Every organization, regardless of size or revenue generated, needs an information security program (ISP), a collection of initiatives that form the basis for any cyber security plan involving confidential data.
A well-developed information security program enables your organization to take an inclusive approach to protecting data such as protected health information (PHI), personally identifiable information (PII), and more.
However, not all organizational leaders can define an ISP or pinpoint the crucial components that make up an effective project. Without this foundational knowledge, your confidential information may be susceptible to exposure or theft by cyber criminals.
This article highlights the essential parameters of an information security program and provides insight into how it can keep your organization’s sensitive data safe.
What is an Information Security Program?
An information security program consists of activities, projects, and initiatives supporting an organization’s information technology framework. These initiatives help organizations accomplish all related business objectives and meet corresponding benchmarks.
Your information security program practices allow you to safeguard key business processes, IT assets, and employee data from potentially prying eyes. It also identifies individuals or technological assets that may impact the security or confidentiality of those assets.
Constructing an effective program involves identifying your information security goals. The more specific these objectives are to your organization’s reality, the more meaningful and dynamic the underlying initiatives will be. Once those are established, you can define the IT tools and other information security assets needed to create, launch, and successfully maintain each project.
These steps make up an information security lifecycle that will help protect your organization’s information.
What Is Information Security Lifecycle and How Does It Work?
Information security is the process of protecting electronic data from unauthorized access. Information security lifecycle includes six phases: planning, implementation, operation, monitoring, maintenance, and disposal.
Phase 1 is planning. In this stage, the organization develops its information security policies and procedures. This phase also includes risk assessment, which helps identify potential threats and vulnerabilities.
The second phase, implementation, is when the organization puts its security policies and procedures into place. This phase is where you’d train employees in security procedures and install the necessary software and hardware.
The third phase is operation. Here, the organization runs its day-to-day operations using its security policies and procedures. This phase includes monitoring the network for security breaches and responding to incidents.
The fourth phase, monitoring, is when the organization regularly reviews its security procedures and monitors the network for changes. The monitoring phase helps identify potential improvements to the security system.
Maintenance is the fifth phase. This stage is when the organization updates its security policies and procedures. This phase also includes testing the security system to ensure it works properly.
The sixth and final phase, disposal, is when the organization removes all data and information associated with its security system. This phase helps prevent sensitive data from being accessed by unauthorized individuals.
Information security is a critical part of any organization’s operations. Organizations can protect their data from unauthorized access by following the six lifecycle phases.
Information Security Lifecycle vs. Cyber Security
The information security lifecycle is a process for managing and improving the security of an organization’s information systems. It focuses on safeguarding information and can come in any medium.
On the other hand, cyber security does not concern itself with protecting sensitive information in all forms. It only focuses on protecting the safety of computer systems and digital data.
The Elements of an Effective Information Security Program
While the strength of your information security program will depend on the goals you aim for and the assets at your disposal, several common elements will put you in a position to succeed.
Essentially, the program should go beyond merely assessing risk and offering a handful of prevention recommendations. Your information security strategy must actively target issues (especially those related to human risk) and mitigate risk through diverse, inclusive projects.
Here are the steps to follow when defining an information security program.
First, determine the expected results you’re after. Ask yourself what security objectives you have or what you want to accomplish with your information security goals.
Then, it’s necessary to determine your organization’s current state of information security. In conjunction with a business impact assessment or security audits, a risk assessment will provide a clear understanding of the current security situation and the weak points in that infrastructure.
Again, the more details you drill down in the beginning, the easier this process will be.
After that, conduct a gap analysis. This determines the difference between the current and desired state and facilitates a security strategy to achieve the desired state. A roadmap can be produced to promote the development of the security program that will realize this strategy.
This roadmap generally includes the people, the processes, the technology, and other required resources. It is used to describe the approach to be followed and the steps that should be taken to execute the strategy.
The next step is effectively managing the security program to achieve the objectives and meet the expected results. The program must be designed to provide appropriate availability, integrity, and company information confidentiality. A program also requires various resources and the proper support of your organization’s management.
Here are some more detailed elements that should be included in a security program:
- Policies, standards, procedures, and security guidelines – the principal tools for guiding a security program’s implementation and management. These can be based on recognized standards, such as COBIT, ISO 27002, ITIL, etc.
- A security architecture (including people, processes, and technology) – provides a framework for effectively managing the complexity that can arise during the integration of various security elements and projects.
- The classification of information assets – highlights their criticality and sensitivity.
- An appropriate risk management process – includes risk identification, evaluation and treatment, and a business impact analysis (BIA).
- An effective response to incidents and emergencies.
- A security awareness training program for all users.
- The involvement of a security team in the development process (Software Development Life Cycle or SDLC) of projects and change management.
- The definition and monitoring of metrics – to assess the achievement of security objectives.
The information security program lifecycle must have an exact assignment of roles and responsibilities concerning security.
It should be noted that information security awareness training is a critical element of the strategy because users are often the weakest security link. Therefore, they must know and understand the policies, standards, and procedures to adopt safe practices and be vigilant against various threats.
Various laws and regulations now require an awareness and training program. However, evidence suggests that employees in many organizations are still not sufficiently aware. Multiple studies have demonstrated that cyber security awareness training provides more effective control in improving overall security.
Learn more about setting up a security awareness program and team in this eBook:
Download The Human Fix to Human Risk eBook
Download “The Human Fix to Human Risk,” to learn about Terranova’s simple five-step framework for implementing a comprehensive security awareness campaign that effectively changes employee behavior.