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IT Security Policy: 7 Policy Types and 4 Best Practices

February 10, 2021

Topics: Cloud Insights Elementary6 minute read

What is IT Security Policy?

A comprehensive IT security strategy is a plan that guides the organization towards the goal of protecting data and networks from security threats. It is a link between people, processes and technology, all of which must work in tandem to prevent security breaches.

Implementing an IT security strategy communicates the organization's expectations of employees, and educates them on security measures they should follow. These measures can include how to configure IT equipment and endpoints, how employees should log into corporate systems, who should receive access to data, how to train employees on security processes, and how the organization will achieve IT compliance.

In this article, you will learn:

What is the Purpose of an IT Security Policy?

IT security policies can help organizations maintain the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of systems and information. These three principles make up the CIA triad:

  • Confidentiality includes protecting assets from unauthorized access.
  • Consistency ensures information and systems can only be modified in ways permitted by the organization.
  • Availability means that authorized users have constant access to information and systems they depend on.

An IT security policy is a document that is continuously updated as organizational requirements change. Both the Organization of Standardization (ISO) and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have published security policy standards and best practices.

The National Research Council (NRC) recommends that an information security policy should address the following key aspects: security objectives, scope of the policy, specific goals with respect to security, responsibilities responsibility for compliance and actions to be taken in case of non-compliance.

Additionally, a security strategy should include a section dedicated to regulations governing the organization's industry. These may include PCI/DSS, HIPAA, GDPR, etc. Many regulations and standards have their own requirements for security policies, and the policy should include the specific sections or provisions defined by the compliance standard.

7 Key IT Security Policies

Whether your organization is a multinational or small startup, it needs a documented IT security policy. In today’s business environment, a security policy is essential for keeping a business running, preparing for security threats, and being able to effectively respond when a breach occurs.

Employee Awareness and Training Policy

Training your staff is the key to implementing an IT security policy. The objective of training is to generally educate employees on the importance of IT security, summarize current policy guidance, and prepare for future policy updates and training procedures.

Password Management Policy

To protect your organization's sensitive data, strong passwords are essential. A password policy should enforce strong, unique passwords, and specify how often to change passwords. It should also specify the administration and use of password management tools.

Remote Access Policy

Working from home is becoming increasingly common, and this means securing remote access is more important than ever. Network data can be easily intercepted, especially from personal devices and unsecured home and public networks. Organizations must define remote access policies that include security procedures for access to corporate data over remote networks, VPN, or other means.

Bring Your Own Device Policy

For companies that allow employees to bring their own devices (BYOD), a comprehensive strategy can help minimize the security risks of BYOD, tension between employees and supervisors, and unnecessary downtime or productivity loss. The policy should specify how company data can be accessed, where it can be accessed, how devices can be used, how they will be monitored, reimbursements, and so on.

Acceptable Use Policy

This policy should explain the correct use of company computers, email servers, Internet and social media, company and customer data, or any other IT system or information asset, and the consequences of misuse.

Regular Backup Policy

A backup policy should aim to protect all sensitive or business-critical data with regularly scheduled data backups. Backups should follow the 3-2-1 rule: three data copies (production data and two backup copies), placed on two different types of media (e.g. disk and tape), and one backup copy saved off site for disaster recovery.

Disaster Recovery Policy

This policy is part of a business continuity plan that describes the processes, procedures, and tools that will allow the organization to recover from an unexpected disaster. A detailed, realistic policy will help the business respond to and rapidly recover from a disaster with minimal damage to the business and its customers.

4 Best Practices for a Winning IT Security Policy

While you develop an IT security policy for your organization, use the following steps to evaluate if it is comprehensive and effective.

Everything Must Have an Identity

In order for an IT environment to be visible, all users, computers, hosts, and services must be tracked and centrally managed. Without understanding the scope of the infrastructure, you cannot fully grasp the organization’s security posture. Identity networks should be detailed, allowing security and IT teams to understand how people, machines, and data streams are interconnected.

Access Control From End to End

Many organizations do not apply the same access control principles to their entire IT environment. Instead, they focus on specific high-value systems or specific groups of users that may be at higher risk.

Role Based Access Control (RBAC) is a standard for classifying and organizing access control into logical groups. It is key to have a flexible authorization system that allows you to apply access control policies to different types of users and endpoints. The more sensitive systems are, the more granularly access control should be defined.

Consistent, Flexible Policies

Your security policy should match your company's business goals. If the organization leverages tools that improve employee productivity, they must be aware of the threats posed by those tools and work methods. Aim to define dynamic, scalable policies that extend the scope of access control and build a consistent security posture across departments and teams.

Policies should not only meet the needs of today’s IT users, they should predict and adapt to changes to business requirements in the future.

Cross-Team Alignment

It is important to ensure that all members of the team and the entire organization understand the security strategy. Maximize organizational knowledge by promoting cross-functional meetings and collaboration. Make your policy easily accessible to employees in an easy-to-understand format. By communicating the policies to teams, not individuals, you show employees that security is a collective responsibility, shared by everyone, and not confined to security teams.

IT Security with NetApp Cloud Insights

NetApp Cloud Insights is an infrastructure monitoring tool that gives you visibility into your complete infrastructure. With Cloud Insights, you can monitor, troubleshoot and optimize all your resources including your public clouds and your private data centers.

Cloud Insights helps you find problems fast before they impact your business. Optimize usage so you can defer spend, do more with your limited budgets, detect ransomware attacks before it’s too late and easily report on data access for security compliance auditing.

In particular, NetApp Cloud Insights protects organizational data from being misused by malicious or compromised users, through advanced machine learning and anomaly detection. It also ensures corporate compliance by auditing user data access to your critical corporate data stored on-premises or in the cloud.

Start a 30-day free trial of NetApp Cloud Insights. No credit card required.

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