6.6: Security Policies
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Besides the technical controls listed above, organizations also need to implement security policies as a form of administrative control. In fact, these policies should really be a starting point in developing an overall security plan. A good information-security policy lays out the guidelines for employee use of the information resources of the company and provides the company recourse in the case that an employee violates a policy.
According to the SANS Institute, a good policy is “a formal, brief, and high-level statement or plan that embraces an organization’s general beliefs, goals, objectives, and acceptable procedures for a specified subject area.” Policies require compliance; failure to comply with a policy will result in disciplinary action. A policy does not lay out the specific technical details, instead it focuses on the desired results. A security policy should be based on the guiding principles of confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
A good example of a security policy that many will be familiar with is a web use policy. A web use policy lays out the responsibilities of company employees as they use company resources to access the Internet. A good example of a web use policy is included in Harvard University’s “Computer Rules and Responsibilities” policy, which can be found here.
A security policy should also address any governmental or industry regulations that apply to the organization. For example, if the organization is a university, it must be aware of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which restricts who has access to student information. Health care organizations are obligated to follow several regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).
A good resource for learning more about security policies is the SANS Institute’s Information Security Policy Page.
When looking to secure information resources, organizations must balance the need for security with users’ need to effectively access and use these resources. If a system’s security measures make it difficult to use, then users will find ways around the security, which may make the system more vulnerable than it would have been without the security measures! Take, for example, password policies. If the organization requires an extremely long password with several special characters, an employee may resort to writing it down and putting it in a drawer since it will be impossible to memorize.