners, contractors, and suppliers.
A good Information security policy also shapes the organizations’ cybersecurity efforts in meeting regulatory requirements such as HIPAA, GLBA, PCI DSS, compliance frameworks such as SOC 2, and standards including ISO 27001 and NIST, among other things. Thus, developing a good information security policy is an essential prerequisite for complying with specific laws and regulations.
Information security policy documents should not just adorn the empty spaces of the organization’s bookshelf. Over time, they can become outdated if they are not actively implemented, maintained, and improved. In general, infosec policies have their lifecycle that reflects the continuous approach organizations should take when developing and implementing them.
The process of developing and updating a security policy is typically led by Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). At the same time, the CISO should also work with executives from all major business units including finance, physical security, legal, and human resources to form a committee or council to develop and maintain the policy.
Before developing the Information security policy, start looking at your organization’s compliance requirements. The requirements contained in HIPAA, CCPA/CPRA, or any other laws or standards are good landmarks. Also, do not forget about the existing information security frameworks developed by reputable organizations. Organizations may use these frameworks as a basis when developing their own information security policy. For instance, there is an international standard ISO/IEC 27001 (or ISO 27002 a more detailed guide), which organizations often use as their policy framework. The standard is recommended to be taken into consideration by businesses that are on the way to developing or improving their own policy.
With all the areas of concern in mind, the assigned team can start building the infosec policy into a written document. The development stage includes formally writing down any legal requirements, policy statements, business strategies, and specific control measures to protect the company’s assets. The policy should also be supported with a risk assessment to determine the organization’s vulnerabilities and areas of concern. We already explained how to conduct a thorough risk assessment in one of our previous articles, How to Conduct a Rist Assessment?
The implementation phase includes requesting all employees to thoroughly read the document, allocating responsibilities for different aspects of information security, and ensuring ongoing security training so that employees are aware of what they need to be doing to protect information assets.
The final stage of the policy lifecycle is maintaining and reviewing it. The cybersecurity landscape is constantly evolving, so organizations’ cyber risk profiles and compliance requirements change accordingly. Thus, security policies should be reviewed, at a minimum, annually and updated as needed.
Information security policy documents differ across organizations. Thus, there are several topic areas that organizations should address to have a sufficiently robust information security policy including:
In addition to the topics mentioned above, the information security policy should consider the organization’s business strategy, current, and upcoming legislations, as well as current and potential threats.
At any rate, the information security policy is more than a compliance requirement. Its purpose extends to declaring the main procedures for keeping data safe and alerting organizations on data security risks they face. An infosec policy that meets all compliance requirements is critical for preventing security incidents like data leaks, and data breaches.
To stay updated on the recent cybersecurity and compliance-related topics, keep reading our blog. Feel free to contact the Planet 9 team for help with your security and compliance challenges. We’ll be happy to assist!