A Guide to Writing an Effective Cybersecurity Policy
by Daniela McVicker
Cybersecurity is one of the hottest topics in today’s world. So much so that the global cybersecurity market size went from $149 billion in 2019 to $152 billion in 2020.
Such rapid growth of the cybersecurity market size happened because of a few concerning reasons.
According to statistics, the number of cyber-attacks spiked dramatically over the past few years. In 2018, 80,000 attacks were recorded in one day.
The same source of statistics also notes that, besides the concerning growth of cyber-attacks, multiple other reasons influenced the increase in cybersecurity investments:
- 41% of companies have over 1,000 files containing sensitive information (credit card details, healthcare information) that are not protected
- 21% of files are not protected in any way
- 69% of businesses say that only investing in antivirus is not enough to protect their records
- it is expected that one company will become a victim of a ransomware attack every 14 seconds
Because of these growing concerns, more and more businesses will invest in cybersecurity in the upcoming years. However, cybersecurity is not only about buying expensive technology.
It is important to emphasize that successful cybersecurity measures start with an effective cybersecurity policy that every employee needs to follow to protect the company’s private data.
So, today we will take a look at a quick guide that you need to follow to write a comprehensive cybersecurity policy.
1. Start with Cybersecurity Policy Clarifications
Since a cybersecurity policy is an official company document, it should start with clarifications of main policy provisions. The opening part of your cybersecurity policy is essential because it gives all necessary explanations to your employees, who might not be familiar with the terminology.
With that in mind, the introductory part of a cybersecurity policy should contain the following parts:
- Background information. Start your cybersecurity policy with reasons why it is created, for instance, to prevent unauthorized access or the misuse of the company’s data.
- Policy’s scope. Here, briefly describe the types of data records that will be protected and who this policy applies to.
- Terminology. In this part, list all the terms and abbreviations with their definitions, using simple language.
In the introductory part of your cybersecurity policy, you can also add the information about who the coordinator and the authorizing officer of this policy is. This way, your employees will know where to find the necessary contact information without having to browse through the entire document.
2. Outline the Policy Provisions
Cybersecurity policy statements, or provisions, is one of the most important parts. It contains detailed information about the key data records that will be protected by the policy.
For example, your cybersecurity policy may list the following provisions:
- Confidential data – include the definition of confidential data and describe the reasons why your employees should protect this data.
- Use of devices in the workplace – start with the definition of private and company devices, outline the necessity of how employees can use personal devices in the workplace to avoid security risks.
- Email protection – in this provision, educate your employees, how to recognize emails that possibly contain malware and what to do if they receive such emails.
- Password protection – here, you can educate your employees on how to create secure passwords as well as tell them about the necessity of two-step verification.
- Data transfer – describe which types of data your employees can and cannot exchange within the company as well as with third parties.
- Reporting cybersecurity events – this provision should educate employees, which events (system damage, unauthorized activity, missing software or devices, malfunctions) should be reported, and how.
- Data breach management – here, you should put a detailed outline of the steps that every employee will follow in case of a data breach or missing data.
- Cybersecurity event monitoring – you can add this provision if you want your employees to participate in monitoring suspicious cybersecurity events.
Cybersecurity provisions is one of the biggest and most informative parts of your policy. So, it is important to point out that it should have no structural, grammatical, or spelling mistakes to avoid misunderstanding.
That’s why make sure you proofread this part, as well as your entire policy thoroughly. In addition to proofreading it by yourself, you can use online editors from thesis sites, as well as tools like Grammarly or Grammar Checker.
Also, keep in mind that you write this section of your cybersecurity policy using a clear and concise language. Leave no room to misinterpretations or ambiguity because it can negatively impact the effectiveness of your policy.
3. Define Data Handling Solutions
Another important section of your cybersecurity policy is the one that describes how you handle the data, including the information about the IT infrastructure you’re using to protect it.
With that in mind, to write this section, you need to work closely with your IT department, who will help you explain how data is protected using simple words.
Usually, the data handling and infrastructure part of the cybersecurity policy contains the following provisions:
- Measures that the company takes to protect data. This section includes information about cybersecurity tools that your company uses to handle data protection, including, but not limited to, antivirus solutions, firewall, two-step authentication, anti-malware, and so on).
- How cybersecurity tools are maintained. Here, briefly describe how often your IT department updates cybersecurity tools and why it is necessary to improve cybersecurity.
- How you back up the data. In this section, educate your employees on how they can back up the data to ensure its additional protection.
On top of the general information, you can dedicate a part of this section to how you will update this policy and what measures the company will take to keep educating its staff about these updates.
4. Set Accountable Roles and Their Responsibilities
In case a cybersecurity event happens, you will not have time to determine who is responsible and should fix the problem. So, it is important to outline who is responsible for every provision and event described in your policy right away.
The part with the main roles and their responsibilities can include the following points:
- the role responsible for approving the cybersecurity policy
- the person who assigns cybersecurity roles
- the person who reviews the policy and coordinates its implementation
- the cybersecurity team or committee, main participants, and their responsibilities
In this section, make sure you include not just names but also additional contact information for your entire staff to use in case of a cybersecurity event.
5. Check the Policy’s Compliance with Laws and Regulations
Lastly, it is important to check whether your entire cybersecurity policy is in compliance with current regulations in this field.
For example, if your company is located in the United States, you need to check the following federal regulatory documents along with your state laws:
- Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
- Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act
- Homeland Security Act
- Information Security Management Act (FISMA)
Additionally, you can check international laws and regulations, especially if your company operates on other foreign markets. Checking your policy’s compliance is important to make sure that it follows the generally accepted cybersecurity measures.
How Long Should Your Cybersecurity Policy Be?
Generally speaking, a cybersecurity policy can be about 50 pages long. However, you shouldn’t confine yourself to this limit.
Your cybersecurity policy will depend on the scope of data that your company possesses as well as the number of provisions. Your focus should remain on how to make sure that your cybersecurity policy explains all the provisions in detail and without any ambiguity.
Cybersecurity concerns are growing every minute. Not only do major businesses lose a lot of money because of data breaches but also hospitals and governmental institutions.
If you want to protect yourself from these threats, you should start with a cybersecurity policy that will educate your entire staff on how to protect vulnerable company data. Hopefully, our guide will help you write an effective and informative cybersecurity policy, with which you will successfully handle the protection of your company’s data together with your employees.
About the Author
Daniela McVicker is an editor at Essayguard. She is passionate about technology and is always excited to share the latest information available on the market. Daniela is fascinated by technology evolution and is constantly keeping an eye on corporations to check so that she can be the first to spread the news when a new product is launched.