Written security policies are essential for network security, even though some security practitioners may regard them as unnecessary. However, security practitioners in mature organizations recognize the importance and benefits of written policies, and they draft and advocate for the regulations that mandate formally drafted policies as the basic requirement to achieve security maturity.
Policies provide a foundation of directives, regulations, rules, and practices that define how each organization will manage, protect, and distribute information. Moreover, regulators often point out a lack of formal policies as negligence and a reason for higher fines and penalties after a breach.
The Primary Objective?
An IT security policy is a formal document that defines the rules and policies for the IT and cybersecurity of an organization. The document serves as a reference point for various objectives, such as:
- Ensuring that risks are identified and addressed
- Fulfilling compliance requirements
- Evaluating quality and performance of controls and staff
- Reducing liabilities in case of a breach
Regulators often point out a lack of formal policies as negligence and a reason for higher fines and penalties after a breach.
The Core Purposes of IT Security Policies
Information security policy is a set of guidelines and principles that defines how an organization manages, protects, and distributes information, according to the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in An Introduction to Information Security (NIST SP 800-12).
Developing security policies can be a daunting task for organizations that do not have formal and documented security strategies. However, all organizations implement security measures that act as implicit and informal strategies. The main drawback of these implicit security strategies is that they do not provide sufficient evidence of compliance and due diligence in case of a security breach or an audit.
Documented policies, especially those that require periodic reports, help to demonstrate compliance and accountability. They also show a formal security strategy that has been endorsed by senior management.
Most importantly, documented policies enable key IT security objectives that have a positive impact on the organization by:
- Establishing IT security strategies, goals, and objectives
- Guiding user behavior and expectations
- Evaluating IT security performance
How Security Strategies and Objectives Should Be Formalized
To formalize IT security strategies, goals, and objectives, written policies are essential. They provide clear guidance on how the organization intends to protect its information assets. The main objectives of information security are:
- Confidentiality: Restrict access to data only to authorized users who need it
- Integrity: Protect data from unauthorized or accidental changes in storage or in transit
- Availability: Ensure data and systems are always accessible to legitimate users
However, not all existing practices may follow best practices or meet these objectives adequately. By developing a security policy, the IT security team can review and improve the current practices, as they have to document them and compare them with the goals and compliance requirements.
The policy creation process also helps to align the IT security goals and objectives with those of the business, since the policy undergoes review by non-technical executives who are affected by the policies. As a result, the organization can benefit from a policy that establishes formal strategies, goals, and objectives that support business growth within the framework of validated IT security strategies.
Policies are essential documents that define the acceptable use, access, and consequences for violations for different types of users, ranging from guest users on the public Wi-Fi network to administrative access of data center servers. These policies provide the basis for the configuration of identity and access management (IAM) or privileged access management (PAM) tools.
Without policies, IAM and PAM tools may be implemented inconsistently or inadequately across the organization. Policies also establish a standard that can be used to evaluate the effectiveness and compliance of the practices in place.
Measurement of Success
A policy that defines the roles and responsibilities of the IT security team is essential for ensuring the protection of the organization's data and systems. The policy should also specify the types of reports that the IT security team needs to produce and how they will demonstrate compliance with the policy standards and objectives.
The reports can also help the IT security team identify areas of improvement and justify resource allocation. For instance, if the reports show that the IT security team is unable to apply critical updates within the expected time frame, the management can evaluate the need for more staff or external assistance.
Make Implementation Easier
Webcheck Security is a leading provider of security solutions for organizations of all sizes and industries. Webcheck Security helps organizations make implementing security policies easier by offering comprehensive assessments, remediation, and monitoring services. Webcheck Security can help you identify and fix vulnerabilities, comply with industry standards and regulations, and protect your data and reputation from cyber threats. Whether you need a one-time scan, a continuous testing program, or a customized solution, Webcheck Security has the expertise and experience to meet your security needs. Contact Webcheck Security today and get a free consultation and quote for your security project.