How to Build a Cyber Security Policy [5 Tips]

Submitted by Daniel Gray on Tue, 09/ 22/ 20 - 12: 00 PM

Tips for Creating a Cybersecurity Policy


Cyber security policies are becoming more and more common in businesses as they strive to mitigate the risk of an employee accidentally leaking sensitive data or falling for a phishing scheme. These policies need to strike a balance between severity and laxness, which can make effective policy implementation difficult. Keep reading to learn a few tips for building a security policy within your organization.

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What is a Cyber Security Policy?

What to Include

How to Build and Implement

Other Ways to Protect Your Data

What is a Cyber Security Policy?

What is a Cyber Security Policy

Cyber security policies set company-wide rules and regulations for how employees access online applications and resources, send data, and respond to recognized cyber threats.

These policies can typically be broken into two sections: workplace expectations and consequences for policy violations. Policies with workplace expectations can include sections about communication policies, password policies, E-sign policies, and more. 

These policies should also set in place the proper consequences for rule violations. These consequences, as well as workplace expectations, can be created in collaboration with other departments to ensure that all bases are covered. 

Cyber security policies, when coupled with effective network security, can minimize the risk of a cyber attack or data breach.

What to Include

How to Build a Cyber Security Policy

Online Behavior Requirements

Are employees allowed to download programs onto their computers? How should they send data to one another or to outside parties? How should they treat emails that come from outside parties?

These questions and more should be answered in your policy in an effort to control how employees behave when conducting business online. 

Cyber Security Education and Testing

While spelling out how business operations will run is a great step towards preventing data breaches, phishing schemes are one of the most common vectors for data breaches.

All it takes is one employee falling for a phishing scheme, which is why employee cyber security education and testing is key in implementing a successful cyber security policy.

On-Boarding Educational Content

Educating employees about cyber security from the day they're hired helps build a company mindset around the importance of cyber security.

Educational pamphlets or short courses on cyber security can be used the first week of employment for new hires to get them up to speed on your company's cyber security policy and educate them on security topics they may not have previously known about.  

If an employee is educated about cyber security right from the start, the odds of them becoming a cyber security threat are likely to decrease.

Internal Cyber Security Newsletters

Monthly company cyber security newsletters can serve as an informative and engaging way to constantly educate your employees about the latest cyber security threats as well as a way to share tips on staying safe online.

Phishing Tests

Phishing tests are fake phishing emails orchestrated by your IT department that aim to see which employees fall for the attack by clicking on links or downloading files that are embedded in the email.

If employees fall for these phishing attempts then you can send them through cyber security training, again. We recommend conducting this test quarterly.

However, penetration testing is only so effective if your network has inherent vulnerabilities. We find on a consistent basis that many companies have network security issues that were overlooked or unknown. Conducting an annual network security assessment is a great idea to discover these vulnerabilities.

RELATED: Cyber Security Awareness Training for Employees [Tips]

Policy Violation Consequences

A cyber security policy without consequences is simply a suggestion. Ensure there's teeth to your policy by spelling out the consequences for policy breaches.

All punishments are not created equal, which is why your policy should be tiered to fit the punishment to the crime.

For instance, if an employee downloads a non-approved program to listen to music while at work, or accidentally falls for a phishing scheme, that employee does not necessarily deserve to be fired.

On the other hand, if an employee knowingly leaks private company data that results in penalties for non-compliance with data privacy regulations, maybe a firing could be more justified. 

How to Build and Implement

Build Cybersecurity Policy

Talk to HR and Department Heads

While your IT department should be the main creators of your cyber security policy, you should bring in other necessary personnel such as HR and department heads as well. 

For instance, HR personnel will be able to help you spell out consequences for policy breaches

Department heads will be able to help you figure out which employees in their departments are most likely to break the policy and which ones have gaps in their cyber security knowledge.

They can provide tips on what types of content should be included in the policy that can be tailored a little on a departmental basis.

For instance, if your sales department receives a lot of emails from unknown prospects, there is a chance that some of those emails could be phishing attempts.

For that department, maybe you want to tailor a phishing educational course that includes information about sales email phishing schemes and how to avoid them.

Regularly Update Policy

The cyber threat landscape changes so often that your cyber security policy cannot afford to stay stagnant.   

Even if you think your cyber security policy is stringent enough, before long enough it will become outdated. For instance, the remote conferencing platform Zoom was used in the business world before the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, once the pandemic started, security flaws were exposed, which made some companies shy away from it. If your cyber security policy wasn't updated to tell employees to not use Zoom, then you could be putting your company's private data at risk. 

Periodically evaluate and update your cyber security policy. Aim to update your policy at least once a year, if not quarterly. Sit down with all involved parties to evaluate it for weak points and keep employees in the loop with important updates. 

RELATED: Cyber Security Trends 2020 [Top 4]

Other Ways to Protect Your Data

Protect Your Data

BCDR Plans

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR) plans ensure that operations run smoothly with minimal downtime in the event of network outages caused by breaches or natural disasters. 

Business Continuity plans re-direct resources, establish chains of command, and coordinate shifts in employees so that business operations have minimal interruptions during natural disasters and network outages.

Disaster Recovery plans utilize effective IT to quickly recover one's network with minimal downtime and data loss.

Here are a few quick tips in case your organization is interested in building a BCDR plan:

  • Evaluate Workflow on a Departmental Level− By taking note of how each department runs and asking questions like "How do they communicate with one another?" and "How much of their job relies on files within your network?", you can know how to effectively shift business operations remote.
  • Keep Executives Up to Speed− When all executives know the proper steps to take in the event of a cyber attack or network outage, business operations can quickly pivot and stay afloat.
  • Regularly Test and Update Your BCDR Plan− Periodic evaluations of your backup processes for kinks and subsequent BCDR plan updates as well as regular testing ensure that your plan is current and the appropriate personnel are kept in the loop.

RELATED: How to Build a BCDR Plan [Top 4 Tips]

Managed IT Services

While building cyber security policies can help mitigate the risks of internal employees making mistakes that lead to data breaches, they don't mitigate the risks associated with weak network security.

Cyber attacks can come from so many places that every aspect of your network needs to protected, from your firewalls to your endpoint security. Managed IT services safeguard your network by managing your network security for you or partnering with an in-house IT department.

Managed IT services assist your company in implementing an effective cyber security policy and building a BCDR plan. However, their offering extends beyond simple policy implementations. 

They can also layer your network with the latest hardware and software to keep cyber threats at bay and business operations running smoothly.

Cyber security policies can be challenging to build, but we hope that this article made the process a little easier.

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Posted by Daniel Gray