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Cheatsheet: Everything You Need to Know About Information Security Policies

Cheatsheet: Everything You Need to Know About Information Security Policies

Do you have formal information security policies written down in your company? At this point, they’re necessary for every business. However, developing security policies is a daunting task, especially when you’re not well versed in cybersecurity.

Writing security policies can be a challenge. When drafting them, you have to account for the contractual obligations you have, mapping out your legal and regulatory requirements, as well as best practices and frameworks you have elected as your compliance objectives. You might be tempted to use templates and cobble together a set of policies yourself, but this can still be a tremendous amount of work to ensure they cover 

You can also hire a consultant to write policies for you. Consultants are a good option, however, they can be expensive, and each year when you need to review and make changes to your policies, you may be tempted to hire the consultant or a managed service provider to maintain your policies. 

I have personally written a lot of security policies. I understand the difficulty in trying to make sure the policies cover all your unique use cases and be in line with industry best practices. At Carbide, we see it as a problem that we can solve with software. 

This is why I believe Carbide’s policies are the ideal solution for B2B SaaS companies and other modern SMBs. When there are changes in the frameworks or regulations, Carbide keeps the policies up to date. When there is an update available to the policies you have generated in the Carbide application, you get a notification to which policies have existing updates. Updating these policies is as simple as logging in to the Carbide application, or checking your notifications, following the prompts, answering any new questions that help customize the policy, then confirming the update. Now that is how easy reviewing and updating policies really should be. 

As security and privacy obligations become more complex, we need tools to make best practices and compliance attainable for companies that don’t have in-house cybersecurity pros. But if you want to understand security policies on a deeper level – here’s a simple breakdown of everything I think information security policy should have. No fancy jargon or stuffy legalese included. Promise. 

7 Parts to Consider When Creating Information Security Policies

All good information security policies have seven parts. These can be short, you don’t want to force your employees to read pages of policy content. They are:

1. Purpose

Most policies open with a short introduction that explains why the policy exists. They can be as short and as sweet as they need. For example:

  • “This policy explains how we ask for, collect, store, and use your data in our business.”
  • “This policy establishes what our employees may and may not do on company computers to support cybersecurity.”

2. Scope and Applicability

If the purpose is the “why” section, then this section states the “where” of the policy. It should identify where the policy is applicable. That includes:

  • Assets – like customer lists or trade secrets
  • Infrastructure – think computers, websites, or even email accounts
  • People – that may mean staff, vendors, or customers
  • Instances – such as “during work hours” or “while users are working remotely

3. Policy Content

This is the overall body of your policy – it’s the “what” of the document. Include details about the policy topic, beginning with processes or procedures that define “normal” operations. Then, move onto procedures regarding misuse, incidents, or other abnormal behavior. Clearly identify what is to be done and what outcomes are intended.

4. Roles and Responsibilities

You’ll want to be clear about what roles are involved in your cybersecurity policy and who bears what responsibilities. In some cases, the answer might be “all employees.” In other cases, you’ll have members of your development team or IT department responsible for specific procedures. 

5. Maintenance and Review

You should always review and update your policy on a schedule. That ensures you’re using the most current best practices, and that you’ve integrated new information as it becomes available. Many companies do an annual or bi-annual review. It’s also a good idea to review and update policies following an incident.

6. References and Supporting Documents

This section should list related policies, helpful references, and documents that support why certain policies are in place. Don’t worry if you don’t have much to add here at first. As your policies evolve, this section will grow into a sort of “history” that provides context.

7. Terms and Definitions

Finish with an appendix of relevant terms or definitions in the policy. This is helpful to keep team members on the same page or bring new members up to speed. It’s an especially good idea if you’ve got a lot of terms that are specific to your industry or business.

Security Policy Generation Made Easy

Developing information security policies may seem like a chore, but they don’t have to be. The best ones are clear, aligned with your business needs, and as short as possible. By following these ideas, you should be able to understand the essential parts of an information security policy. These policies are the foundation of your entire security infrastructure and outline the reasoning for any cybersecurity technology you need. 

Always start with policies. It’s the first step to developing a security program that lets you fend off both internal and external threats.