How to Write and Follow an Effective Information Security Policy

Learn the key elements of writing an effective information security policy with the helpful tips, templates, and examples found in this guide.

A company without rules would be in chaos. No one wants to follow up on a concern they're unsure how to handle according to company procedure. That's why it's essential to write security guidelines from the get-go. 

In fact, with this information security policy guide, you can learn how to write a security policy. From stating its purpose to defining your objectives, writing policy is now quick and easy. Don't worry with this flexible policy template guides, you can remove or add what you need to fit your profession or situation. 

Now, are you ready to get started? Here's an extensive look at writing an information security policy: 

What Is an IT Security Policy? 

An information security policy is a set of policies issued by a company to ensure that all information within its domain complies within its regulations. This applies to information that is stored both electronically and physically. 

Why Is a Security Policy Important? 

By creating a security policy, it helps establish the importance of information/cybersecurity in your organization, security policy can help you to reduce the risk of having security issues such as: ransomware, business disruptions, data loss, and data breaches. It's also crucial for newly established businesses as a matter of defensibility to have an appropriate security policy in place. 

By increasing digitalization, every staff member is producing a portion of data that must be secured from unauthorized access. In fact, depending on your industry, data may even be protected by regulations and guidelines industry-wide. 

Intellectual property, identifiable personal information, and sensitive data should be held and protected to a higher standard. Thus, information security is crucial at every level of your company and even outside of your organization too. 

Most businesses use some type of outsourced or hosted solutions to help run their business, this means third-party vendors will have access to your company's data. Thus, third-party risk, as well as vendor risk management, should be a portion of any security policy. After all, third-party risk and fourth-party risk are no laughing matter. 

What are the Elements of a Security Policy? 

Writing a security policy can be as brief or as extensive as you want it to be. It can cover topics like data security, social media usage, or even security training. 

However, it should engage and inform all staff members as to your company's security requirements. That's why you'll want to include these nine essential elements in your security policy: 

1. Purpose of Intent 

First, you'll want to draft an outline of the purpose of your security policy. When doing so, you might want to think about what you're writing about and why. For instance, here are some common reasons: 

  • To provide an organized structure 
  • Discover and prevent security breaches by third-party vendors 
  • Locate the misuse of applications, networks, data, and computer systems
  • Protect the company's reputation 
  • Maintain legal, ethical, and regulatory requirements 
  • Look after customer's data and answer to complaints about data protection as well as security protocol 

Whichever reason you choose, you should place your purpose at the beginning of your document. That way, anyone who reads it has a clear idea of what the document is about and why it exists. 

2. Audience

You'll want to carefully define who your security policy applies to and who it doesn't. While you might not think a security policy would apply to third-party vendors or even fourth party vendors, don't write them off the list just yet. Instead, third party and fourth-party vendors are all apart of vendor risk, which should be accounted for appropriately.  

Whether or not you have a regulatory requirement to protect your customer's data from third-party data leaks isn’t the problem. Customers may still find you liable for your breaches. In fact, since security protocol was not under your full control, damages could be costly. 

3. Security Objectives 

These are the goals that have been agreed upon by all management personnel. They state what is wished to be obtained in the upcoming weeks, months, or even years. They also identify the strategies used to achieve each individual goal. 

It's imperative that you state goals clearly and precisely so all staff members can understand. In fact, goals are important since they allow a person to challenge themselves and work to a higher level. With goals, individuals are ten times more likely to be successful in their endeavors. 

However, most companies use the CIA triad, to sum up, security objectives. The CIA triad consists of: 

  • Confidentiality: All information and data are properly secured and protected from unauthorized users. 
  • Integrity: All data is complete, intact, and of the most accurate knowledge.
  • Availability: Systems are ready and available when needed. 

Thus, the CIA triad allows organizations to give a complete and comprehensive statement about the types of security objectives. 

4. Authority and Access Control Policy  

This section is important since it notes who has the authority to access certain information and who doesn't. Although remember this decision may not be up to your company. 

For instance, if you're a chief of security at a hospital. You'll likely have to obey HIPPA requirements and data protection demands. In fact, if you have medical records, they can't be viewed or accessed by any unauthorized user, whether online or in person.    

An access control policy can help draft the level of authority over the company's data for each level of your organization. It should layout how to handle sensitive data, as well as who is in charge of security controls. Additionally, it can state what types of access controls are in place, and the acceptable security standards.  

Policies may also include a network security section. It defines who can have access to company networks as well as what type of security controls are needed. For example, some companies request strong passwords, ID cards, access tokens, while others require biometrics.  

In fact, in some situations, employees are contractually obligated to comply with the security policy before gaining access to company information. That way, all employees understand what's expected of them in terms of security protocol. 

5. Data Classification

This policy should classify data into different categories, so sensitive data cannot be seen by unauthorized parties. You can do this by classifying data as "secret," "confidential," or "public."

Another is by simply dividing data into levels. For instance, 

  • Level 1: Public knowledge
  • Level 2: Information your company has chosen to keep private but disclosing it wouldn't cause harm to your company or to specific individuals. 
  • Level 3: If disclosed, information has a risk of causing harm to specific individuals and to your company. 
  • Level 4: If disclosed, information has a high risk of causing harm to specific individuals and to your company. 
  • Level 5: If disclosed, information has a severe risk of causing harm to specific individuals and to your company. 

In this type of categories, levels 2-5 would need to be classified as confidential. Meaning, they would need some type of protection to further secure data. 

6. Data Operations and Support

Once data has been completely classified, you need to layout how data at each level will be handled. Generally, there are three components to this section of the security policy: 

  1. Data Protection: Companies that store sensitive data must be protected in agreement with company standards and industry policies. 
  2. Data Backup: This operation states how data is backed up, what encryption is used, and what third-party providers are utilized. 
  3. Movement of Information: This operation lays out how data is communicated. If data is selected as classified, then data should only be communicated through encryption. It should not be transmitted over public networks to avoid any breaches or leaks. 

These three components ensure that data is always safe and secure. By writing these in the security policy, it allows companies to rely on their own standard of security to protect and move data. 

7. Security Training   

A security policy that no one follows or doesn't quite understand is not a policy at all. Rather, you need your staff to understand and acknowledge what is required of them. That's why training should be directed to inform all staff members of security requirements. 

Meaning management should go over, access control, data classification, data protection, and even the proper way to handle cyber threats. In fact, by training employees, you can help them increase their knowledge and skill level. 

Security training should include these three components:  

  • Social Teaching: Make sure to teach employees about phishing and other common cybersecurity attacks. 
  • Be Clean: Laptops and documents shouldn't be left on a desk for anyone to see. Instead, they should be neatly tucked away when they aren't being used. 
  • Acceptable Usage: When are employees allowed to use their personal devices, and when is it restricted?   
  • Reporting Security Issues: Staff should be trained on when, how, and who to report security events and incidents too. 

8. All Responsibilities and Duties of Employees 

This is the part where you invoke your security policy. In fact, in this section of you can layout the everyday responsibilities of employees. For example, here are some common duties employees have: 

  • Network security 
  • Device Security  
  • Data Protection
  • Acceptable Use Notice
  • Vender Risk
  • Disaster Recovery 
  • Security Awareness

Throughout this section, you should explain your company's response to each action and communicate different strategies that may be used to complete each action as necessary. You can even provide employees with examples of scenarios and how to react in certain situations. 

You can also refer staff members back to higher management for routine questions or concerns. That way, each staff member understands the right way to handle security issues when they're present. 

9. Other Security Policies 

It's best to provide staff with as much information as possible. That's why you might want to include other sections such as:  

  • Virus protection  
  • Remote work procedure 
  • Malware protection 
  • Consequences for non-compliance 

You also might want to link a section or provide staff members with technical guidelines for your industry. That way, all employees understand industry regulations and the consequences provided with the refusal of policies. 

At the end of the document, you can add resources to other supporting documents or provide employees with the names and numbers of those to contact first for support issues.  

How Can a Security Policy Benefit Your Company? 

A security policy can benefit your company by establishing general compliance with security-related matters. As with any policy, it builds the framework for what is accepted and what isn't in your company. 

By reading a security policy, employees can be better informed about the security nature of your company. It can also help staff members understand how to handle technical issues and recognize cyber-attacks before they happen. It can even inform employees of certain goals to keep in mind when handling data and highly classified information. 

In fact, by having a security policy, it ensures consistency when following procedural steps. A security policy can even educate new employees on who to speak with regarding questions about security-related matters or concerns on tasks related to data protection, vendor risk, or network security. 

It even allows other business partners to assess your security protocols to see if they would like to work with you. Thus, it demonstrates how strongly your company values security and the type of guidelines you want to have in place. 

Write Your Information Security Policy Today 

Writing an information security policy is essential in formulating your business and creating a protected space for highly sensitive data. In fact, it establishes a general approach to security matters while representing crucial data concerns like data protection, data backup, and movement of information. It even limits access to lower-level personal by creating a classification system. 

When writing, just remember to write your purpose of intent first and add any additional resources to the very end of the document. That way, you can put names and contact numbers, links to other policy materials, or guides to industry regulations in the document itself. 

If you're interested in receiving a security policy template, contact us today. We look forward to hearing from you.


Estimate your score or book free demo today
Estimator | Get a Demo

No items found.
Sign up for our newsletter

Receive monthly news and insights in your inbox. Don't miss out!

Industry insights