Starting a new IT security policy? Consider these 8 key policies and procedures

Having the right set of IT security policies in place can help to prevent cyber-attacks and minimize risk.  Check out eight key policies and procedures your organization needs today.

Policies play a vital role in defining any organization, especially in information security.  Having the right set of policies in place can help prevent cyber-attacks and minimize damage if a hacker manages to infiltrate your network. According to PurpleSec’s 2021 Cybersecurity Trend Report, many businesses still feel unprepared while cybersecurity breaches and costly ransomware attacks are on the rise: 

  • Cybersecurity breaches and crime increased nearly 600% during the Coronavirus pandemic 
  • Ransomware attacks now cost organizations $6 trillion annually 
  • 50% of information security professionals believe their organization is not well-equipped or well-prepared to repel any ransomware attack 
  • Approximately 25% of businesses are victims of cryptojacking 

As more and more organizations experience crippling cybersecurity breaches, the wave of compromised data is at its peak.  For example, the recent ransomware attack on CNA Financial using a new version of malware, resulted in a three-day shut down.  To avoid being the next target, ask yourself- does your organization have a robust information security policy to safeguard your data and your clients’ data against possible cybersecurity threats?  Check out the following eight information security policies and procedures your organization will need to make sure you are protected from cybersecurity breaches. 

1. Acceptable Use Policy 

An acceptable use policy outlines constraints and best practices that an end-user must agree to and follow while accessing your organization’s network. Inappropriate use of the internet and computer resources may open doors to virus attacks, compromising network security, and various threats, so it is important to have a well-written acceptable use policy in place.  

Some examples of what this policy should state, include: 

  • Do not use company services to violate any law 
  • Sign up for two-factor authentication  
  • Do not attempt to break the security of any computer network 
  • Never open email attachments that are suspicious
  • Do not leave computers unlocked when away   
  • Guest users should not have access to your log-in information 
  • Do not use company resources for online gambling 
  • Online shopping from company resources is prohibited 
  • Do not use public Wi-Fi on company devices 

When creating this policy, be sure to work with your legal, HR, and cybersecurity departments to be sure everyone has a chance to weigh in on the guidelines.  I highly recommend continually educating and testing your employees because they are the most vulnerable portion of your security program.  

2. Email/Communication Policy  

Since email is an essential channel for communication, it is important to have proper policies and procedures in place to formally outline how employees can use email and communication mediums.  According to the 2021 Trend Report, 56% of IT decision-makers consider phishing attacks as their primary security threat.  Therefore, it’s important to understand that this policy is not designed to make employees feel that they are being tracked, but rather to avoid misusing email. 

What should this policy include? 

  • Types of communications that are prohibited 
  • Security standards to using email attachments 
  • Rules about archiving and flagging emails 
  • Social media guidelines for personal and professional accounts

3. Identity and Access Management Regulations 

Identity and access management regulations defines and manages roles and access privileges of users and devices.  This regulation: 

  • Guides employees on how to create and use passwords securely 
  • Defines how to access the company’s network and servers using unique logins requiring authentication in different forms 
  • Outlines multiple facets of security including access management, access governance, authorization, authentication, identity management and governance 
  • Ensures the administration of users across all the applications while maintaining compliance   

4. Personal and Mobile Device Policy  

Nowadays, most organizations live in the cloud and employees use their own devices and applications to access company resources.  Remote work has greatly increased as a result of the COVID-19 virus and now organizations have to completely rethink the “where” and “how” behind their workforce.  If you are defining the IT security policy for your organization, it is a must that you consider having a personal and mobile device policy to prevent threats imposed by employee-owned devices. 

The personal and mobile device policy outlines various procedures to use devices including defining protocols, restrictions on the authorized use, and protecting devices from loss or theft. 

5. Change Management Policy 

Whenever a change is introduced to the organization’s IT systems, the chances are higher that disruptions and errors occur.  With a change management policy in place, you ensure your organization mitigates potential risks while implementing a clear change management process.  This policy ensures changes are planned and well communicated to all parties involved.  Prior to implementation, the change should be approved, and an employee/department held accountable, to ensure a smooth transition.  Upon completion, the change management policy should note the change be visible, tracked, documented and communicated to the proper system/application owners. 

What should this policy include? 

  • An evaluation guide to determine the level of risk associated with the change 
  • An approval process to initiate the change 
  • Communication guidelines for getting the word out 
  • Post-change review process for monitoring the implementation   

6. Incident Response Policy 

With increased security breaches, it is imperative for organizations to make sure the right resources are in place to deal with potential cybersecurity threats. The incident response policy defines roles and responsibilities to investigate and respond to the various information security incidents and data breaches for minimal impact on operations, customers, recovery time and cost. 

What should this policy include? 

  • Information systems used to store, process, and transfer data 
  • A list of employees who will respond to the incident (including contract workers) 
  • Procedures outlined to ensure quick and effective response to incidents

7. Data Security Policy 

Data security simply means maintaining confidentiality, availability, and integrity of your organization’s data.  An effective data security policy outlines the technical operations and best practices users should follow to avoid the deletion or dissemination of data.  It helps organizations prevent problems caused by improper handling of data by the employees and defines practices to create, store, transfer, or retrieve data securely.  

8. Network Security Policy 

A network security policy is a much-needed element of information security since it clearly defines guidelines for governing data access, password use and encryption, email attachments and web-browsing regulations.  This policy describes an organization’s security controls and helps to keep cyber breaches from occurring.  Initially, you need to understand what information and services are available and who currently has rights to access; ultimately determining what protections should be in place.  Your network security policy should ensure that employees only have access to what they need in order to successfully complete their work.       

Goals & Next Steps of Your IT Security Policy  

Many organizations have information security policies in place, which consist of technical jargon and legal liabilities.  It is important to understand that the goal of a cybersecurity policy is:  

  • To protect an organization from cyber security breaches  
  • Minimize the potential for litigation as a result of a breach  
  • Increase awareness among the employees and stakeholders using the resources  
  • Instill a sense of responsibility to keep your assets safe by following established guidelines.  

It’s not enough to concentrate on writing the policy itself- begin with a clear objective of what you want to achieve and how you want to enforce each policy within your organization.  Now that you understand IT security policies and what each includes, begin considering which ones will be best for your organization and meet with other stakeholders in the organization for their buy in.  

Finalized your IT security policies and procedures?  It’s time to test your network security!  A-LIGN’s penetration testers develop scenarios and strategies to breach your organization’s network, in turn identifying where hackers could access your user’s data. Contact the experts at A-LIGN at [email protected] or 888.702.5446 to schedule a Pen Test today!