In a world where cyber threats are increasingly common and elaborate, a robust information security policy can make all the difference.
This means setting and defining your security policies, which lay out what should be done to maintain information security. Every organisation has sensitive information it needs to protect, both physical and digital. Setting out your information security policy is the best way to reduce risk and protect your business.
If you’re unsure about the value an information security policy can provide, then read on to find out more!
What is an information security policy?
An information security policy is a high-level view of what your organisation does with regard to protecting its data and assets, documenting what is expected and who has responsibility for what.
It offers protection for your business and helps limit data distribution by restricting access to only those that you want. It will help your business to:
- Establish a general approach to information security
- Reduce the risk of data and information being compromised, such as data, devices, computer systems and applications
- Safeguard your business reputation by offering added protection for customer data
- Limit access to technology assets to streamline operations and reduce the risk of hackers or unauthorised individuals gaining access to sensitive data
Why is an information security policy useful?
The great thing about developing your policy is the flexibility it gives you. Perhaps you want to focus on specific areas, or extend it across all areas of your business? Meeting compliance requirements is a vital cog in preventing security incidents such as data leaks and breaches.
An information security policy is important, regardless of the size or age of your business. As more digital information is stored, the increase of security breaches is enhanced. Although laws and regulations may protect your business depending on the sector you work in, it’s always better to be safe and create a policy that offers a stronger layer of protection across all business areas.
So, what do you need to include? Well, your information security policy should consider current and upcoming legislation and regulations, your business strategy and your current and potential level of threat. In addition, you will need to address your facilities, data, programmes, users, infrastructure and third parties.
To make your information security policy a strong one, you should focus on the following core areas:
Key elements of an Information Security Policy
- What is the purpose of your policy?
- What are the policy objectives?
- Who the policy will apply to
- Access rights to information
- Classification of data
- Security awareness and training
- Assigned roles and responsibilities
- Communicate your policy effectively across your business
- Review and revise any items of your policy
There are lots to unpick, so let’s dive into this in more detail below…
The purpose of your policy
Your policy needs to set out why you need one and what your priorities are. This can be aligned with your business goals and strategy. For instance, are you creating it to protect your customers’ data? Or is it to pre-empt security breaches? Understanding the purpose of the policy will help you to define the processes you need to protect your organisation.
Information security policy objectives
There are three key areas that will help you maintain the foundations of your information security policy:
These are all critical for preserving your information and helping your systems run smoothly, so think about these goals and how you plan to achieve them.
Consider your audience
You then need to set out who your policy applies to. It could be focused on your organisation, but if you work with other suppliers or third parties (such as a cloud provider), it’s very likely that they will need to have certain processes and policies applied to them too.
Deciding access rights
It’s likely that you have information that shouldn’t be open for everyone to access, particularly if you’re dealing with sensitive or personally identifiable information. Your policy needs to consider access control and who will have the authority to manage that control. Access to networks and other systems should also be considered and what authentication is needed. This could be a strong password or an ID badge, for instance.
Not all information is equal – some will need stronger protection. Creating a system of classification is therefore an important role of your information security policy. This classification will then dictate how this information is collected, handled, processed, stored and communicated.
Awareness and training
Your information security policy may also lay the foundations for any training required and how often it will take place. There may be awareness courses, for example, that would help your general staff to be able to identify risks.
Assigning duties and responsibilities
A key part of your policy is to establish who is responsible for what. You need owners of your policies and processes, such as access, network security and business continuity, to ensure that they are kept up to date and improvements made. This forms another aspect of Annex 5 of ISO 27001.
Communicating your policy
An information policy lacks strength if the people working in your organisation do not know about it or understand it. Your policy should therefore also consider how you will tell workers about the processes it contains.
Your information security policy needs to be reviewed and updated at planned intervals to ensure it remains fit for purpose, which can be laid out in the policy. You should also review it should there be a significant change within your organisation, such as a switch to remote working.
ISO 27001:2022 – what’s changed?
The latest changes to ISO 27001 mean extra emphasis is placed on the importance of businesses having a robust information security policy in place. It offers a protective barrier for your business to protect sensitive information from potential theft or access by unwanted parties.
ISO 27001:2022 introduced new updates to offer guidance for your business to strengthen information security policies across your organisation.
Your information security policy should now be extended and incorporate an information security awareness program to offer transparency and clarity for all key stakeholders. It’s also important to note that ISO 27001:2022 now require information security policies for education and training elements of your business. There are specific controls under Annex A 5.1 that we’ll explain in a little more detail below…
Annex A 5.1 – ins and outs
Annex A Control 5.1 relates specifically to information security policies. It acts as a guide for proper implementation and should act as the blueprint for establishing your information security policies.
As part of the changes in ISO 27001:2022, Annex Control 5.1 now states any information security policies or specific topic-related policies should be signed off and approved by senior management. Top-level management should develop an information security policy to outline your business’ approach to protecting data. It should be communicated and published to all relevant parties, offering clarity for everybody involved, from junior personnel to senior staff members.
Get ISO 27001 certification and build your Information Security Policy with our help
An information security policy is unique to your business, so you may not want to stop here. You may also want to consider your physical security, any malware processes or remote access as part of your policy, or you can add them in as controls in a wider information security management system (ISMS).
Partnering with an accredited body like Citation ISO Certification can help you create the most efficient information security policy for your business. We can help you implement ISO 27001 and protect your business from any online threats.