Exposing sensitive information or failing to comply with government regulations are preventable problems that can ruin your business. As companies such as Target, Uber, or Yahoo! can tell you, it takes years to recover your reputation post-data breach, but with the right protective measures, it’s possible to safeguard your organization against data breaches before they happen in the first place and preserve your company’s integrity. To do this, every business handling sensitive information needs an organizational security policy.
This policy should reflect the unique operational aspects and specific threats related to an industry, region, or organizational model. For example, in healthcare, organizations must consider the rules set forth by HIPAA, especially as they relate to personal healthcare information. Manufacturing companies dealing with smart devices or IoT devices will need to be able to protect and monitor their devices. Other companies may need to consider local or state regulations, the type of workforce they employ (contract vs. employee labor), remote work options, and more.
What is an Organizational Security Policy?
An organizational security policy is a set of rules or procedures imposed by an organization on its operations to protect its sensitive data. This plan will serve various functions. It should define the scope of a business’ cybersecurity efforts, provide guidance for making future cybersecurity decisions, and include information on the goals, responsibilities, and structure of the security program.
An organizational security policy will also outline the steps required to comply with regulatory requirements (whether corporate, industrial, or legal), to ensure regulations are followed accurately and thoroughly. An organizational security policy will also detail an approach to risk management. By serving as a reference for employees and managers, the plan can keep an organization moving forward and help simplify cybersecurity implementation.
Objectives of an Organizational Security Policy
A robust policy standardizes processes and rules to help organizations protect against digital threats. A cohesive plan will offer data confidentiality, integrity, and data availability.
Data confidentiality means protecting data against unintentional, unlawful, or unauthorized access, disclosure, or theft. It considers the privacy of information and carefully manages access to that information. Considering who is authorized to view the data, share it, or use it is an important part of an organization security policy.
Safeguarding the integrity of data involves assessing the overall accuracy, completeness, and consistency of data. When data is stored securely, the information will remain complete, accurate, and reliable no matter how long it is stored or how often it is accessed.
While protecting the data is vital, it must still be accessible. Companies need timely and reliable access to data and the ability to use that information. This step requires employing certain IT and management procedures, tools, and technologies in order to guarantee data availability.
The Importance of an Organizational Security Policy
A security policy must serve a central role in capturing and disseminating information about security efforts across the organization. Effective communication of the policy will help employees use company technology within the appropriate guidelines and reduce delays in implementation.
The policy will reduce overall risk to the business. By outlining procedures for identifying, assessing, and mitigating security vulnerabilities and risks, businesses will be better equipped to maintain robust security. It will also explain how to quickly respond to security incidents in order to minimize damage. To ensure successful execution, a security program needs an organizational security policy to provide the framework for procedures.
A security policy also summarizes the organization’s security position for third party use. Detailing how a business protects its IT assets and resources allows it to quickly respond to third party requests for this information. Such requests may come from customers, partners, auditors, or even government institutions in the case of contracted work.
Finally, the policy will address regulatory requirements clearly and effectively. Developing the policy will allow businesses to identify gaps in security protocols and adjust as needed.
Best Practices for Implementing an Organizational Security Policy
There are several things to consider when creating and introducing a security policy in a workplace. First, it’s important to realize that a multi-layered approach is best. Not every problem can be solved with a single policy. There are many different areas that will need to be addressed. Some to consider are: email, mobile devices, confidential data, incident response, network security, password management, physical/facility security, guest access, and acceptable use. The policy should serve as an overview, with the potential to dig deeper on specific issues with specific policies related to that topic.
Identifying IT risks is an essential step to creating an organizational security policy. By looking at the current risks and network vulnerabilities, an organization can begin to identify key points in their policy. To help with this, it is often best to hire an outside consultant. They can conduct a vulnerability assessment for an organization. This can also be done internally, using a combination of monitoring and reporting tools.
Consider Laws & Regulations
Legal requirements are another important consideration in the policy. There may be minimum standards required, depending on the types of data handled, the location and jurisdiction of the organization, or the industry.
One of the best ways to create a security policy is to involve current employees. Policies are only effective if employees adhere to them, and it’s important to have their input on what will work best in day-to-day situations. Not only does this create buy-in for the employees, it helps everyone understand why the policy was needed and builds trust and communication of the policy from the beginning. It may be helpful to recruit employees from different departments to participate, as they may use data in different ways and be able to provide unique insights. Implementing the policy will be easier as well when employees are actively involved.
Regularly Review & Update
Implementing an organizational security policy is not the final step though. The policy must continue to be monitored and reviewed. It should be a living document, with regularly scheduled review cycles. Regular updates allow a company to assess any new or changing threats, any new regulations, and identify potential for more efficient procedures. This is also a chance to review the crisis response plan so that the appropriate employees and managers will be equipped to handle any incidents. Keeping security protocols up to date will reduce the risk of reduced productivity, financial loss, and reputational damage.
How ComplianceBridge can Help
Hopefully you understand by now how important an organizational security policy can be for preserving your reputation, protecting customers and employees, and ensuring you remain focused on your core mission. If you’re realizing just how much you need to sit down and write this policy—or that your current policy is in dire need of an update—ComplianceBridge could be just the solution for you.
The policy management software available through ComplianceBridge allows users to easily create and manage policy documents. Users can easily update documents, archive older versions, send new policies and procedures to the right individuals or groups, and keep records of who has read and signed off on policies. To ensure employees are actually reading and understanding new policies and procedures, we also give you the ability to create policy quizzes that can be as simple or complex as you design them to be. You can even view responses in real-time, so you’ll know quickly if there’s a certain section of a new policy that employees seem to be having trouble with.
By streamlining creation, revision and distribution, ComplianceBridge allows organizations to focus on building a comprehensive and up-to-date policy library. Employees will be able to access policies wherever they are via our secure, web-based software, so no one will ever be unsure how to handle a situation, even one as complex as organizational security. Ready to see ComplianceBridge in action? Request a demo today to see how we can help your organization create and distribute policies effectively.