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Why information security policies and procedures are so important

Feb 17, 2021

When conducting information security audits, auditors pay close attention to whether you have robust and up-to-date information security policies and procedures. 

Policies and procedures are the building blocks of a comprehensive information security program, which enables your organization to communicate and enforce information security goals and objectives to all stakeholders. 

Without supporting information security initiatives and controls through documented policies and procedures, your organization risks failing to preserve your information security environment. 

What are information security policies?

Information security policies can be described as a collection of statements and directives that help your organization communicate and enforce your employees’ responsibilities for supporting security controls and safeguarding confidential data. 

Information security policies also help describe core reasons behind implementing security controls around each component of the information security environment and with assigning appropriate individuals, based on their knowledge and organizational role, to manage and enforce those controls.  

One way your organization can identify and document information security policies is through an information security risk assessment. A risk assessment allows you to evaluate the most prominent information security risks your organization faces and to identify security controls in place or to be put in place for mitigating those risks. Once all mitigating controls are identified, your organization can start writing policies for supporting and enforcing those controls. 

For example, the risk of exposing network and client data to malware warrants investing in a robust antivirus solution, which would then need to be supported by a policy that describes core principles and responsibilities for managing the solution. Without a documented policy, your organization risks failing to ensure that the antivirus solution is fully integrated into the information security environment and that employees are fully aware of their responsibilities for using and supporting the antivirus solution. This example can be applied as a roadmap for creating policies around each distinctive component of the information security environment.  

What are information security procedures?

Information security procedures can be described as a collection of clearly defined, step-by-step instructions designed to assist employees with executing manual security processes, managing hardware and software components of the information security environment, and complying with their end-user responsibilities. 

When documented, information security procedures provide your organization with the peace of mind of having information security processes performed in a consistent manner and having security-related knowledge explicitly documented and readily available when needed.  

As you document information security procedures, you should ensure that procedures are being written around information security policies already in place. For example, the antivirus solution policy should be supported by detailed procedures on how to perform installation and ongoing management of antivirus agents on servers and workstations. These procedures should be written in a manner that provides individuals tasked with managing the antivirus solution enough guidance on how to execute ongoing processes consistently and on how to perform their responsibilities in alignment with information security policies in place.

Need help developing information security policies and procedures?

Both information security policies and procedures should be reviewed and updated regularly to help ensure that changes to the information security environment and respective controls are captured and communicated back to employees. 

If you have questions on or need assistance with your information security policies and procedures, contact Wipfli.

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Artur Kuznetsov
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