Information security policy (ISP) is a set of rules and processes for employees and affiliated parties that are created to help an organization protect its information and supporting technology. This includes components like servers, networks and applications, ensuring data is protected using 3 main principles (CIA) confidentiality, integrity and availability.
Why Do You Need an Information Security Policy?
Many people struggle to understand the importance of a corporate information security policy. Here we will lay out some of the key goals of establishing an IT Security Management Policy:
- Establishing a well-documented and managed program to ensure the organization’s information is properly protected
- Putting in place a scalable and continuous process to manage the handling of data and information
- Creating awareness for employees and contractors on what are the best practices they should be observing and how they can help meet the organization’s data security policy
- Implementing controls to ensure individuals are meeting the IT security management policy
- Meeting compliance and regulatory requirements
How do we begin establishing a corporate information security policy?
A great way to start your program is to focus on the 3 principles (CIA): confidentiality, integrity and availability. Let’s break those down:
The confidentiality of your information is going to be the first priority when it comes to cyber security of data. When sensitive data is hacked by a bad actor and they gain access to your organization’s emails PII, PHI or other financial information, the confidentiality of the data has been breached. So, if we take a step back and think about how we can protect the confidentiality of information we need to consider how it’s being accessed, how it’s being used, and where and how it’s being stored. Encrypting data where possible is extremely important, and encryption takes place in use, motion and at rest, so you need to consider all those types of scenarios. If encrypted data is leaked to a bad actor, it is often useless and will save the organization that encrypted it, whereas the opposite can be a catastrophic turn of events.
Points of integrity to consider:
- As mentioned earlier, when thinking about integrity of data you need to keep in mind data at rest, data in use and data in transit. Just as with the confidentiality of information, integrity depends on proper encryption being in place as well as hashing certain pieces of sensitive data like credit card or social security numbers. Implementing tools and processes to prevent bad actors from being able to access and modify your data protects integrity, for example, intrusion detection tools. Methods should be in place that ensure that data transfers are preserved, so that data is sent, travels, and arrives in the same format. Digital signatures are a method to help ensure integrity of data.
- The level of sophistication hackers go to today has reached an all-time high, and each year we are continuously surprised at how meticulous and advanced attacks are getting. Even systems that are offline can be hacked, from power plants to public transportation. This has required many to implement an information system policy, in an effort to think ahead of time about all the potential risks, and work to mitigate them.
- The human element plays a pivotal role. People always need to be vigilant and aware of the environment they operate in. While many machines and advanced algorithms are by your side trying to help catch the “bad guys”, the manager of these smart systems remains the human. People are the primary operators in the day to day activities within organizations, and are most effective at detecting elements of their environment that machines cannot reach. Yet, the human element remains the weakest link and controls must be in place to minimize human error.
Information is there to serve those who need it, when they need it. When information becomes unavailable, you’ve got a problem, sometimes a very big problem. In parallel with information availability, we need to ensure the right people have the right access to the right data. To simplify the term “availability”, this refers to the systems and supportive infrastructure properly operating and allowing authorized users to access the information they need when they need it. Availability has much to do with proper maintenance of information systems. These digital systems are reliant on the physical conditions as well as other sources of power and climate control to ensure they remain available.
Our world is moving to cloud native operations and remote working, and occasionally entire dependencies on 3rd parties who provide us with data services, for example AWS, Azure and GCP. Understanding how they are ensuring adherence to the CIA triad is no less of a concern and will become the dominant reason for maintaining a data security policy and an IT security policy in this new era.
Don’t wait, thinking you are not at risk: we are all at risk, it’s just a matter of time. We have seen so many organizations take a passive approach and end up paying a very high price in the end. Implement an information security policy today and take your first step in becoming more resilient.
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