22-11-2022, Though some may perceive developing information security policies (ISPs) as a mere formality, if implemented correctly, ISPs can become the backbone of your organization’s data security posture. By defining what’s allowed and what’s not, information security policies can help you prevent breaches of sensitive corporate information.
Choosing proper information security policies may be a lengthy and daunting experience. This article directs you in developing efficient ISPs and describes top 10 policies for information security in your organization.
Why implement information security policies?
Provide guidance for your organization’s data security.
An information security policy is a document that outlines an organization’s rules, expectations, and overall strategy for maintaining the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data.
Simply put, an information security policy is a plan that directs an organization’s efforts towards protecting data and networks from security threats. An ISP connects people, processes, and technologies to make them work together for preventing data breaches.
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.
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.
Creating an ISP is not just another bureaucratic procedure.
In reality, ISPs are an essential component of any information security program. Developing effective information security policies is a vital step in preventing cybersecurity incidents such as data breaches. A well-designed ISP can improve your organization’s security posture, helping your organization to:
1. Set clear data security goals
ISPs provide your employees with guidance on what’s appropriate in relation to the organization’s data security. This helps increase general cybersecurity awareness and decrease the number of unintentional insider threats in your company.
2. Guide the implementation of proper cybersecurity controls
By setting clear security goals, ISPs can help your organization’s security officers choose and deploy appropriate software solutions and implement relevant security measures in order to achieve these goals.
3. Respond to incidents promptly and efficiently
In case of a data security incident, a corresponding ISP can guide your cybersecurity team in taking the right steps early on to prevent incident escalation and mitigate possible consequences.
4. Meet IT compliance requirements
ISPs can help your organization meet requirements of data security standards, laws, and regulations. Additionally, having an information security policy is a requirement itself for standards and laws such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, and ISO 27001.
5. Increase accountability of users and stakeholders
By clearly stating roles and responsibilities in your organization’s data security, ISPs can help you increase accountability of management, security officers, and regular users.
6. Maintain the organization’s reputation
ISPs help to reduce the number of data security incidents and, consequently, maintain your company’s reputation in the eyes of valuable customers and business partners.
7. Increase operational efficiency
Having clear policies in place can help your organization keep its data protection efforts standardized, consistent, and synchronized, allowing you to spend less time and fewer resources on cybersecurity issues.
What’s an efficient information security policy?
Make your ISPs serve their purposes.
To be effective, an information security policy must be based on the core principles of the CIA triad. Each letter of this model represents a foundational data security principle:
Confidentiality, integrity, and availability together are viewed as the three most important concepts in data security. When developing your organization’s information security policies, consider checking how a particular ISP helps implement these principles.
An efficient information security policy has 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. Thus, you can focus your efforts in the right direction to decide what information security policies and requirements to develop.
2. Clearly stated purpose, objectives, and scope
Keep in mind that personnel can sabotage your information security rules and measures if they find them unnecessary and laborious. 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 the language of ISPs is simple and that all important technical terms are explained.
5. Realistic and comprehensible requirements
Overly complex ISPs may be hard to implement. Policies need to ensure a reliable level of data protection, but to make them enforceable, consider developing requirements that are easy to follow and implement.
6. Regularly updated information
To address modern cybersecurity trends and challenges, ISPs should be reviewed and updated regularly. 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 an organization’s leaders, any ISP has a high probability of failing. Management holds the knowledge of an organization’s high-level security requirements and helps communicate ISPs to and enforce them among employees.
Let’s now move to the examples of information security policies to implement in your organization.
10 information security policies your organization should consider implementing
Implement ISPs that are useful for your organization.
Your organization may have separate ISP documents covering different aspects of information security. Alternatively, there may be a single ISP covering multiple domains.
NIST outlines the following types of information security policies:
Because ISPs are mostly high-level documents, organizations also develop standards, guidelines, and procedures to simplify their implementation. Standards and guidelines specify technologies and methodologies for securing data and systems, while procedures offer detailed steps for accomplishing security-related tasks.
The types of ISPs to implement highly depend on the organization, especially its geographical location and the industry it operates in. However, we have compiled a list of the information security policies that will prove most beneficial for all organizations:
1. Acceptable use policy
|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 used. In addition to acceptable use, the policy defines inappropriate behavior for a better understanding of the organization’s information security principles.
An AUP may have separate policy statements regarding internet use, email communications, software installation, access to the company network from home, etc.
You can use an AUP as an onboarding policy for new employees, helping them learn the necessary practices and constraints before receiving access to an organization’s critical infrastructure and IT assets.
2. Network security policy
|Outlines the 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
|Defines measures for maintaining the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the organization’s data
|Applies to all of the organization’s users, information, data storages, 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 is collected, processed, and stored; who has access to it; where it is located; and when it must be deleted. Additionally, you can create a data protection policy (DPP) outlining measures in place to secure data at rest and in transit, or you can make it a part of your DMP.
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’s:
- User activity monitoring (UAM) functionality, enabling you to monitor and record all user actions in your infrastructure to see every interaction with your organization’s sensitive data
- Privileged access management (PAM) functionality, allowing for granular management of access to critical data for all privileged and regular users in your organization’s system
4. Access control policy
|Defines the requirements for the proper and secure control of users’ access to an organization’s data and systems
|Applies to all of an organization’s users and third parties with access to the organization’s resources
An access control policy (ACP) describes how access to data and systems in your organization is established, documented, reviewed, and modified. An ACP can also answer the question of who can access what and contains a hierarchy of user access permissions.
Consider building your ACP around the principle of least privilege by only giving users access necessary for their direct job responsibilities.
Ekran System’s PAM functionality can help you secure, optimize, and enhance 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
|Outlines the requirements for an organization’s proper and secure handling of user credentials
|Applies to all of the organization’s users and third parties possessing credentials to an 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.
PMPs may also delineate who’s responsible for creating and managing user passwords in your organization and what password management tools and capabilities the organization should have.
Ekran System can arm your organization 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
|Defines the requirements for establishing secure remote access to an organization’s data and systems
|Applies to all of an organization’s users and devices that access its 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, organizations develop remote access policies (RAPs). A RAP 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
- Secure admins’ remote access using SSH key management
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
|Governs an organization’s third-party risk management activities
|Applies to all of an organization’s vendors, suppliers, partners, and other third parties accessing corporate data and systems
A vendor management policy (VMP) can help your organization reduce cybersecurity risks coming from third parties with access to your company’s internal resources. A VMP prescribes how your organization identifies and deals with potentially risky vendors. A vendor management policy may also outline preferred measures and controls to prevent cyber incidents caused by third parties.
In addition to mitigating direct third-party risks for your organization’s data security, a VMP may address supply chain issues by describing how your organization checks third parties’ IT security and compliance with your cybersecurity standards.
Ekran System’s third-party monitoring capabilities allow your organization to:
- Get video records and watch live RDP sessions of third parties in your system
- Search through your vendors’ activity logs by multiple parameters such as visited sites, opened apps, and typed keystrokes
- Set up a workflow for approving third parties’ access requests
- Provide your vendors with one-time or temporary access to critical endpoints
Even if a privileged third party or other malicious insider tries to stop the monitoring Ekran System Client, the platform’s advanced protection mode will make doing so impossible.
8. Removable media policy
|Outlines rules for using USB devices in an organization and specify measures for preventing USB-related security incidents
|Applies to all of the organization’s users of removable media
A removable media policy governs and guides 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 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 notified about and automatically block connections of prohibited USB devices
Ekran System supports monitoring of almost any device connecting via a USB interface: mass storage devices, Windows portable devices, modems and network adapters, wireless connection devices, audio and video devices, and others.
9. Incident response policy
|Guides the organization’s response to a data security incident
|Applies to an organization’s security officers and other employees, information systems, and data
An incident response policy, similarly to an incident response plan, outlines the actions your organization will 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 disaster recovery activities, focusing on containing the incident and mitigating its negative consequences, as well as 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 notified about 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
|Establishes an organization’s requirements for raising employee 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.
The policy defines how your organization conducts training, how frequently it 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
|When developing your organization’s information security policies, pay attention to requirements of cybersecurity standards, laws, and regulations relevant to your country and industry.
|Ekran System can help your organization meet the requirements of: