A comprehensive information security program utilizes multiple strategies, solutions, and layers to achieve a level of security that sufficiently protects against modern hackers, viruses, and other cybersecurity threats. Via comprehensive information security program development, IT leaders can establish a framework that defends their organization’s entire digital environment and the assets contained within.
The Importance of Information Security
Given today’s reliance on digital information, it only makes sense to have an entire field—and numerous subfields—dedicated to its security. Answering the following questions will help any organization with their information security program development and ongoing refinement efforts:
- What is an information security program in general?
- What are the components of an information security program?
- What are the most effective strategies and solutions for information security today?
- How can you use information security program development to benefit your company?
The Fundamentals of an Information Security Program
According to Bryant University, effective information security programs have six basic goals:
- Synchronize your overall business strategies with organizational goals
- Implement risk management for the protection of all users (e.g., employees, third-party partners, customers)
- Optimize, standardize, and streamline internal security resources and investments
- Develop long-term security architecture
- Monitor security processes and provide reports consistently
- Ensure compatibility and interactivity between all hardware and software platforms
With so many end goals, moving parts, and nuances at play, it’s helpful to break these responsibilities down into manageable chunks when engaging in information security program development at scale.
Synchronizing Business Strategies and Organizational Goals
Although this isn’t exclusive to information technology, your information security program still needs to maintain alignment with your general business strategies and organizational goals. This ensures that you’re always pursuing your company’s business objectives without jeopardizing data integrity or customer privacy.
Implementing Risk Management
Ongoing risk management and mitigation is essential to any information security program. The priority should be maintaining data integrity and accessibility while simultaneously ensuring confidentiality and privacy, but this balance can sometimes be challenging to achieve.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) maintains a comprehensive risk management framework via their Computer Security Resource Center. Along with other NIST resources, it provides a readily accessible model for planning and implementing risk management within your organization, as it offers a clear, seven-step guide:
- Conduct initial preparation and planning
- Analyze and categorize the system, including any potential threats
- Select the appropriate controls
- Implement your chosen controls and document the complete deployment
- Assess and determine whether or not your controls are producing the desired effect
- Authorize the system through senior-level officials
- Monitor your risk management framework for any future incidents
Other federal and state-level regulations help inform your risk management and broader information security program efforts as well. However, these regulations can be confusing, and, in many cases, they’re frequently changed to address modern concerns. If your organization is concerned about keeping pace with shifting cybersecurity and compliance requirements, consider partnering with an expert advisor.
3. Optimizing Internal Security Resources and Investments
Full-scale information security program development makes it possible to optimize internal resources and investments. Most organizations have strict IT budgets to maintain, so it’s crucial to invest in the right areas.
More importantly, security teams and other IT staff have limited bandwidth. With only so many hours in the day to execute their myriad responsibilities, organizations should optimize task execution by priority. This is essential to achieving a well-functioning “people leg” of a sturdy information security program tripod that also depends on processes and technology.
4. Developing Long-Term Security Architecture
Your developing program constitutes the processes that comprise information security, but what about the technology itself?
While it’s critical that you address any immediate security concerns or issues, it’s equally important to look ahead and prepare for the future. Given their long lifecycles, technology implementations need to support the functionality and operations your organization requires today while remaining adaptable and open to future integrations. Each new technology or service should be carefully evaluated on its own and as part of your holistic program.
Developing a long-term security architecture as a part of your information security program can go a long way in mitigating future threats and reducing the workload for future IT staff.
5. Monitoring and Reporting
Reports are helpful when monitoring and analyzing your ongoing information security program development. The primary purpose of these reports is to identify any potential risks, disseminate new trends, and ensure productivity on a long-term basis. However, they’re also helpful—and sometimes mandatory—for maintaining compliance with applicable rules, regulations, and laws.
6. Ensuring Compatibility Between All Platforms
Finally, all of these platforms, systems, and solutions must work in tandem with one another. Though the introduction of API integrations has significantly eased this challenge, your organization still needs to evaluate compatibility to ensure smooth operation. From a security standpoint, penetration testing is one method for highlighting existing vulnerabilities and gaps in architecture that may go unnoticed.
Another way of looking at compatibility is whether multiple implementations result in redundancy. Not only do redundant implementations unnecessarily consume resources, but they contribute to bloated IT environments and security architecture that could actually detract from or compromise your program development efforts.
Critical Components of an Information Security Program
What are the components of an information security program? It’s a question commonly asked by IT personnel and, especially, non-technical business executives alike. Unfortunately, although there are some helpful definitions to consider, the answer is quite complex.
The best information security programs consist of two primary components: strategies and solutions. It’s not enough to have one or the other. For complete protection against today’s threats, you have to utilize both elements to their fullest potential. In most cases, this requires a team of experts focused on securing your network, its users, and your data.
- Information security strategies – This constitutes your cybersecurity planning and manual evaluation efforts. The following are all considered part of your information security strategy:
- Establishing standardized policies and procedures
- Training staff
- Managing user access policies
- Maintaining compliance with all applicable laws, rules, and regulations
- Information security solutions – This category focuses on hardware and software tools as well as individualized services that help secure your system from external threats, internal threats, and even unexpected natural disasters. Solutions can exist locally within a company’s workplace or remotely. In cases involving the latter, organizations typically rely on a third-party data center to host their servers, which are then accessed via the cloud.
Both of these categories are somewhat broad and meant as general guidelines. You can, for example, elect to use a specific hardware or software solution as your long-term strategy for data security.
You’re also likely to have a specific strategy in place to deal with any data breaches, network outages, or natural disasters (i.e., incident response management). A large part of that strategy might also revolve around a specific piece of hardware or a third-party service of some kind.
Information Security Strategies
Regardless of your industry, information security program development always begins with a clear strategy. While this list is in no way exhaustive, it covers some essential components and more advanced tactics.
Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery
It’s always a good idea to have a business continuity and disaster recovery strategy in place before your network goes live. Since you never know when a hacker might strike, a piece of hardware might fail, or extreme weather may hit, your network must be protected at all times from all reasonably likely threats.
Managing User Access
You’ll also want to have some control over authorizing or restricting user access to and within your network. Who should be granted access to what, from where (i.e., on-premise only or remote connections), and during which permissible windows (e.g., standard business hours, 24/7 access)?
Most servers, clients, and operating systems have built-in controls to help manage user access, but the process quickly becomes complicated when working between multiple third-party programs or applications.
Depending on your industry or, in some cases, your geographic location, your organization might be subject to various laws, rules, and regulations regarding the storage and usage of data. For example, in the retail sector, most companies have to abide by consumer protection laws. Hospitals and other healthcare facilities are subject to a completely different set of laws—primarily HIPAA.
Understanding the differences between all of these rules and regulations, and knowing what laws apply to your organization, is a full-time job by itself. The task is made even more complicated by frequent revisions, changes, and modifications to these standards.
While many regulations pertain to organizational processes, most usually contain cybersecurity requirements as well. For example, the PCI DSS overwhelmingly consists of information security measures your organization must implement to protect cardholder data.
“Defense in Depth”
Many IT experts prefer to take a layered approach to information security program development. In cases like this, an advanced strategy known as “Defense in Depth” is often employed. The exact number of layers utilized isn’t as significant as the fact that any potential threats must overcome multiple layers of protection to gain entry into your network.
For example, the University of Iowa’s Enterprise Information Security Program maintains five distinct layers. Each one fulfills a specific role in protecting data across the entire network, including on- and off-site facilities.
- Ensuring data integrity and controlling user access
- Validating software applications and checking for common errors
- Implementing security on server and client systems
- Protecting internal and surrounding information networks
- Establishing best practices and procedures for employees
According to the University of Iowa, their five-layer information security program is necessary to protect them against numerous threats, including:
- Data breaches and unauthorized access
- Comprised networks and systems
- Unauthorized interception of confidential data
- Physical loss and damage
- Corrupted software and devices
- Lack of standardized best practices
- Network and system downtime
While your list of identified or potential threats will be unique to your organization and based on a risk assessment, you’ll probably notice many similarities when developing your program and its security layers.
Bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies are a double-edged initiative. While this might be a great idea to reduce hardware management and maintenance or amongst tech-savvy workplaces, it presents numerous challenges that aren’t an issue in many other strategies.
BYOD introduces numerous devices and other endpoints into your environment. As a result, enforcing your security program and cyberdefense implementations across the various platforms, operating systems, network connections, and more quickly becomes too challenging to be worthwhile for many organizations.
BYOD policies can provide organizations with massive benefits but should only be adopted following intensive considerations.
To ensure productivity, implement a series of performance metrics to monitor your information security strategies. For best results, choose metrics that are easily comparable to one another. Making your performance metrics consistent, repeatable, and informative is conditional to gaining genuine, actionable insight. Additionally, metrics for non-technical employees should revolve around successful adoption and buy-in rather than punitive measures.
Information Security Solutions
These solutions, services, and applications are proven tools that help safeguard your network from external and internal threats alike. When used in tandem with planned strategies, these tools form your frontline of defense against hackers, viruses, and other cyberthreats.
While your organization may implement numerous other solutions, those presented here can each contribute to the underlying foundation of your program.
Virtual Chief Information Security Officers—commonly abbreviated a vCISO— is an individual or service that fills the role of the C-suite level security manager. Their role involves decision-making for your information security program development and its ongoing maintenance, so they’re an essential part of your IT workforce.
vCISOs may be employed as a long-term solution—becoming a part of broader strategy—or as temporary fill-ins if your full-time CISO doesn’t have specific subfield experience necessary for a temporary circumstance, is on leave, or has fully departed your organization.
This solution combines an entire suite of services into a convenient package. It enables the creation of local and cloud networks, mobile and endpoint security, and even application development. Architecture implementation services may also facilitate the development of a highly secure BYOD environment, which is ideal for the emerging remote workforce.
Focusing on live events instead of projected risks, dedicated incident management is the best way to deal with any threats, breaches, or incidents.
Because of its importance, RSI Security has developed our own six-step process that is solely dedicated to addressing and resolving threats:
- Identifying the incident, including any specific problems or challenges
- System auditing to support ongoing incident monitoring and reporting
- Investigating the incident and diagnosing any current issues or remaining threats
- Assigning resolution of the incident to the appropriate team
- Resolving the incident and closing the specific incident report
- Following up with customers to ensure their complete satisfaction
Managing Information Security Program Development For Your Organization
It’s nearly impossible to engage in comprehensive information security program development without a team of experts on your side. If your organization doesn’t employ personnel with the necessary expertise, we’re happy to assist.
To find out how we can help you with your information technology and information security needs—or to get started with any of our solutions right away—contact RSI Security today.