Every 14 seconds around the world, a business is targeted by a ransomware attack. That’s 4 companies per minute and 240 per hour.
Without the correct information security strategies in place, security breaches and the resulting damage to your bottom line and reputation are all but guaranteed.
Considering the figures referenced above, never before in the history of our global economy has having an information security strategy plan in place been so important, nay essential to the continued smooth and uncompromised operation of a business.
In this blog, we’re going to explain everything you should know about information security strategies, including what they are and best practices for developing and implementing one in your business, with the goal of achieving maximum effect.
What is an Information Security Strategy Plan?
An information security strategy is a set of policies, procedures and standards that outlines how your organization plans and acts when it comes to managing the risks associated with data protection, data breaches and security risks.
The goal is to make certain your IT department is protecting what matters most – namely the confidentiality (secured against unauthorized access), integrity (accurate & free from tampering) and availability of your data.
A good way to think about this concept would be by considering the four vital principles of creating an information security strategy:
- Establishing a benchmark for a minimum level of acceptable security
- Measuring your capabilities against those benchmarks
- Enabling informed decision-making across your IT team
- Supporting execution decisions with trackable data and KPIs
If your IT security team begins their strategic plan with these four principles in mind, you’ll be able to create a cybersecurity strategy capable of embodying the best practices required to effectively fend off and recover from all manner of cyber attacks.
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10 Simple Steps for Developing & Implementing an Information Security Strategy Plan
By following the information security strategic plan outlined in the following steps, you’ll be able to better protect your business’s data from theft or attack.
1. Assemble a Qualified Cyber Security Team
In order to have a successful cyber security strategy in place, the first step is gathering a collection of individuals who have the necessary experience and expertise to design your security framework.
Your security team should be composed of two distinct elements:
1. The Executive Team
- This section will be made up of senior-level associates and chief information security officers responsible for creating the mission and security programs’ goals, setting policies and risk limitations.
2. The Daily Security Operations Team
- This group will be responsible for overseeing the ongoing day-to-day security operations of your organization. They’ll be the ones who’ll handle incident response, as well as conducting risk assessments and employee cyber security awareness training
2. Inventory & Manage Your Existing Information Security Assets
The first step of securing your organization’s assets is understanding which ones exist, where they are located and making sure that you have a good idea of what’s happening with each one.
You should also consider assigning owners for these items so if there was ever an emergency situation like theft or breach (which we all know happens), then this would help save you time by not having to search through countless sensitive documents.
This audit should include hardware and devices, internal and third-party applications, shared folders and databases.
3. Assess Your System’s Risks and Vulnerabilities
There are different levels at which risks can be identified.
Start by making a list of any potential threats to your organization’s assets, then score them based on their likelihood and impact.
From there think about what vulnerabilities exist within the company itself such as:
- People (employees)
- And technology in place
The score each with its own set level of risk, to be assessed separately, depending upon how important they might be for protecting against cyber attacks, social engineering, ransomware, data breaches, etc.
4. Manage the Risks You’ve Identified
Once you’ve completed Step 3, you can move onto qualifying each risk and whether or not you want to reduce, transfer, accept or ignore each one.
- Reducing Risk: Apply fixes to eliminate or address the risk by implementing certain information security measures (e.g. firewalls, establishing backups, etc.)
- Transfer Risk: Purchase cyber security liability insurance or hire an MSP to handle the risk (or both)
- Accept Risk: Determine if the cost to fix it outweighs the cost of the risk itself, then choose to leave it as-is
- Avoid Risk: Deny the risk even exists (not recommended)
Once you’ve chosen how to respond to each identified risk, you can move on to the next step of your information security strategy plan.
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5. Create an Incident Response and Disaster Recovery Plan
Without a well-thought-out incident management and disaster recovery plan, you put your organization at risk should any security incidents or natural disasters occur. This includes things like power outages, IT system crashes, cyber attacks and supply chain problems (to name a few)
The best way to protect against these risks is by implementing an effective disaster recovery plan that identifies common incidents so they can be responded to quickly with minimal downtime. Given the constant new threats created by bad actors, the need to review and update the plan regularly is an understatement. It should become a natural process within the organization.
6. Determine Potential Risks from Third Parties and Manage Accordingly
Third parties have a tendency of gaining either full or partial access (through the course of normal business interactions) to sensitive data and systems within your organization.
To protect yourself, you should identify high-risk third-party vendors then find out what security measures they put in place or mandate necessary controls yourself so you can be sure you have adequate protection in place.
7. Implement Requisite Security Controls
In this step, you’ll want to apply security controls against all the risks you’ve identified previously, and do so methodically and meticulously.
The types of controls you’ll want to implement against your identified risks (as an information security strategy example) can be:
- Data encryption
- Multi-factor authentication
- Managed cyber security services
- Firewalls (with correct configurations and regular patches)
- Intrusion detection software
- Antivirus and/or antimalware software
- Information security policies and procedures
- Data backups
- Strong password policies
By implementing a cyber security countermeasure against each one of your defined risks, you have already completed the vast majority of your information security strategy plan.
8. Enact Cyber Security Awareness Training
The weakest element in any information security system isn’t usually a misconfigured firewall or out-of-date antivirus software (although that does often happen).
No, the weakest element is usually the human element. Cyber criminals and hackers know that one of the best ways to acquire valid login credentials is to dupe one of your employees into unknowingly giving them away.
By establishing regular cyber security awareness training for your team, you can prevent a huge swathe of data breaches with this one practice alone.
9. Pinpoint and Address any Applicable Regulatory Compliance Standards for Your Business
Whether you have a small business in finance or run a large healthcare practice, many industries require stringent adherence to specific regulatory requirements when it comes to being responsible for certain types of data (bank account info, private health information, etc.)
Part of your information security strategy plan needs to account for the requirements and take steps to ensure you’re in compliance at all times, or else face the possibility of hefty fines.
10. Perform Regular & Frequent Audits
Any cyber security system is only as good as how often it’s tested. Every day there are emerging online threats, patches, upgrades and software that goes out of date, you name it.
That’s why the best defense is to constantly test your security system with vulnerability assessments and penetration testing via a third-party provider. They will be able to take an impartial view of your defenses and recommend fixes for any vulnerabilities found.
Getting Qualified, Expert Help in Creating Your Information Security Strategy Plan
Here at iTBlueprint we offer a range of specialized security services, including the development and implementation of custom information security strategies.
We can help you identify your greatest areas of risk and then help close them for you, in addition to maintaining regulatory compliance and training employees.
If you’d like to bolster your business’ cyber security measures, talk to us today and set up a free consultation where we can discover your organization’s specific needs together.