Considerations for developing an effective company cybersecurity policy

TechnologyData & Security

Each day,  more than 350,000 new forms of malware and PUAs (potentially unwanted applications) are created. These programs—many of which target businesses—steal and collect sensitive data, penetrate through basic security measures, and disable devices and networks.

This frightening statistic alone should make you ask yourself regularly: Is my business protected? 

A goal without a plan is just a wish.
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

If you have yet to develop and implement an effective cybersecurity policy for your company, the answer is no—you’re not protected. Protecting your business from security risks without a policy is a wish, not a realistic goal. If you don’t have a plan in place, security programs and general guidelines will leave your company’s network and data exposed. 

Unfortunately, there are no one-size-fits-all cybersecurity policies. The development of your policy will depend on many factors.

Whether a brief three-pages or a novel, your policy should be unique to fully address your security needs. And although quality and depth are important in a policy, establishing one, even if basic to start, is vital to creating a company culture that values data protection and to keep company, employee, and customer information private.

The importance of your company's cybersecurity policy

Cybersecurity policies are no longer an option for most businesses. They are a necessity. As the number of security breaches continue to rise, IT managers and CTO’s are scrambling to protect their company’s data and networks. 

Your staff are one of the primary reasons a cybersecurity plan is necessary for your business. Employees should be aware of the parts of the policy and held accountable. “A single individual’s actions can result in data being compromised throughout the business, from intellectual property to financial data,” says Davis Truong, Enterprise Architect for Malwarebytes. 

And although you should be concerned about malware, your company’s primary risk is not malicious programs seeking to steal information from your company; it’s employees. Over 95% of all cybersecurity threats are due to human error, according to a 2014 IBM report. Without an air-tight policy in place that employees are aware of and abiding by, human error will continue to be your largest risk. 

Additional reasons to implement a privacy policy at your company include: 

  • Establishing trust with partners and clients

  • Saving money

  • Protecting data

  • Conserving employee resources

With a policy that guards against internal and external threats, your organization can operate efficiently and effectively without needing to constantly fear a costly data breach.

Considerations for developing an effective company cybersecurity policy 

Now that you’re ready to start on your new company cybersecurity policy, here are six important things you need to consider: 

Use conditions

Described above, the biggest threat to your company’s security are your employees. By outlining use conditions, you will clearly state who has access to valuable information that needs to be protected, and limit who can expose your networks to threats. 

Applicable laws & regulations

It should go without saying that your cybersecurity policy must protect your company from violating laws and regulations that apply to your business. Regulations that may affect your business include HIPPA, GDPR, NIS, and others. 

Company/industry-specific considerations

Every company has unique factors that must be considered when creating a cybersecurity policy. Depending on the communication tools you use, the way you collect and process information, and your available resources, you will have to shape your policy to cater to these unique traits. 

Your industry may also require additional security measures that will need to be included in your policy. For example, accounting firms collect information from clients that other companies don’t need to ask for or store. This information is also often shared in both internal and external communications, which presents a risk that other companies may not have. 

Best practices

Your policy will be unique to your business. However, you don’t have to and shouldn’t try to reinvent the wheel. Your cybersecurity policy should be a mix of unique, company-specific security measures and best practices. Best practices for cybersecurity include: 

  • Implementing a formal information security framework

  • Backing up data

  • Educating and training employees

  • Onboarding policies for new employees

  • Setting restrictions for partners and third parties 

  • Maintaining compliance 

Setup

There are policies and then there are shifts in the way you do business. An effective and comprehensive cybersecurity policy will almost assuredly require your company to make drastic changes. These changes require time and effort to implement. You will need to setup the following aspects of your system: 

  • Security programs 

  • Data backup 

  • Updates (when necessary)

  • Patches (when necessary)

Employee needs and preferences

Companies are more agile than ever, and employees expect employers to be flexible. Does your company allow employees to use their own devices or work from home? 

Employee needs and preferences need to be considered when creating your plan because they may change aspects of your plan. If employees work remotely, it’s not reasonable to expect them to always stay connected to your internal network when accessing information. They need to know how to receive and send data while protecting it. 

Ownership

An effective cybersecurity policy is a living policy. It must adapt to changes in your business. This requires employees to take ownership of and manage the policy. Before implementing a new policy, you will need to determine the following:

  • Training process and who will conduct training

  • The policy issuer

  • Enforcement of the policy

  • How to react to policy violations 

Don’t wait to create the perfect policy. Use the considerations above to begin an outline of your cybersecurity policy today.


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