There are many policies that businesses need, and cybersecurity policies are no different. Your company likely has security policies in place for your building and property. For the same reasons, your company also needs cybersecurity policies for your network, data, and more.
What is a security policy?
A singular security policy, or cybersecurity policy, is a recorded commitment to protecting the company’s data and other information. This singular policy acts as “a preamble to a series of more specific policies.”
Each specific policy focuses on a different aspect of cybersecurity. The specific policies set the standard for how a company’s users utilize company networks, applications, hardware, and software. The policies are created by IT and cybersecurity professionals, often with input from other departments. It is created for all end-users, including employees, partners, board members, stockholders, and other end-users.
CSO recommends 9 specific policies:
- Acceptable Use Policy: Stipulates how users use IT assets; users must agree to this policy before they can access the network or Internet.
- Access Control Policy: Stipulates the access available to users, including operating systems and network access; also includes information on password complexity requirements.
- Change Management Policy: Informs users how changes are made to IT, software, and security operations from proposal to implementation.
- Information Security Policy: Stipulates how users can use IT assets at a high level; users may need to agree to this policy when they sign the Acceptable Use Policy.
- Incident Response Policy: Describes the process of handling an incident and remediating its effects on the organization.
- Remote Access Policy: Outlines how users can remotely connect to the company’s internet networks.
- Communication Policy: Outlines how users can use the company’s email accounts, social media accounts, blog accounts, and chat technologies.
- Disaster Recovery policy: Describes the process of handling a business disaster; this typically coincides with the Incident Response Policy and Business Continuity Plan.
- Business Continuity Plan: Coordinates company-wide hardware, software, and data restoration in the event of a business disaster or emergency.
Why Your Business Needs Security Policies
When many departments connect to develop your company’s security policies, the process engages a variety of employees. Allowing employees to participate in the development of company-wide policies encourages them to follow them. It also encourages them to review the policies in the future, helping them maintain engagement.
Even though not all employees will be involved in this process, it shows all employees how much you value their input, opinions, and involvement. It may even boost morale.
Increasing employee engagement also helps most employees understand the policies themselves. Because an individual was involved in the policy development process, they understand why certain individuals have higher levels of access. Then, they are able to share those details with their direct reports. In this scenario, engagement improves knowledge, which encourages employees to educate others on the reason behind policies as well as the policies themselves. This can even improve your overall cybersecurity posture.
Proactively respond to threats
With policies in place, you have a plan of attack for a variety of threats and situations. You have a game plan for who does what and when, as well as the reasons behind the parts of the plan. The policies provide your team with a roadmap on how to proactively respond to threats and changes in the cybersecurity landscape.
Federal and state regulations
There are many federal and state cybersecurity laws that you should be aware of. Federally, in the U.S., only contractors working for the Department of Defense need to comply with specific cybersecurity regulations. However, there are also industry-specific regulations, such as for health care and financial services.
State-specific regulations vary widely across the U.S., but New York and California have specifically strict regulations. Even if your business is located in a state with limited regulations, it’s important to note that if you do business online, you need to abide by the state laws where your customers are.
Security policies are also important for your brand image. According to McAfee, “Customers, partners, shareholders, and prospective employees want evidence that the organization can protect its sensitive data. Without a cybersecurity policy, an organization may not be able to provide such evidence.”
A poor brand image among your customers can lower your public reputation as well as potentially reduce sales revenue and employee satisfaction.
Managing your policies
Your business’s cybersecurity policies are living documents. Each specific policy, as well as the singular policy, will need to change over time as your business, offerings, and competitive landscape change. For this reason, they need to be updated at specific intervals. They will also need to be audited to ensure their effectiveness before they are set in motion.
Once they are audited and set in motion, and your scheduled updates are on the calendar, it’s time to enforce the policies. This is typically managed by a system administrator.
With enforcement comes awareness. Once the policies are drafted and in motion, the work doesn’t stop. The company still needs to continually remind users of policies, educate them on policies, and update them on changes as they occur.
Managing your security policy can be challenging for businesses large and small. Your business has a lot of moving parts and is ever-evolving, which means its security needs and strategies will change over time.