Tuesday, April 23, 2024

IT Security Policy: Definition, Types & How to Create One

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An information technology (IT) security policy is a documented policy that records the company’s plan on how to keep its network secure, specifically confidentiality, integrity, and how to access the company’s data.

An IT security policy helps a company identify rules and procedures for a company’s data and infrastructure. This includes any employee or third-party who helps attend to their systems.

Table of Contents:

How IT Security Policies Work

IT security policies are a form of company protection for their data and assets that the company creates.

IT security policies include multiple valuable sub-sections involving training employees, having physical documents, and developing how a company decides it should handle data. A company will likely start by creating the document, which can be completed in multiple ways.

A company can create documents itself using a cybersecurity team and administration to find what it prefers. There are also templates a company can use to create an IT security policy.

IT security templates can be found free from multiple sources:

What Are the Elements of an IT Security Policy?

There are seven main elements to IT security policies. The elements include:

1. Keeping the Company’s Purpose Clear

Educating employees is an important part of creating an IT security policy—keeping them in communication with any policy that is created is essential. If an employee asks why something is added to the policy, they should be communicated with clearly.

2. Make Sure the Policy is Applicable to the Company

Creating an IT security policy should cover the company’s own unique infrastructure. However, there are specific security factors that every company should have. Department, industry, and organization concepts should be factored into the IT security policy.

3. Senior Management Must Follow the Policy

The intent of an IT security policy should be communicated and understood by senior management. If there is no support from senior management, the policy will not be effective for the company. Just like employees, senior management should understand and agree with the policy.

4. Policies Must Be Realistic and Enforceable

Policies are not one size fits all, and some IT security policies can be unrealistic. A large unrealistic policy cannot be enforced and is burdensome for the company. If not truly realistic, it is likely to be partially ignored within the business.

5. The Terms Should Have Clear Definitions

While an IT security policy is technical, technical language will be hard on employees in other areas of the company. Using nontechnical terms will be more helpful, and an employer would likely get fewer questions. Communication is a vital part of this process.

6. Make Sure the Policy Follows the Company’s Risk Policies

Risk can never be completely eliminated, but it’s up to each organization’s management to decide what level of risk is acceptable. A security policy must take this risk level into account, as it will affect the types of topics covered.

7. Keep Policy Updated

Business data and infrastructure change as a company grows or changes. A company should stay up to date with its policy, even if nothing large changes. Technology changes every day. If a new software is added or deleted, it is important to keep the policy updated with it.

When these elements are considered, a company can build an effective IT security policy.

See more: What is Cybersecurity Risk Management?

Types of IT Security Policies

Businesses need to see what policies could help their data and assets have a safe environment in the workplace.

There are many IT security policies that businesses should consider having in place.

  • Acceptable Use Policy (AUP): Explains how to correctly access networks, services, or systems.
  • Business Continuity Policy (BCP): Explains what a company should do in case of an emergency.
  • Change Management Policy: Shows a company how changes are tracked and ensures changes are safe for the company and customers.
  • Data Breach Response Policy: Teaches a company what their reaction should be in the case of a data breach.
  • Disaster Recovery Plan: Instructions on how to handle a disaster and how the company will recover.
  • Incident Response Policy: Explains response to handle an information security incident.
  • Information Security Policy: An explanation for both company and customers on how they look out for their data and assets.
  • Remote Access Policy: Instructions on how a remote employee should handle a company’s network and access.
  • Vendor Management Policy: Helps the company assess what a vendor from outside of the company should be able to access.

For more information, also see: Why Firewalls are Important for Network Security

5 Steps on How to Create an IT Security Policy

When creating an IT security policy, a company should ensure it establishes the right policies. Once a company decides what policies it would like to use, the process is simple:

  1. Assess to see what data and assets are the most important to protect and if they are protected currently.
  2. Consider laws and guidelines such as federal, local, and state laws as well as HIPAA for healthcare that must be followed.
  3. Include appropriate elements such as firewalls, antivirus software, password security, and AUP.
  4. Develop a communication and implementation plan that is easy to understand by employees and customers.
  5. Conduct regular security training for employees to understand access and policies as they change and develop.

Should You Have an IT Security Policy?

IT security policies are vital for security procedures. Communication between employees, administration, and vendors will know what they are responsible for and required to do in case of an emergency.

Businesses must know what they value the most with cybersecurity measures, including network security, data protection, and asset management, which can be assisted by an IT security policy.

For more information, also see: Artificial Intelligence in Cybersecurity

What IT Security Policy Is Best for Me?

Finding the right policy for your business is vital. This involves industry, company size, and current security systems in the infrastructure. Here are some ways a decision can be made, across industries, business size and company preference.

Industry

Medical

Due to HIPAA and medical records, medical industries cannot afford a cybersecurity breach. Creating an IT security policy is vital. It is recommended to implement:

  • Information security policy.
  • Data Management policy.

Government

The government has some of the most secure information, such as Social Security numbers, citizen identity, and other valuable information. Governmental agencies need the following policies:

  • Acceptable use policy.
  • Access control policy.
  • Password management policy.
  • Remote access policy.

Agriculture

Agriculture needs strong cybersecurity policies due to its massive workforce, and agriculture supports 50% of all habitable land. The agriculture industry needs the following policies:

  • Data classification policy.
  • Access control policy.
  • Password management policy.

Finance and Retail

Both finance and retail have an abundance of transaction and customer information involved. The finance and retail industry need the following policies:

  • Data management policy.
  • IT security policy.

Business Size

Business size is important for any cybersecurity practice. The size determines the amount of data and the size of an overall infrastructure. Each business size has unique policies to use:

  • Small Businesses: Security awareness and training policy, incident response policy, and IT security policy.
  • Medium Businesses: Incident response policy, security awareness and training policy, and IT security policy.
  • Enterprises: Incident response policy, acceptable use policy, data management policy, and access control policy.

Company Preference

Using customer size and industry is helpful when a company is starting out, but there are multiple ways to use IT security policies. Depending on infrastructure and the company, it may choose to do many of the IT security policies.

All policies can be helpful to any business, but a company can choose to create what it finds the most valuable.

Implementing an IT Security Policy

When protecting your business’s network and data, an IT security policy is a must. The elements, examples, and benefits of having an IT security system are extremely helpful to the company and the cybersecurity experts as well.

The IT security policy should instruct a company on what and how to fix a problem within its infrastructure.

For more information, also see: 10 Top Cybersecurity Predictions

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