A beginners guide to Information Security Policies

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Information Security Policies are a set of guidelines that help businesses to protect their customers’ and employees’ data. These policies are in place to ensure that the company is not violating any legal or ethical regulations. They also provide a framework for the company to make sure that they are prepared for any security breaches.

Maintaining information security is a difficult task. It requires constant vigilance and attention, and it can be challenging to keep up with the latest developments in the field. There are many different ways to maintain information security, and all companies should take steps to secure their data.

Creating an Information Security Policy

There are a few steps you can take in order to create policies for information security. The first step is to identify which regulations apply to your business and then look at what other companies in your industry have done in response to these regulations. 

Once you've done this, it's time to think about how your business wants its customers and employees' data protected and then write down these requirements in a document called the “information security policy." Its aim should be to provide employees with the necessary information they need to identify risks and avoid breaches.

The policy should include measures to protect company data and sensitive information, such as phone numbers or financial records. It should also describe how employees can communicate with the company in the event of a breach, as well as what steps employees should take if they believe their personal information has been compromised.

Organizational responsibilities

To be a responsible company, you should have a security policy template in place. This template should include all the policies that your company has in place to protect its employees, customers, and assets. You can have a security policy template that is tailored to your needs or you can use one of the many templates that are available online.

Your security policy template should include the following:

  1. A brief summary of your company's goals in regard to IT security.
  2. Policies and procedures related to managing data. You can find plenty of information on this in your specific industry. For example, if you're a hospital, your policies would be focused on HIPAA compliance and patient privacy, not the prevention of software vulnerabilities or malware infections.
  3. Employee guidelines focusing on their responsibility in regard to data protection and compliance with your policies.
  4. Policies for addressing employees who fail to comply with your policies. For example, if you have an employee who downloads a virus from a malicious website and infects their work computer, the company should have a policy in place for what it intends to do about the situation.
  5. Any other IT policies that may be important to your company.

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Types of Information Security Policies

Depending on the complexity of your business, you may need to create individual security policies for:

1) Password Policy: To define how secure passwords need to be, how passwords are stored and how often they need to be updated.

2) Acceptable Use Policy: To explain how/when and where organizational information can be used. This can cover things like websites, networks or other services can be used.

3) Information Access Policy: This should define who is (and is not) allowed access to different types or stores of information.

4) Working From Home Policy: This can be used to determine how and whether employees are allowed to access data and networks from outside of the office firewall. 

5) Using Personal Devices Policy: You may want to limit employees from using their personal devices for company business, or if it's allowable, to establish rules as to how this can be achieved.

Note: this list is not exhaustive, and you may need additional policies depending on your circumstances.

The benefits of Information Security Policies

Having an information security policy helps prevent violations of privacy laws, but also helps businesses prepare for potential cyberattacks or leaks of sensitive data. There are three key benefits:

The first benefit is that it helps you comply with regulatory requirements. It also sets expectations for employees and customers about what they can expect from your company’s data privacy practices.

The second benefit is that it helps you identify potential risks before they happen, which can help you avoid costly incidents and fines.

The third benefit is that it provides guidance on how to react when you experience an incident or breach, which will help mitigate damage to your customers and your reputation as a whole.

Maintaining your policies

After you have created your policies for information security, you need to maintain them. There is little point creating policies, and then leaving them to gather dust. After all of the effort expended in creating and perfecting them in the first place, you need to ensure you have a robust review process to ensure they remain on point.

A series of sense checks are also useful:

  • have they achieved the desired result?
  • are they understood and followed by everyone who needs to?
  • are they still current?

Technological advances happen so quickly these days that it is imperative to ensure that your policies remain up to date. It is also worth considering:

  • do your policies reflect current security risks?
  • do your policies meet new standards or regulations? 

To be effective every policy needs to be read and understood by all employees who will be affected by it. Those employees also need to specifically acknowledge that they understand the policy and will abide by it. Without this confirmation, organizations cannot be sure that the policies will be followed and therefore non-compliance becomes a possibility.

A word about Cyber Security

In the world of cyber security, it is important to be aware of what you are doing and how you can best protect your company from any potential threats. A cyber security policy is a document that outlines the rules and regulations that must be followed by employees in order to ensure the safety of your company.

Cyber attacks are becoming an all-to-common subject of shocking news reports. Phishing, hacking and malware are all well-established methods of targeting data, storage and devices. Criminals may target outdated software and weak passwords, not to mention the opportunities human error provides. However, having a robust information security policy is a great start in ensuring you follow security best practices.

A final note

In order to create a successful policy, it is important to include all employees in the process. This will allow them to understand what they should and should not do when it comes to accessing sensitive information or networks. It also allows them to know what they should do if they happen upon something suspicious or dangerous. Training and retraining of employees on security issues and policies can help minimize the risk of a security breach.

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