What is an IT Security Policy?

An IT security policy lays out the rules regarding how an organization’s IT resources can be used. The policy should define acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, access controls, and potential consequences for breaking the rules.

An IT security policy should be based on an organization’s business goals, information security policy, and risk management strategy. By outlining access controls and acceptable use, an IT security policy defines the corporate digital attack surface and level of acceptable risk. The IT security policy also lays a foundation for incident response by defining how users may be monitored and the actions that may be taken if the policy is violated.

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The Goal of an IT Security Policy

The goal is to clearly lay out the rules and procedures for using corporate assets. This includes information directed both to end users and to IT and security staff. IT security policies should be designed to identify and address an organization’s IT security risks. They do so by addressing the three core goals of IT security (also called the CIA triad):

  • Confidentiality: Protecting sensitive data from being exposed to unauthorized parties.
  • Integrity: Ensuring that data has not been modified while in storage or in transit.
  • Availability: Providing continual access to data and systems to legitimate users.

These three goals can be achieved in a variety of different ways. An organization may have multiple IT security policies targeting different audiences and addressing various risks and devices.

The Importance of an IT Security Policy

An IT security is a written record of an organization’s IT security rules and policies. This can be important for several different reasons, including:

  • End-User Behavior: Users need to know what they can and can’t do on corporate IT systems. An IT security policy will lay out rules for acceptable use and penalties for non-compliance.
  • Risk Management: An IT security policy defines how corporate IT assets can be accessed and used. This defines the corporate attack surface and the amount of cyber risk faced by the company.
  • Business Continuity: A cyberattack or other business-disrupting event inhibits productivity and costs the organization money. IT security policies help to make these events less likely and to efficiently resolve them if they occur.
  • Incident Response: In the event of a data breach or other security incident, correct and rapid response is critical. An IT security policy defines the actions that should be taken when an incident occurs.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Many regulations, such as the GDPR and ISO, require that an organization have security policies and procedures in place and documented. Creating these policies is necessary for achieving and maintaining regulatory compliance.

IT Security Policies Key Information

An organization’s IT security policies should be designed to fit the needs of the business. They can be a single, consolidated policy or a set of documents addressing different issues.

Despite this, all organizations’ IT security policies should contain certain key information. Whether as standalone documents or sections in a larger one, a corporate IT security policy should include the following:

  • Acceptable Use: How end users are permitted to use IT systems
  • Change Management: Processes for deploying, updating, and retiring IT assets
  • Data Retention: How long data can be stored and how to properly dispose of it
  • Incident Response: Processes for managing potential security incidents
  • Network Security: Policies for securing the corporate network
  • Password: Rules for creating and managing user passwords
  • Security Awareness: Policies for training employees about cyber threats

Beyond these core policies, an IT security policy can also include sections targeted at an organization’s specific needs. For example, a company may need Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) or remote work policies.

How to Write an IT Security Policy

When writing an IT security policy, a good starting point is established best practices. Organizations like the SANS Institute have published templates for IT security policies.

These templates can then be edited to meet an organization’s unique needs. For example, a company may need to add sections to address unique use cases or tailor language to fit corporate culture.
An IT security policy should be a living document. It should be regularly reviewed and updated to meet the evolving needs of the business.

Check Point IT Security Solutions

As you draft your IT security policies, consider Check Point products and services. Learn how to efficiently support and enforce your corporate IT security policy by reading this whitepaper. Then, see the power of Check Point’s integrated security platform for yourself with a free demo.

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