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What is an IT Security Policy and What Should it Include?

Modern businesses face emerging digital threats that can compromise their security and seriously harm their bottom lines. A good IT security policy can help mitigate this risk and help organizations quickly rebound from potentially damaging incidents. But how do you write an effective, clearly defined plan? Here’s what every organization should know about creating IT security policies.

What is an IT Security Policy?

IT security policies lay out the rules regarding how a company’s IT resources can be used. An effective policy will clearly define access controls, acceptable behaviors, unacceptable behaviors, and the consequences of ignoring the rules.

A good IT security policy will be informed by a business’s unique operational goals, risk management strategies and information security policies. By clearly outlining acceptable use and access controls, an IT security policy will define the digital attack surface and degree of acceptable risk. The policy should also lay a foundation for effective incident response by declaring how users will be monitored and any potential actions that may follow when the security policy is violated.

What Should an IT Security Policy Include?

Since every organization is unique, there’s no cookie-cutter approach to creating an effective IT security policy. In every instance, the policy should be informed by the needs of the individual business, whether it’s one consolidated policy or a collection of documents addressing a host of different issues. With that said, every IT security policy should contain some universal details, including:

  • Acceptable Use: Define how end users are allowed to use IT systems.
  • Change Management: Processes for how to deploy, update and retire IT assets.
  • Data Retention: Clearly state how long data shall be stored and how to safely dispose of it.
  • Incident Responses: Lay out processes for how to manage security incidents.
  • Network Security: Provide clear policies for how to secure the corporate network.
  • Password: State rules for how to properly create and manage user passwords.
  • Security Awareness: Establish policies for how to train employees to recognize and combat cyber threats.

Beyond these, a thorough policy can also have sections targeting unique organizational-specific needs.

Understanding an IT Security Policy’s Goals

Unfortunately, the biggest threat to any organization comes from within its own walls. Despite their best intentions, internal workers tend to be the gateway that allows bad actors to get past an organization’s security system. Whether it’s phishing, weak passwords or outright data mishandling, there are many ways internal staffers compromise company data. A good IT security policy can help mitigate this risk.

When creating an effective IT security policy, the overall goal is to clearly explain the procedures and rules for using organizational assets. This includes input directed both to end users as well as IT and security staff.

At the same time, IT security policies should always be designed to identify and effectively address a company’s unique IT security risks. They can do so by addressing the CIA triad:

  • Confidentiality: Keeping sensitive data from becoming exposed to unauthorized parties.
  • Integrity: Making sure that data has not been altered while in transit and storage.
  • Availability: Provide continual access to systems and data to legitimate users.

These goals can be achieved in all sorts of different ways. A company may have several IT security policies targeting varying audiences and targeting several devices and risks.

Why are IT Security Policies Important?

An IT security policy is a written record of a company’s IT security policies and rules. This can be important for numerous reasons, including:

  • End-User Behavior: A company’s users must know what they can and can’t do on an organization’s IT systems. A good policy will provide rules for acceptable use and any penalties for obvious non-compliance.
  • Business Continuity: Cyberattacks can seriously disrupt a business, inhibiting productivity and affecting a company’s bottom line. A strong policy helps make these events less likely to cause long-term difficulties.
  • Risk Management: A well-defined security policy defines how IT assets can be used and accessed. This helps define the degree of cyber risk a company might face.
  • Incident Response: In the event of a security incident, a rapid, effective response is critical. A strong security policy lays out the actions to take in response to potential incidents.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Many regulations, such as the ISO and GDPR, require companies to have established security policies documented.

Getting Professional Assistance

These days, a secure network requires layers of protection at every level. If you’re looking to secure your company’s systems and streamline operational efficiencies, Fisher Technology can help. We manage servers, computers, cloud environments, network equipment, mobile devices and applications. We can protect your company from malware and hackers while streamlining your business operations with electronic document automation and innovative workflow solutions. Contact us to learn more.

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