An information security policy is a company’s guide to appropriate information technology conduct. It tells potential users how to interact with your data and devices safely. Implemented well, your security policy will prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information.
You’ve probably seen one before. Common information security policy examples include acceptable use policies and non-disclosure agreements.
In many industries, information security policies are mandatory to meet regulatory requirements. However, compliance requirements aren’t the only reason to establish a policy.
In this article, we will take a closer look at information security policies and why it’s crucial to have one.
What Makes an Information Security Policy so Important?
Your policy lays the foundation of your cybersecurity strategy. Without a clear blueprint, your team won’t know how to protect your organization correctly.
Research shows that 80% of data breaches were caused by human error, and only 25% of internal security awareness professionals have adequate experience in training.
Having concrete guidelines about proper security etiquette gives your training team the right tools to educate your staff. You will also have an accessible resource for staff members to refer to whenever they have questions about your information security protocol.
From there, your company will continue to benefit from a well-implemented security program. Here are a few other benefits of information security policies.
Many companies define who is responsible for what in their information security documents. Defining roles and responsibilities in your policy eases the onboarding process and holds staff accountable for their assigned duties.
At many organizations, the security policy functions like a contract. Therefore, if a human error causes a data breach, the person who caused it cannot argue whether or not their action was wrong.
You will have concrete, non-objective standards that every user must follow to avoid consequences.
Improve Corporate Reputation
In a PwC report, 87% of consumers said that they would not purchase from a company that does not have an adequate cybersecurity strategy.
Your security policy is more than an internal training tool and employee contract; it is also a great way to build customer trust and improve sales.
You can also present your policy to third-party investors. Investors are more likely to invest in a company with strong security requirements that they can show partners and auditors.
Seeing that your company is less susceptible to a reputation-damaging breach will help convince investors that you’re unlikely to be a liability.
A security incident can directly impact your regular business operations. The effort your team needs to put into disaster recovery, and public relations after a breach is incredibly time-consuming.
The preventative measures outlined in your security policy will decrease incidents, therefore, decreasing the amount of time your team spends responding to them. Additionally, including a strong recovery plan in your policy minimizes business interruptions if a breach occurs.
Information security policies usually include instructions on how to identify threats and vulnerabilities. Using these instructions, employees can detect and respond to risks quicker.
Robust firewalls and network security can’t always neutralize threats that are already in your network. According to Verizon, 22% of security incidents were caused by an internal user.
Access limitations and role designations highlighted in your security policy help mitigate insider threats.
Credit: Andrew Lozovyi
What is Information Security Policy Structure?
The best information security policies are tailored to your business. However, your team will probably introduce new policies as technology requirements evolve.
With that said, you should create security policy templates that specify critical business needs to ensure that your team includes them in every new policy.
While creating your information security policy template, consider the different types of policies you need to include.
There are two different types of information security policies: technical security policies and administrative security policies.
- Technical security policies describe how your IT infrastructure should be configured. These policies should be followed whenever your team introduces a new feature or application.
- Administrative security policies describe how your system administrators should interact with your infrastructure. These policies would include internet and device usage best practices and how to share your data securely.
There are also three different levels of security policy. These levels highlight the correct incident response procedure for each circumstance and how users can prevent incidents from occurring.
- Organization-level security policies demonstrate the correct protocol for all technology usage across your company.
- System-level security policies focus on data protection within specific systems. For example, your payroll system probably has different security standards than other areas in your business.
- Issue-level security policies highlight the correct response to specific security threats. These policies typically discuss preventative and reactive measures to its featured security risk.
In your overarching information security policy, technical and administrative policies should be present at every level. Incorporate all critical cyber security best practices and company standards into your template.
Sample Information Security Policy
Your information security policy template may be one or multiple pages. However, it could look similar to this:
In the first section of your policy, answer the question “what is an information security policy” and explain why it matters. Here, you should focus more on why it’s helpful than on how disregarding it may lead to punitive actions.
The policy scope is a succinct description of who needs to follow the policy. This section does not describe roles and responsibilities; it simply highlights who is subject to the included regulations.
3. Policy Maintenance
It is best practice to highlight who is responsible for maintaining and updating the policy near the beginning. This clause helps reinforce your policy’s authority and informs readers that they should not edit it without approval.
4. Policy Enforcement
In this section, indicate who will be enforcing your policy’s standards and how these individuals may handle any disregard for the policy. You may highlight specific possible punitive actions if you feel it is necessary.
Your responsibilities section specifies which users are responsible for which security duties. Usually, the responsibilities section is broken up into subsections that describe what is expected from each group.
6. Vulnerability Management
Be honest about known vulnerabilities in your system. If your employees are fully aware of them, it’s much easier for them to protect them from exploitation. Include a brief clause about known vulnerabilities and your company’s steps to guard them.
Here, describe what security measures are required for all employees. For example, secure passwords, data encryption, and proper network access. The requirements section will likely be one of the longest sections in your information security policy template.
8. Acceptable Use
Some companies have multiple acceptable use policies, and others only need one section. Describe how your employees should use your company’s internet access, email, social media accounts, and any other channel that could lead to a breach or corporate misrepresentation.
9. Hardware Security
Data security isn’t just about software. Data loss can occur by physical means, accidentally or intentionally.
Outline how your employees can prevent hardware damage and physical data breaches (for example, a malicious actor collecting a password by watching an employee type it).
|Interested in learning more about cyber security? Check out these blogs:|
Need an Information Security Policy but Don’t Know Where to Start?
If you need an information security policy template for small business needs, KTI is ready to help. Our cybersecurity consultants can offer expert advice as you create or improve your security policy.
After you’ve written your policy, we can continue our partnership through our managed security services that can help enforce your standards. Hybrid managed service options are available if you prefer to supplement your expert internal team.
Contact us today to learn more about developing an information security policy and the best policy structure for your business.