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Compliance Through Policy Design: Managing Information Security

Jul 28, 2022

Information security is not getting easier. Organization, technology, and data complexity has grown exponentially, and an adequate and effective IT security policy requires constant tracking and managing. Organizations are in a constant state of flux and change, and IT is in no way immune to this change. As the organization evolves, the underlying IT infrastructure is in a constant need to be stitched up and monitored.

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This leaves IT risk, compliance, and security an important component of an overall comprehensive and broader business strategy. A seemingly simple IT risk can soon transform into a serious operational threat, which in turn can have serious financial and compliance implications. So, how do we manage Compliance through Policy design?

In managing information security, data becomes critical as an asset. Its uses are versatile, and those who understand how to properly leverage it can create tremendous value. Data is ubiquitous, as the information age is one where the economy is primarily based on information technology, rather than traditional industry. With technology and data so intertwined in modern business, it is no surprise that much effort is devoted to managing and protecting it. Nearly every organization requires robust IT infrastructure and a capable IT team to run it, but even the most skilled IT professionals can struggle without a directive, a strategy, or a definition of priorities. This is where strong policy comes in. 

Additional Read: The cost of non-compliance

The policy sets the heading an organization will travel on. It determines the means and modes of operation, mitigates risk and uncertainty, and protects the organization and its members from liabilities. Information is a huge component of modern business, and as such, must be leveraged intentionally, used responsibly, and protected adequately. 

IT is a complex component of an organization, and it has the ability to create immense value or to be the point of vulnerability in the system. Having a strong information security policy is important in maintaining the integrity of the organization’s IT infrastructure and the strength of its personnel. 

When crafting policy on information security it is important, to begin with, a detailed understanding of all systems, data, processes, vulnerabilities, and risks. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to information security, so it is important that leadership understands the current situation so that policy can be designed to meet the needs and goals of the organization. It is important to gather all the relevant strategic, regulatory, and industry-specific considerations when considering a policy. Lastly, the objectives of the new policies can be established, and the work to write and implement them can begin. 

To write an effective policy, a few key considerations need to be accounted for. 

Scope – This is the problem the policy is intended to solve, and the scope to which it applies. Policy without an explicit goal does little to describe the intentions or strategy of the organization, while the broad-scoped policy might not be universally prescriptive or vague. Narrowly scoped policy, in contrast, might muddy the waters or overcomplicate the processes they are meant to govern. This should also include information on compliance requirements the policy applies to and what authorities within the organization are responsible for it, along with appropriate contacts. Setting a clear objective with an appropriately defined scope is the foundation for a strong policy. 

Internal Controls – Besides the main body of the policy, a section regarding enforcement and response is necessary. This section is to describe and explains the repercussions and response to a breach in policy. IT systems and the data they contain are extremely valuable, and an appropriate understanding of that responsibility is necessary. Understanding what a user of the policy is responsible for is critical for communicating its importance. Additionally, the response to any disruption or breach is for damage control, and comprehensive training is critical for the effectiveness of that first response. 

Training – The last point to touch on is to have proper training and policy distribution prescribed by the policy itself. The policy should clearly describe what the proper training requirements are and how they can be accessed. This adds a level of safety and confidence to those users who will interact with it in knowing who is qualified and how responsibility is distributed. Instituting a strong policy is not only necessary but can create value long-term for the organization. An organization gains value from the effective policy in several ways. 

Strong policy and infrastructure promote the integrity and security of data resources across the organization. A robust policy increases the quality and availability of data for the organization to leverage. Additionally, it allows the organization to be a responsible custodian of data and promotes the confidence of its stakeholders. 

This integrity brings with it both the necessity and capability for a strong security posture. Mitigating security risks and vulnerabilities is a difficult and ever-evolving task. Ensuring that the organization’s policies facilitate effective capabilities and enable success for IT teams is critical in maintaining security long term. 

The policy allows organizations to ensure successful implementations long term by laying the framework and roadmap for uniform goals across the entire organization. This is particularly meaningful for large organizations and can even extend to 3rd parties as they integrate with operations and add potentially unaccounted-for variables into the environment. 

Issuing effective policy can be a complex task. On top of the process maps, risk variables, and regulatory considerations come the ever-evolving world of information technology itself. A strong policy enables the members of that organization to mitigate risk in a rapidly changing environment.

As this rapid pace of change continues, it is critical to keep up with the growing and emerging risks in order to manage and maintain control of a healthy IT security system. Managing risk in isolation, without an agile and effective IT risk management system will fail the needs of the dynamic, modern business environment. Technology must be allowed to integrate the system into the context of the business as a whole if the organization hopes to have the agility to stay on top of changing risks. The improved effectiveness and efficiency that these integrated processes and technologies allow help to ensure that business functions and information are kept current and up to date with the continuous pace of change.

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