Tommy Roberts

Creating Effective Security Policies

Compliance, Cybersecurity, Data Governance, Policy Development

Creating Effective Security Policies

Security policies serve as the official voice of management–ideally at the C-suite or board level–to the rest of their organization. They establish requirements for employees and outline procedures that help meet security goals such as data backup, information sharing and encryption.

Employee participation should be paramount when creating policies in order to foster trust and acceptance from staff members. By engaging them directly in policy creation, it will make incorporation easier into work routines while providing vital insights for building awareness and training materials.

Defining the Scope of Policy

Security policies aim to create rules that safeguard data within an organization and prevent unwarranted access, but if they become overburdensome or lack an enforcement mechanism they could backfire by encouraging employees to circumvent them. To be effective they must be communicated, updated regularly, enforced consistently, supported by senior management (ideally C-suite or board level) and also supported by employees themselves.

Idealy, any new policy should begin by looking at existing practices already implemented and serving as a foundation. From there, key objectives and goals of the program can be used as measuring sticks to ascertain its daily success.

As part of an effort to make policy development more manageable, it can be helpful to divide it into individual sections that can be easily understood and administered. In this way, an administrator can focus on building one section at a time while still having the option to add on more as necessary.

Step two is to identify who the policy applies to and define its scope based on geographic regions, business units, job roles or any other organizational concept that makes sense for your situation. Your scope should also outline deliverables associated with this policy.

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Defining the Audience

Policy documents serve to protect the integrity, privacy and availability of an organization’s data by setting rules and providing guidelines to its workforce members in order to safeguard it. They also clarify and establish its security objectives.

There are various policies available, depending on your industry and assets that need protecting. For example, IT security policies cover confidentiality, integrity and availability issues within corporate IT systems while data security policies address more specific risks or devices.

To ensure the effectiveness of any policy, it is critical to identify its target audience. An excellent approach would be involving as many users and partners in gathering information, especially regarding risk analysis and solution development, which will ensure the policy targets an audience capable of successfully implementing and enforcing it.

An effective information security policy must provide the framework for all programs within an organization, providing guidance and consistency throughout. Furthermore, such a policy should include an outline of applicable regulations to ensure the organization remains compliant. Furthermore, specific issues like acceptable use, access control, change management and incident response policies as well as roles and responsibilities for employees should a cyberattack or any other security threat occur should also be covered within it.

Defining the Purpose

When creating security policies, it is crucial that objectives and goals of each policy are taken into consideration. A policy should detail what management wants to accomplish as well as how the organization plans on accomplishing them based on confidentiality, integrity, and availability principles.

An IT and security teams need a clear purpose for any policy to understand its intent and goals. In addition, each policy should define an expected deliverable (e.g. a report) which helps establish and measure success for that policy.

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Define the audience of your policy to ensure it will apply appropriately, such as to what geographical region, business unit or job role the policy applies. Also included here should be information regarding which data needs protecting and where this occurs.

Finally, it is vitally important that any policy define what it includes and excludes in order to avoid confusion with other policies that contain similar terminology or deliverables. This will prevent unnecessary miscommunication between providers.

Clarifying and communicating the purpose behind any IT and security policy implementation and enforcement actions will assist IT and security teams to implement, enforce, and build confidence among stakeholders and regulatory authorities about your organization’s security posture.

Defining the Goals of Policy

Policy goals vary significantly depending on the situation and context, including promoting transparency and accountability, improving decision-making processes or developing a more cohesive organizational culture. Policies can also help reduce duplication of effort or provide consistency in monitoring and enforcement procedures, or serve as tools for complying with HIPAA or ISO 27001 regulations and standards.

Policy should aim to address an identified problem; however, this goal can become complicated by different actors having differing priorities for solving it. For example, while American public generally support interference in personal freedom when there is clear risk of harm, identifying which harms occur can often be challenging as harms could come in various forms such as economic, social psychological and spiritual harms as well.

At all costs, it is critical that employees implementing and following your security policy understand it fully and follow it without confusion or frustration – an essential condition of its effectiveness. A policy written with vague or unclear language could create more of a headache than it’s worth!

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