Every company no matter how big or small has one resource in common that must be protected – your Data. Your company’s Data is the lifeblood powering the future growth and prosperity of your business. Every business needs to have a plan in place to ensure the security of your information assets. Information security professionals refer to this plan as a security program. It doesn’t matter whether your security program is five pages or 500 pages long, the important thing is that you have a security program and that you use it to address your company’s security in an organized, comprehensive, and holistic way.
If you fail to plan for your IT future, the consequences of inaction could include business losses, legal liability and the loss of trust in your company, by your customers. But if you have a written plan in place and you experience a loss that has legal consequences, this very same written program can be used as evidence that you followed industry best practices in the quest to protect your data.
7 Common Traits of Successful Security Programs
Top-Down Approach with a Focus on IT Security
A good security program will assess the risks you face, decide how to minimize those risks and of course, keep up with the ever-changing race that is at the heart of technology. This security program takes a top-down look at how every part of your company. It provides a general outline for how you will keep your company’s data secure. Your security program defines what data is covered and what is not, as well as assesses the risks your company faces and how to best manage them. Everyone needs to have a security program because it helps you maintain your focus on IT security.
Designated security officer
For a successful security program, having a Designated Security Officer (DSO) is not optional — it’s a requirement. The Security Officer is the one responsible for coordinating and executing your security program. A DSO will also consider how often policies should be re-evaluated and updated as well as how to assess compliance with the program. The DSO helps you identify and stay in compliance with the regulations that affect how you manage your data. In order to maintain proper checks and balances, the DSO should report to someone outside of the IT organization to maintain independence.
Risk assessment is one of the most important parts of any successful security program. Your security team must identify and assess the risks that your security program intends to manage so that you can then decide on appropriate, cost-effective ways to manage them. The DSO ensures that security is continuously adapting to your organization and the ever-changing IT environment we live in. Remember that risk can never be eliminated, only minimized. Risk assessment helps us decide which threats to monitor, how to prioritize them and the most cost-effective way to deal with them.
Policies and procedures
Whether created solely by your Designated Security Officer or a team of IT Professionals, preparing a risk assessment often leaves many important unanswered security questions. Creating policies and procedures is where you get to decide what to do about these important security concerns. These policies will help to address security threats and implement strategies to help mitigate security vulnerabilities as well as define how to recover when a compromise occurs. In addition, the policies will provide guidelines for employees on what to do and what not to do as well as the consequences for NOT following the rules. There’s even a good chance that other organizations have already faced many of the same IT concerns facing your company.
Regulatory standards compliance
In addition to following all of your own security programs, your company may also need to comply with one or more standards defined by external parties. Regulatory standards that might affect you include HIPAA (for the health industry), PCI (for any company that processes credit cards), FISMA (for governmental agencies and government contractors), FINRA (for the financial industry) and others. This component of your security plan defines what those standards are and how you will comply.
All hands on Deck and The Weakest Link
Every employee needs to be aware of his or her roles and responsibilities when it comes to security. Even those who never get near a computer screen in their daily work need to be involved because they could still be targeted by clever social-engineering attacks that compromise your data or physical security. All users need to have security awareness training, while those involved with IT systems need to have more role-specific training. Your IT organization needs an even higher level of involvement, taking direction from your own security specialists and those you hire as consultants.
Training for Success and Monitoring Compliance
Even though the technology is constantly changing, most security experts agree the weakest link in most organizations’ security is the human factor, not technology. Even though it’s the weakest link, it is often overlooked in security programs. Don’t overlook it in yours. To avoid this common pitfall, successful companies are usually the ones that provide ample training. Prior to rolling out new security policies, companies that want to succeed will provide in-person staff training sessions done one on one or with entire departments. This will also allow your employees ample time to understand the new policies and address any questions or concerns.
Finally, all of your security policies and procedures are only as good as your ability to monitor their compliance. Having the right tools and people in place to monitor security configurations and compliance is essential to any successful IT security program.