Your IT security strategy has a weak link: your employees. In fact, human error is the main cause of 90 percent of data breaches, as revealed by a report published by Kaspersky Lab.
The number is so high because many organizations are so busy implementing expensive technological defenses and physical barriers that they forget about the people using them, which is where information security policies come in.
What Are IT Security Policies?
An IT security policy is a set of rules, plans, and practices whose purpose is to help employees keep IT assets secure when using them.
Together, organization’s IT security policies are the foundation of all procedures, and they greatly influence the way in which critical business information and systems are protected from both internal and external threats.
When an organization lacks important IT security policies, its IT security strategy—regardless of how well thought out it might be—is unlikely to deliver the desired results. The good news is that implementing IT security policies doesn’t have to be difficult, especially if you know which policies to start with.
1. Security Awareness Training Policy
Since employees are the weakest link in most IT security strategies, it only makes sense to create a policy that deals with their training. Such a policy should describe the purpose of security awareness training, its scope, frequency, and content.
Because cybersecurity threats evolve at a rapid pace, security awareness training must be ongoing and carried out by someone who understands the most common causes of security incidents in organizations and knows what can be done to eliminate them.
2. Acceptable Use Policy
An acceptable use policy describes what is and isn’t considered to be acceptable use of IT assets and the organization’s data. For example, employees may not always realize that it’s not acceptable for them to use their business email address for personal purposes or keep work-related documents scattered across multiple personal storage devices.
Since most organizations deal with the same issues when it comes to the use of their IT assets and data, it’s helpful to start with an acceptable use policy template and customize it to fit your needs. For example, SANS has developed a set of security policy templates that any organization can download for free.
3. Password Management Policy
As organizations of all sizes continue to embrace the cloud, their employees are required to manage more and more login credentials, which they use to access important tools and data from all kinds of remote locations and devices.
The goal of a password management policy is to make it clear to employees that “12345” isn’t an acceptable password and tell them exactly how strong passwords look like and how they should be stored. To add another layer of defense, we always recommend organizations to also utilize multi-factor authentication (MFA), which is hands down one of the top cybersecurity practices for SMBs.
4. Remote Access Policy
The coronavirus pandemic has greatly accelerated the shift to remote work, and it’s becoming increasingly clear that many employees won’t ever return to their offices. If at least some of your employees are among them, then you definitely need a remote access policy.
Your remote access policy should clearly describe the conditions under which employees are allowed to access your infrastructure from remote locations and include rules governing the use of remote resources, including requirements for data encryption and VPN access.
5. Incident Response Policy
Regardless of how comprehensive your IT security policies are, there’s always a chance of a cybersecurity incident happening. As unfortunate as cybersecurity incidents are, it’s even more unfortunate when organizations are unable to respond to them properly because they don’t have an incident response policy.
The purpose of an incident response policy is to describe in detail how your organization is supposed to respond to data breaches and other incidents. It assigns responsibilities to individual employees, provides useful information about your network infrastructure, and lists crucial containment, eradication, and recovery measures.