Information ecosystems in the modern era are extremely complicated. Large amounts of data must be sent quickly and securely among thousands of networks’ applications, databases, and servers. That data, particularly sensitive information, should be protected at all costs against potential security incidents.
Protecting your company’s data means protecting the computer system and all IT resources from today’s cyber threats, which is extremely difficult that necessitates skill and properly managed services.
It is mandatory to have a thorough information system security plan that explains how to protect your systems, networks, and devices from cyber threats. Whether it’s a piece of customer information, sensitive information, or any other type of personal information stored on the company’s information systems, the security plans will help to safeguard it from any potential threats.
Not only technology but human resources i.e. end-users in your organisation also require guidance on how to use email, mobile devices, the internet, and other components of your company’s network appropriately.
The information system security plan should support the business model while not being overly restrictive and making it as easy as possible for your workforce to accept and implement the security objectives.
This article will explain how to create and implement a comprehensive information system security plan for your organisation from start to finish. It will also describe the purpose as well as the steps to achieve security requirements that might be carried out.
By the end of this article, you will have an understanding of the fundamental components required to create your own security plan, as well as the resources and guidance required to keep the plan up to date.
What exactly is an information system security plan?
An information system security plan is a strategy that specifies the method and procedures used to secure the information residing on a company’s systems from unauthorised users.
The security plan protects against occurrences that could threaten or compromise the data integrity and security of the system.
An organisation’s approach and strategies may include developing security policies and procedures that explain how the organisation expects to meet the security requirements for its systems.
This plan is a live document, which means it must be reviewed or maintained at regular intervals to ensure it is current and up to date with regulatory standards or substantial infrastructure changes.
Who should govern this plan?
The governance and maintenance of the information system security plan differ from organisation to organisation.
Large organisations typically have many resources responsible for implementing and monitoring this plan, such as a Chief Information Security Officer, Security Manager, Security Director, and Compliance/Risk Manager.
Whereas at the managerial level, a small or medium business may have one person dedicated to managing the security requirements of all systems.
Regardless of your company’s Information Technology structure, security plan supervision should be governed and maintained by senior management with the support of individuals of the organisation who can successfully explain policy information to end-users.
Why is an information system security plan necessary?
An information system security plan is essential to secure the infrastructure from unauthorised access, misuse, destruction, or loss of company reputation due to the growing threat of hackers continuously scanning the Internet for vulnerabilities to exploit.
If an organisation considers a security plan as merely a checkbox to satisfy a compliance audit need, it is setting itself up for failure. This short-sighted strategy may result in long-term problems.
The consequences of cyber attacks
A successful cyber-attack might have long-term consequences for your organisation. It might also have a potential impact on your company’s reputation as well as your customers’ trust. The reputational damage can have a detrimental influence on your suppliers as well as your relationships with investors.
The harmful impact of cyber-attacks on organisations is largely underestimated. This is why it is critical to participate in the information system security programs, which will protect the security of your company’s data.
The consequences of malware
A successful phishing attempt, for example, may install ransomware on an obsolete machine on the network. After a few minutes, malware spreads to other machines on the network and onto the email systems. The network is crippled in a short period of time, and the company must decide whether to pay the ransom or figure out how to stop the attack by engaging an expensive security consulting agency.
The well-designed information security plan will include policies to proactively prevent data breaches and explain responsibilities for personnel to mitigate these security incidents.
Three fundamentals for information system security plan
While information technology trends are constantly changing, the principles of a solid system security plan never change. When an organisation decides to protect its environment from cyber threats, it is hardly ever sure where to begin adopting security controls and standards. It will be easier to develop any security plan for them if we just jot down the fundamental components for any organisation to consider first and then start from there.
The following are the fundamental components of any information security plan:
1. Leadership and commitment: The top management should be committed to this plan and must provide input to implement the security controls. The leadership should ensure all the data protection policies and procedures are established and compatible with the organisation’s context and strategic direction.
The key points of the leadership commitment should be
- Security requirements must be aligned with the company’s overall objectives.
- Senior management must dedicate sufficient budget and resources to data security operations.
- Management must comply and actively encourage all personnel to comply with the cybersecurity policy.
2. The organization’s information security policies and procedures: The information security policies and procedures serve as the foundation for an information system security plan. They reflect the organization’s information security strategy and commitment to secure their valuable asset against data breaches and compromise.
3. Information Assets classification and control: Identifying assets that need to be safeguarded may not be exciting, but without the organisation understanding these assets, their locations, and values, determining the amount of time and effort required to secure these assets would be nearly impossible. Also, asset classification is crucial since it determines which assets are more critical and sensitive in nature and the level of security required.
Steps to create an information system security plan
A comprehensive combination of security controls in terms of system security and data protection is all required for developing a security plan. Individuals with a specific level of experience are required to decide which component to acquire, implement, and support.
To assure a return on investment, the required set of security controls and the financial restrictions set forth by corporate leadership necessitate thorough planning and cost analysis.
These aspects must be considered as you attempt to safeguard your information systems. But what exactly is the beginning point?
In the below steps, we will go through the fundamental processes for developing an effective security plan for all types of information systems.
Step 1: Analyze your business infrastructure
The first step in creating a system security plan is determining what you want to secure.
You must understand your organization’s valuable assets, where they are kept, and how the business generates revenue.
Identify what information systems have the data that needed to be secure and what critical systems require more protection.
Step 2: Conduct a threat impact assessment
Once you understand your organization’s information systems, it’s time to learn about the threats these systems may pose. For this purpose, performing a threat impact assessment is vital.
Typically, third party vendors may perform the threat assessment. Depending on the scope of your environment, this examination could take a few weeks or even longer.
Regardless of the timeline for completion, the purpose is to give you a report containing the following information:
- Identify and categorise any system security flaws.
- Identify potential weaknesses and vulnerabilities, such as weak or default passwords used in vital systems.
- Determine patch levels by identifying network security vulnerabilities in application, file, and database servers.
- Examine the encryption settings on mission-critical systems.
- Examine network defenders’ capacity to identify and respond to threats.
- Evidence should be provided to support greater IT investments or system security.
Members of the Network, InfoSec, Database, and Server teams are typically involved in this plan step. These teams may be relied upon to offer access to systems to conduct a thorough audit of the environment.
The cost of employing a third-party threat assessor will vary according to the size and breadth of your organisation.
In most circumstances, the assessor’s access to a resource, such as Active Directory, is provided by the organization’s internal infrastructure. The assessor will use their preferred toolsets if the threat assessment includes a vulnerability or penetration test.
Once the Threat Assessment is completed, the assessor will generate a full report outlining the vulnerabilities discovered and repair recommendations based on the severity of the findings.
The remediation techniques may necessitate an update to an existing application or device or the acquisition of new equipment.
In any case, the report should include an overview of the organization’s infrastructure and how well it is protected from both inner and external threats.
While getting this report, the organisation’s management and individuals of InfoSec will assess the organization’s security policies to see if they comply with best practices and any business compliance requirements.
Step 3: Establish information security policies & procedures
The threat assessment data can be used to establish or expand on the present version of policies and procedures.
There is no hard and fast rule about the number of policies that should be created, for example, your company may have separate policies for Passwords, Mobile Devices, VPN, Social Media, Internet Usage, and a Clean Desk Policy.
Nonetheless, they should be visible and stated in terms that the ordinary user in your environment can understand.
The InfoSec personnel in collaboration with compliance and legal department approval governs the composition of policy content in general.
After extensively processing and reviewing the policy text, senior leadership will grant final clearance for distribution within the company infrastructure.
This high-level, or “top-down,” approach notifies employees that the policies and procedures have been adopted at the highest level of the company and must be followed by all employees.
As a result, new employee orientation and onboarding require validating that they have acknowledged and agree to the organization’s policies.
This strategy inspires accountability in the new employee from the start and results in a ‘Security-First’ culture for the organisation. Let us elaborate on this in the following step.
Step 4: Establish a “Security-First” Corporate Culture
Regular security awareness training is essential for cultivating a strong security first culture in your organisation.
The ordinary employee may not recall the exact wording of their organization’s basic security policy when they were first onboarded as a new hire. They may also be unable to recall where the security policies are located.
Security awareness training and phishing efforts are designed to remind staff of the security policy and how to respond to old and new security threats.
October has been designated as Cyber Security Awareness Month for the past 17 years. This is an excellent opportunity for businesses to provide security policy reminders and suggestions to their employees via email, signs, or posters.
There is a significant advantage when your organisation’s leadership is observant in building or upgrading its security culture. This proactive security technique raises security awareness.
It can also aid in identifying individuals within the organisation who deliberately disregard policies with the intent of causing harm to the business (theft of sensitive data/intellectual property, disruption in production).
A central corporate hotline for reporting compliance problems anonymously should be included in the organization’s security awareness programs.
Despite attempts to create and improve the business’s security culture, there will be incidents within the organisation that call into question the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of company information security procedures.
Step 5: Define Incident Response Procedures
Incident response is an important part of the system security plan.
Threat actors want to disrupt the operations of enterprises all across the world, including yours. These people are always looking for ways to access your systems in order to install malware via phishing and other social engineering techniques.
In addition to the risks posed by unknown actors in the wild, there is the danger of an insider threat. A dissatisfied employee may have a grievance and attempt to leak sensitive data, or an employee may act inadvertently, resulting in the loss of proprietary information related to customers.
The good news is that technology exists to prevent these security incidents. Password management, encryption at rest/transit, endpoint malware protection, and security awareness initiatives are all evident to be effective data protection techniques from harm.
Regardless of how successfully a company develops and matures its system security strategy, the possibility of an incident occurring remains.
A simple email link click can be fatal – it only takes one incorrect decision to disrupt the whole infrastructure. When an incident occurs, who should be contacted?
What if the IT managers are out of the office? Where is the incident response plan now that our building has been destroyed? What should we do now that a hacker has gotten access to our accounting database?
The incident response addresses these questions. Incident response is a systematic way to deal with and manage the fallout after a security breach or cyber attack. The purpose of incident response is to handle the issue in such a way that harm is limited and recovery time and expenditures are minimised.
The incident response plan enables timely management to shorten the lifecycle of a discovered incident. The plan specifies who the members of the Incident Response Team are and what their responsibilities are.
A call tree is included in the plan to assist the incident handler in facilitating the process – documenting the incident timeline, assembling the required team members, and providing adequate communication of the event and status to senior leadership.
At the end of the incident, the plan describes the lessons learned from the attack, which aids the team in understanding how the incident occurred and measures to avoid it from happening again in the future.
If your company is considering building an incident response plan, the article linked below will walk you through the process step-by-step.
Step 6: Deploy Essential Security Controls
It is beneficial for your organisation to have comprehensive and properly drafted policies outlining what should be done.
Policies with the right set of security controls should be deployed in the environment to support the policy statements; otherwise, the policies are simply words.
Several security control frameworks are available that can be utilised as a starting point for developing your information security strategies.
These frameworks outline how to secure systems, implement secure operating system best practices, apply password best practices, and implement other security initiatives.
The following common frameworks are available in the industry:
- NIST The National Institute of Standards and Technology is an acronym for the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
- International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission ISO/IEC 27001
- The CIS Center for Internet Security is an acronym for the Center for Internet Security.
- PCI DSS Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard Certification CMCC Cybersecurity Maturity Model
The listed frameworks all have one thing in common: they let you establish safe infrastructure. Examining each framework to see if it corresponds with your present company model is strongly advised.
If it is not necessary to implement the whole set of controls in each framework, use the framework control suggestions to satisfy best practices in specific areas that correspond with your systems, such as the encryption requirements stated in the NIST framework.
Achieving the standards outlined in any framework necessitates using resources and knowledge. If your company is lacking in this area, assistance is available while engaging third party vendors.
Step 7: Engage the services of an externally managed security firm.
Hiring an outsource business to supplement your security team is an excellent alternative. These outsourced businesses are known as Managed Security Service Providers (MSSP).
The benefits of hiring an MSSP include retaining them as needed or contracting them for a specific length of time. MSSP employ SMEs (Subject Matter Experts) in a variety of technologies.
The MSSP are usually experts in the following technologies:
- Vulnerability Management
- Managed Perimeter
- Managed Deception Technology
- Security Education/Training
- Credential Leakage Detection
- Managed Phishing Service
- Managed Application Security Services
Working with a managed security services provider (MSSP) can assist your organisation in developing your system security plan.
They can also handle certain aspects of your infrastructure where you lack expertise. This collaboration can let your team focus on operational responsibilities and other connection synergies.
Working with a managed service provider (MSSP) can be cost-effective. The contract conditions are established at the commencement of the engagement.
They typically provide a project manager who is the point of contact for difficulties and is accessible to ensure that the Service Level Agreement terms are met as agreed upon in the contract.
Choosing a Managed Service Provider is a key decision for your business. Partnering with the appropriate provider can improve your team’s efficiency and bottom line.
Choosing the incorrect partner might have the opposite impact, swiftly turning sour and being a drain on your cash and team.
When managed and supported properly, partnering with an MSSP can help you achieve the goals of your security plan. As a result, it is necessary to include service level agreements, letters of attestation, insurance, and other legalities in the contract from the start.
Step 8: Ensure Long-Term Security
Once the system security plan has been developed, communicated to senior leadership, and security controls and policies to support the plan have been implemented, your business is well on its way to establishing the groundwork for a successful and sustainable security culture.
There may be bumps in the road since changing corporate culture may not be favourably embraced by all organisation members.
Executive leadership must support the culture, which sets the tone for the rest of the organisation.
To guarantee that the entire organisation is aligned with the security culture, multiple responsibilities and resources are required to take the culture forward in a systematic manner.
Most medium to large companies have several roles to oversee the organization’s information security plans and assist sustain the culture.
Here is a sample list of roles:
- Director of Security
- Security Manager
- Compliance Risk Manager
- Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
- Information Security Officer (ISO)
- Chief Information Officer (CIO)
Individuals allocated to these responsibilities should make it a point to meet with non-technical business leaders from Finance, Legal, Human Resources, and Marketing regularly.
Regular contact with these teams will assist the organisation in understanding that security is an essential component of the business culture that all employees should support.
Security leaders should meet quarterly to examine gaps in processes, tools, or security awareness training and discuss the security programme’s condition.
On an annual basis, an overall assessment of the information system security plan should also be performed.
Best practices while creating the plan
An effective information system security plan provides your organisation with a comprehensive picture of how to keep your data safe. The methods below will help you build a good security plan, and by following them, you will be able to reduce the danger of data breaches in any way.
1. Build out a compliance strategy: To avoid regulatory penalties, you’ll need to learn the state laws and acts that can be applied to your information security approach. It’s also crucial to plan the required examinations and certifications.
2. Organize critical resources: Your company’s data assets, hardware, and software should all be inventoried by cross-functional security teams. Maintain a watchful eye on information systems and their potential threats
3. Performing risk management: You should be able to identify your company’s most important data and determine whether or not it is at risk of data security breaches. Then decide what kind of controls you’ll need to implement.
4. Form a security team: At this time, many firms, including those with top-notch IT staff, hire security professionals to help support their systems. To build your security mission, working with a good team is a good idea.
An information system security plan serves as a road map for your company to function safely and securely.
The plan’s development necessitates a solid grasp of the business as well as the assistance of executive leadership.
The plan should be thoughtful, enforced, and intelligible to inspire all personnel to take the right measures in terms of security.
By implementing the recommendations of this article, you can design a successful system security plan and cultivate a sustainable security culture that will deliver long-term advantages to your organisation.
Get in touch to discuss your information system security plan or other primary security concerns with our security experts.