How to Create an Effective Cybersecurity Policy

published Jan 31, 2022
3 min read

The significance of cybersecurity in the modern business environment can’t be understated. Both small and large businesses are becoming more cognizant of the challenges hackers pose. Therefore, management teams should implement measures to prevent cyber-attacks. There’s no better way to do so than creating a cybersecurity policy.

Why Do You Need a Cybersecurity Policy?

A cybersecurity policy is a critical starting point on your journey to better security. It contains technical and behavioural guidelines that employees must follow to ensure optimum protection from cyber threats. The policy document outlines your organization’s cybersecurity policies, technological safeguards, procedures, and mitigation measures in case of an attack. Cybersecurity policies are akin to defence systems, and therefore, need to be flawless. Any errors in the language, rollout, enforcement, or auditing of your policy could compromise your entire cybersecurity framework. When coupled with proper network security, a cybersecurity policy can effectively minimize the risk and impacts of cyber-attacks.

Creating a Cybersecurity Policy

Here are the tips to follow when creating a cybersecurity policy for your organization:

Understand the Risks You Face

You can’t create a cybersecurity policy if you know nothing about the risks you face. In this regard, think about the services you provide and the technology you have in place since it helps you identify the risks and structure of your cybersecurity policy accordingly.

Prioritize Your Risks, Assets, and Threats

Only 50% of IT practitioners believe their organizations can fend off ransomware attacks. This is a shocking statistic, given that cyber-attacks can occur any time and from anywhere. For this reason, you should pinpoint and prioritize your organization’s assets and risks. While at it, ask these three critical questions:

  • What are the major threats to the organization?
  • What should be my primary concerns regarding cybersecurity?
  • Which risks would harm the organization the most?

Establish Realistic Goals

While it’s essential to practice cybersecurity, the chances are that you’ll encounter limitations when trying to secure your digital assets. Hackers target small and large enterprises, so you can never be sure when and where an attack will hit.

When writing a cybersecurity policy, it’s pertinent to set achievable goals. Make it possible to implement the policy in stages and according to the threats you face. Communicate the cybersecurity goals outlined in your policy document to all stakeholders, including employees, investors, and consumers.

Check Your Policy Against Established Cybersecurity Frameworks

Just because you’ve created a good cybersecurity policy for your organization doesn’t mean it matches relevant compliance and regulation standards. Depending on your industry, there are regulations you must adhere to when it comes to cybersecurity. It’s best to align your cybersecurity policies to recognized standards such as government regulations and even the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cybersecurity framework.

Using these regulations as your baseline when creating a cybersecurity policy is a helpful roadmap. If your organization deals with protected financial data, you must implement physical, technical, and physical safeguards. For instance, the Data Protection Act of 2018 requires your organizations, business associates, and third-party vendors to create and implement a written cybersecurity policy for protecting customer data.

Generally, the risk management process is similar across industries. The rules may be stiffer for some industries especially healthcare, credit card payments, and human resources. These industries have specific requirements when it comes to cybersecurity. For instance, if your organization handles payment card transactions, you must comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) framework and pass regular audits. Such industry compliance standards can provide proper guidance as you create a cybersecurity policy for your organization. They also allow you to adapt your policy to meet the ever-changing cybersecurity needs of your organization.

Outline Workplace Guidelines

When creating a cybersecurity policy, you shouldn’t forget that most threats are employee-borne. Employees are the weakest link in your cybersecurity chain no matter how strong your defences are. They are the ones who introduce threats to your organization by giving away credentials, posting secure information on public platforms, and fall for phishing scams perpetrated by cybercriminals.

Your cybersecurity policy should outline best practices for users to mitigate the impacts of an attack. Ideally, the policy should provide employees with the appropriate freedom needed to be productive. For instance, banning the use of personal devices for work purposes will go a long way in keeping your organization safe from attacks. While outlining workplace guidelines, you may want to include:

  • Accepted Internet usage
  • How remote workers can safely access the network and critical data therein
  • Social media use regulation
  • How to report cyber threats
  • How to identify and report social engineering tactics and similar scams

Your workplace guidelines should also outline the penalties for non-compliance. For instance, if employees are responsible for a breach, the policy document should outline what should be done. The consequential actions shouldn’t always be punitive because such breaches may be unintentional. In this case, training may be more effective than punitive measures.

Disseminate the Policy

A cybersecurity policy can only work if everyone involved knows about its provisions and the consequences of non-compliance. It’s essential that your policy be disseminated not only through word of mouth but also through all the available communication channels.

For instance, you should regularly avail cybersecurity policy binders and related material at all levels of your organization. They should also be shared between the management and employees. Regular meetings and training to discuss the policies will ensure that everyone is kept abreast of what’s required of them.

Creating a cybersecurity policy is easier than implementing it. If an enforcement mechanism lacks, no one will bother to comply with it. Communicating the policy so that everyone understands it is a step in the right direction. Similarly, there should be enforcement mechanisms to ensure that the policy is followed to the letter.

Final Thoughts

Cybersecurity should be the topmost priority for organizations, more so when it comes to brand reputation and business continuity. Therefore, your organization must implement an effective cybersecurity policy to protect it from today’s complex cyber threats. The buck doesn’t stop with creating a policy since you deep to deploy it, maintain it, and train employees to ensure everyone remains accountable.