Creating and implementing information security policies (ISPs) may seem a formality to some organizations. However, ISPs can form the backbone of your organization’s data security posture. Information security policies and procedures may help you prevent breaches of sensitive data and safeguard your reputation and finances by defining what’s allowed within your organization and what’s not.
Nonetheless, developing an efficient security policy for an organization may be a lengthy and daunting task. That’s why we have come up with a list of the 10 best ISPs and provided useful tips on how to implement an information security policy. Hopefully, this article will make it easier for you to create effective security policies for information security in your organization.
What is an information security policy?
Provide guidance for your organization’s data security.
An information security policy outlines an organization’s security rules, regulations, and strategies for maintaining the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of critical data.
Simply put, an information security policy is a plan that outlines your organization’s approach to protecting sensitive information and data assets from security threats while also defining strategies and procedures for mitigating IT security risks. It’s a set of rules and guidelines on how to use, manage, and protect sensitive data. ISPs address all aspects related to data security, including the data itself and the organization’s systems, networks, programs, facilities, infrastructure, internal users, and third-party users.
An ISP applies to all users within your organization and its networks. It connects people, processes, and technologies, making them work together to prevent data breaches.
Organizations may have either separate ISPs addressing various aspects of information security or one ISP covering multiple domains. Information security policies and IT security policies may range from high-level documents outlining an organization’s general data security principles and objectives to policies covering specific issues, such as network security or password management.
Whereas there are many common elements across information security policies, your policy should reflect specific aspects related to your industry, local regulations, or organizational model. For example:
- Healthcare organizations in the US must meet strict data protection rules set by HIPAA.
- Financial institutions must adhere to PCI DSS, SWIFT CSP, SOX , etc.
- Manufacturing companies must meet ISO 27001 and some other compliance standards to protect their customers’ data.
- Government agencies must comply with FISMA, NIST 800-53, NIST 800-171, etc.
7 benefits of implementing information security policies
Provide guidance for your organization’s data security.
Implementing a robust information security policy is crucial for maintaining the integrity of your sensitive data, protecting your organization against cyber incidents, and ensuring regulatory compliance. A well-designed ISP can improve your organization’s security posture, helping you to:
1. Clear data security rules
An ISP provides your employees with clear guidelines for handling sensitive information within your organization. This may help improve general cybersecurity awareness and decrease the number of unintentional insider threats.
2. Proper cybersecurity controls
By defining security goals, an ISP can help your security officers deploy appropriate software solutions and implement relevant security measures in order to achieve them.
3. Quick and efficient response to security incidents
By outlining step-by-step incident response actions, ISPs can help your cybersecurity team proactively address potential risks and vulnerabilities. Therefore, your organization can respond promptly to security incidents and mitigate possible consequences.
4. Ability to meet IT compliance requirements
An ISP can help your organization comply with SWIFT CSP, GDPR, SOX, and other standards, laws, and regulations. It’s also worth mentioning that having an information security policy is a requirement itself for standards and laws such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, and ISO 27001.
5. User and stakeholder accountability
When they clearly define roles and responsibilities for each user and stakeholder within your organization, ISPs can help your employees understand their accountability in safeguarding sensitive information. ISPs can also promote a sense of ownership and responsibility among users and stakeholders, resulting in increased accountability.
6. Enhanced brand reputation
A commitment to information security standards and practices fosters trust among customers. Additionally, ISPs help to reduce the number of data security incidents, further increasing customer loyalty and positive brand perception.
7. Increased operational efficiency
Having clear policies in place can help your organization keep its data protection efforts standardized, consistent, and synchronized. This way, your cybersecurity team will spend less time and effort tackling cybersecurity issues.
What’s an efficient information security policy?
Make your ISPs serve their purposes.
You should create an information security policy based on the three principles of the CIA triad: confidentiality (C), integrity (I), and availability (A).
It’s vital to understand how each rule contributes to the implementation of these principles. Below, we delve into the key features that can help you create an efficient information security policy covering all main ISP principles.
7 key features of an efficient information security policy
An efficient information security policy should have the following characteristics:
1. Reliance on preliminary risk assessment
Conducting a security risk assessment can help you identify your organization’s critical assets, discover vulnerabilities, and prioritize risks. By conducting a security risk assessment, you can focus your efforts in the right direction to decide what information security policies and requirements you need to develop.
2. Clearly stated purpose, objectives, and scope
By outlining the scope, purpose, and objectives of each ISP, you can raise your employees’ awareness about why certain solutions, IT policies, and procedures are implemented and to whom they apply.
3. Defined responsibilities
Each ISP must state who created the policy, who’s responsible for keeping it updated and aligned with the organization’s security objectives, and who’s in charge of implementing the required security procedures.
4. Clear definitions of important terms
Keep in mind that the audience for information security policies is frequently non-technical. To avoid ambiguity and increase clarity, make sure that your ISPs are understandable for all users, with all important technical terms being clear and concise.
5. Realistic and comprehensible requirements
Overly complex ISPs may be hard to implement. Therefore, you should develop ISPs that are realistic, comprehensible, and tailored to your organization’s specific needs. Among the best ISPs, consider implementing those applicable to your organization’s cybersecurity strategy and those your employees have the means and skills to implement.
6. Regularly updated information
To address modern cybersecurity trends and challenges, ISPs should be reviewed and updated regularly. Take note that issue-specific policies require more frequent updates, as technologies, security challenges, and other factors constantly change.
7. Involvement of top management
Without the support of your organization’s leaders, any ISP can fail. It’s your principals that hold the knowledge of your organization’s high-level security requirements and can help enforce ISPs among all employees.
Let’s now move to information security policy examples to implement in your organization.
10 information security policies your organization should consider implementing
Implement ISPs that are useful for your particular organization.
To fortify your cybersecurity and ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your critical data, your organization may have either separate ISPs covering different aspects of information security or a single ISP covering multiple domains.
If you choose the first option, you may stick to the information security policies outlined by NIST:
Because ISPs are mostly high-level documents, organizations also typically develop standards, guidelines, and procedures to simplify their implementation:
- Standards and guidelines specify technologies and methodologies for securing data and systems
- Procedures offer detailed steps for accomplishing security-related tasks
Below, we have compiled a list of information security policies that have proven to be beneficial for all types of organizations:
1. Acceptable use policy
|Purpose||Defines the acceptable conditions for using an organization’s information|
|Applies to||All of the organization’s users accessing computing devices, data assets, and network resources|
An acceptable use policy (AUP) can explain to your employees how your organization’s data assets, computer equipment, and other sensitive resources should be handled. Besides acceptable use, the policy also defines prohibited actions.
An AUP may have separate policy statements regarding internet use, email communications, software installation, access to the company network from home, etc.
2. Network security policy
|Purpose||Outlines principles, procedures, and guidelines to enforce, manage, monitor, and maintain data security on a corporate network|
|Applies to||All of the organization’s users and networks|
A network security policy (NSP) establishes guidelines, rules, and measures for secure computer network access and protection against cyber attacks over the internet.
Among other things, an NSP is a good place for describing the architecture of your organization’s network security environment and its major hardware and software components.
3. Data management policy
|Purpose||Defines measures for maintaining the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the organization’s data|
|Applies to||All users as well as data storage and information processing systems|
A data management policy (DMP) governs the use, monitoring, and management of an organization’s data. A DMP usually describes:
- What data is collected
- How it’s collected, processed, and stored
- Who has access to it
- Where it’s located
- When it must be deleted
A DMP can help you reduce the risk of data breaches and ensure your organization complies with data protection standards and regulations such as the GDPR.
Your organization’s DMP may also contain a list of data protection tools and solutions. Consider supplementing this list with Ekran System — a universal all-in-one insider risk management platform that can help you fight insider threats and avoid account compromise, data breaches, and other cybersecurity incidents.
Your organization can ensure secure data management with the help of Ekran System capabilities such as:
- User activity monitoring (UAM), which enables you to monitor and record all user activity in your infrastructure to let you track how employees and vendors handle your sensitive data
- Privileged access management (PAM) functionality, which allows for granular access to critical data for all privileged and regular users within your organization’s system
4. Access control policy
|Purpose||Defines the requirements for managing users’ access to critical data and systems|
|Applies to||All users and third parties with access to the organization’s sensitive resources|
An access control policy (ACP) describes how access to data and systems in your organization is established, documented, reviewed, and modified. An ACP contains a hierarchy of user access permissions and can define who accesses what.
Consider building your ACP around the principle of least privilege by only giving users the access necessary for their direct job responsibilities.
Ekran System’s PAM functionality can help you secure, optimize, and enhance privileged access management in your organization, allowing you to:
- Get full visibility over all users in your infrastructure and control their access rights
- Secure user accounts with the help of two-factor authentication
- Limit the time for which access is granted
- Provide more visibility into the actions of privileged users working under shared accounts
5. Password management policy
|Purpose||Outlines requirements for securely handling user credentials|
|Applies to||All users and third parties possessing credentials to your organization’s accounts|
A password management policy (PMP) governs the creation, management, and protection of user credentials in your organization. A PMP can enforce healthy password habits such as sufficient complexity, length, uniqueness, and regular rotation.
A PMP may also delineate who’s responsible for creating and managing user passwords in your organization and what password management tools and capabilities your organization should have.
Ekran System can arm you with robust password management capabilities, enabling you to:
- Generate credentials for and deliver them to all users in your infrastructure
- Provide users with temporary or one-time access
- Rotate passwords manually or automatically
- Store passwords securely with military-grade AES 256-bit encryption
6. Remote access policy
|Purpose||Defines requirements for establishing secure remote access to an organization’s data and systems|
|Applies to||All users and devices that access your organization’s infrastructure from outside the corporate network|
Remote access in your organization deserves special attention if your employees regularly telecommute. To avoid the interception of network data from unsecured personal devices and public networks, your organization should develop remote access policies (RAPs). A set of remote access policies outlines security procedures for accessing your organization’s data via remote networks, virtual private networks, and other means.
Ekran System can help secure remote access to your organization’s data and systems, allowing you to:
- Monitor and record the activity of users connecting from outside your corporate network
- Control access to the corporate network from personal devices
- Verify user identities with two-factor authentication (2FA)
- Secure admins’ remote access using SSH key management
- Use an AI-powered UEBA module to track deviations in employees’ behavior
Ekran System works with many network protocols and types of remote access: Citrix, Terminal, Remote Desktop, Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI), Virtual Network Computing (VNC), VMware, NetOP, Dameware, and others.
7. Vendor management policy
|Purpose||Governs an organization’s third-party risk management activities|
|Applies to||All vendors, suppliers, partners, and other third parties accessing your corporate data and systems|
A vendor management policy (VMP) can help your organization conduct third-party information security risk management. A VMP prescribes how your organization can identify and deal with potentially risky vendors. It may also outline preferred measures to prevent cyber incidents caused by third parties.
In addition to mitigating direct third-party risks, a VMP may address supply chain issues by describing how your organization should check the compliance of third-party IT infrastructure with your cybersecurity requirements.
Ekran System’s third-party monitoring tools allow your organization to:
- Get video records and monitor RDP sessions of third parties in your system
- Search through vendors’ activity logs by multiple parameters such as visited URLs, opened apps, and typed keystrokes
- Set up a workflow for approving third-party access requests
- Provide your vendors with one-time or temporary access to critical endpoints
Importantly, the platform’s advanced protection mode makes it impossible for a privileged third party or other malicious insider to stop the Ekran System Client from monitoring their actions.
8. Removable media policy
|Purpose||Outlines rules for using USB devices in your organization and specifies measures for preventing USB-related security incidents|
|Applies to||All users of removable media|
A removable media policy governs the proper and secure use of USB devices such as flash memory devices, SD cards, cameras, MP3 players, and removable hard drives.
The policy aims to mitigate the risks of contaminating IT systems and disclosing sensitive data as a result of using portable devices. In addition to establishing rules for the proper use of removable media, consider implementing dedicated software solutions for enhancing your organization’s USB device security.
Ekran System’s USB device management functionality enables your organization to:
- Continuously monitor USB device connections
- Create a list of allowed and prohibited USB devices
- Get notifications and automatically block the connection of prohibited USB devices
Ekran System supports monitoring of almost any device connecting via a USB interface, including mass storage devices, Windows portable devices, modems and network adapters, wireless connection devices, and audio and video devices.
9. Incident response policy
|Purpose||Guides the organization’s response to a data security incident|
|Applies to||Your organization’s security officers and other employees, information systems, and data|
Similarly to an incident response plan, an incident response policy outlines the actions your organization should take in case of a data security incident, with detailed response scenarios for each type of incident. This policy also specifies the roles and responsibilities for dealing with the incident, communication strategies, and reporting processes in your organization.
Additionally, an incident response policy may describe recovery activities, focusing on containing the incident and mitigating its negative consequences. It may also include post-incident investigation procedures.
Ekran System can enhance incident response in your organization, allowing your security officers to:
- Automatically detect anomalous activity with the help of an AI-based user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) module
- Set predefined and custom user activity alerts
- Get immediate notifications on suspicious events via email
- Respond to detected events by blocking users, showing them a warning message, or stopping the application
10. Security awareness and training policy
|Purpose||Establishes your organization’s requirements for raising employees’ security awareness and conducting corresponding training|
|Applies to||Security officers and other staff organizing cybersecurity awareness training sessions|
It doesn’t matter how many data security policies and rules you establish if your employees are unaware of them. A security awareness and training policy aims to raise your personnel’s cybersecurity awareness, explain the reasons for following ISPs, and educate employees on common cybersecurity threats.
This policy defines how your organization conducts training, how frequently that training happens, and who’s responsible for holding training sessions.
Employee activity monitoring in Ekran System can also help increase your employees’ cybersecurity awareness, allowing you to:
- Collect examples of data security incidents to showcase during training
- Show employees warning messages to educate them about forbidden activity
Evaluate how your employees cope with a simulated cyber attack by monitoring their actions and generating user activity reports
As mentioned below, when developing your organization’s information security policies, you should pay specific attention to requirements of cybersecurity standards, laws, and regulations relevant to your region and industry.
|Ekran System can help your organization meet the following requirements|
|ISO 27001||PCI DSS||SWIFT CSP||SOX|
|FISMA||GDPR||NIST 800-53 and NIST 800-171||NISPOM Change 2 and H.R.666|
Information security policy standards and practices are useful in maintaining your organization’s cybersecurity and protecting critical assets. That’s why we highly recommend you consider implementing the ISPs we have highlighted in this article. They can help your organization prevent and respond to data security incidents, implement proper cybersecurity controls, and meet IT compliance requirements.
To further enhance your security posture, you can use Ekran System, a reliable insider threat management platform that can help you prevent data breaches, malicious insider activity, and account compromise.
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