Leonard Snart, a supervillain in the DC Comics universe, once said, “There are only four rules you need to remember: make the plan, execute the plan, expect the plan to go off the rails, and throw away the plan.” IT professionals, especially those in cybersecurity, know that having a plan that selects practical actions to protect a company and executing a plan that actually protects company assets from external and internal threats in real-life scenarios are two very different things to make happen before they have the chance to go off the rails.
This is partially because 43% of cybersecurity breaches target small businesses, which have fewer IT resources to work on correct security processes and implementation. A cybersecurity plan needs to be both thorough and agile, and the personnel from all different teams who are involved should be well versed in as many of the “what ifs,” as possible. A properly formulated plan helps reduce risks and establishes a baseline for a company's security program so it can continually adapt to emerging threats and risks and begin to anticipate third-party data breaches.
So how do you create, implement, execute, and iterate on a cybersecurity plan and policy for your company? We’re going beyond the basics of cybersecurity in this guide and diving into some tips and best practices of correct implementation, steps and stages of the creation process, and ways to do it efficiently with some of the best tech and tools available.
Steps to create a cybersecurity plan
Putting a plan together to review cybersecurity policies and procedures and outlining who will be a part of creating your corporate cybersecurity plan, what will be encompassed within its criteria, and who will be in charge of implementing it are all important decisions to make from the start.
The following eight steps will help you create a comprehensive plan that works well with any size company’s current cybersecurity policies and procedures.
1. Perform a Security Risk Analysis
If you haven’t already, it’s important to assess your company's security risks as they currently exist and how they might change in the future. Collaboration between various parties and data owners is necessary for thorough risk assessment. This ensures that the company’s overall security posture is evaluated, identified, and modified in preparation for any type of threat or attack.
Plus, a thorough security risk analysis can help secure management’s support for resource allocation and the implementation of the proper security solutions and accompanying tech.
2. Set Security Objectives
Making sure a cybersecurity plan is in line with your organization's business goals is a crucial part of a cybersecurity strategy. To begin establishing a proactive cybersecurity program for the entire organization, it makes sense to align the security objectives of the plan with the business objectives determined for the year.
Here are three security objectives to keep in mind before, during, and after the cybersecurity plan creation process:
- Confidentiality: This element is frequently linked to privacy and encryption.
- In this case, confidentiality refers to the fact that only parties with permission can access the data.
- When information is kept private, it indicates that other parties have not compromised it; private information is not made available to those who do not need it or who shouldn't have access to it.
- Integrity: Data integrity is the assurance that the data has not been altered or deteriorated before, during, or after submission.
- It is the knowledge that there has not been any unauthorized modification of the data, either intentionally or accidentally.
- Availability: This indicates that the data is accessible to authorized people at any time.
- A system needs working computer systems, security measures, and communication channels in order to demonstrate availability.
3. Assessment of Your Technology
An evaluation of the current technology in a company is a crucial part of any cybersecurity strategy. After identifying the assets, it’s a good idea to ascertain whether the systems adhere to security best practices, understand how they operate on your network, and identify who within the organization should support the technology, keep a record of the assets, and monitor any possible data breaches or threats.
The important thing to remember is that a group of IT professionals from a variety of specialties, including applications, cloud computing, networking, and database administration, may have to split up this workload to ensure the technology is monitored thoroughly and comprehensively.
4. Review Security Policies After Choosing a Security Framework
There are numerous frameworks out there right now that can assist you in developing and sustaining a cybersecurity plan. You can choose the framework you want using your findings from your cybersecurity risk assessment, vulnerability assessment, and penetration test.
The measures required to regularly monitor and assess your organization's security posture will be outlined in the security framework you choose, so it’s important to look at these too, and determine if they are the right measures for your business and its assets.
5. Develop a Risk Management Strategy
A crucial part of a cybersecurity plan is the development of a risk management strategy, which analyzes potential hazards that can have an impact on the business. A corporation can proactively identify and assess risks that could have a negative impact on this part of the strategy.
A comprehensive risk management plan includes:
- Retention policy: This specifies where and how long different categories of company data should be stored or archived
- Data protection policy: This outlines how a company manages the personal information of its clients, suppliers, workers, and other third parties
- Incident response plan: The responsibility and procedures that must be followed to ensure a fast, efficient, and organized response to security occurrences are outlined in this part of the plan
6. Put Your Security Plan into Practice
The good news is that your cybersecurity plan creation is almost finished at this point. Now, it’s time to start using your plan and discover some improvements that need to be made for it to fully work. Prioritize your improvement efforts and divide up this work into teams.
Let your internal teams have priority in owning improvement items. Management can offer leadership, help with prioritization of the items, collaborate with internal teams on addressing them, and plan efforts to implement the improvements to help ensure success at this stage.
Setting a timeline with your internal teams for these improvement goals can help everyone stay on track, but make sure they’re realistic — too aggressive and they may result in failed protection and frustrated employees.
7. Review Your Security Plan
You’ve made it; it’s the final step in the creation of your cybersecurity plan and the beginning of ongoing support for your security strategy.
Threats and new security issues will continue to exploit vulnerabilities in your cybersecurity plan, regardless of the size of your organization. That’s why it’s crucial that the cybersecurity strategy is regularly monitored, reviewed, and tested to ensure the goals of the plan align with the emerging threat landscape of your industry.
9 Essential Tips to Create a Cybersecurity Policy
There are nine more elements to consider when creating a proper cybersecurity risk management plan and policy. Remember, no plan or policy will be foolproof, but the more time you take in developing, training, testing, and modifying your cybersecurity policies and procedures, the more likely that you’ll be ready when a cyber attack occurs.
Review the tips below before you begin to develop and implement your full corporate cybersecurity policy.
1. Get Everybody on Board with the Policy
Security policies work best if they are implemented company-wide. It’s important that everyone understands them and can consistently follow them to ensure efficacy.
To get everybody on board, companies can:
- Adopt an acceptable use policy (AUP) — a documented set of rules governing the usage of organizational IT assets
- Use the AUP to help train employees on policy rules and enforce them
- Outline all potential threats and action plans so employees know what to do in all circumstances (big and small)
- Provide glossaries of technical terms so all employees understand the expectations and rules
“Thinking of cybersecurity solely as an IT issue is like believing that a company’s entire workforce, from the CEO down, is just one big HR issue.” Steven Chabinsky, Global Chair of Data, Privacy & Cybersecurity at White & Case LLP
Most breaches occur as a result of carelessness on the part of company employees. Choosing easy-to-guess passwords and visiting untrustworthy sites on company equipment make it possible for infiltrators to gain access. Implementing a strict policy at the forefront that employees learn right away is the first line of defense against cybercrime.
2. Set Clear Rules, Regulations, Policies, and Procedures for End Users
In addition to buy-in, it is important for administrators and end users to know what will be expected of them on a regular basis.
Some of these will include the following:
- Password requirements
- An outline of email security measures
- Explanation of how to handle sensitive data
- Rules around handling technology
- Standards for social media and internet access
- Preparation for an incident
- Access to policies that are up-to-date
3. Keep a Balance Between the General and the Specific
When an organization's hierarchy is complicated, policies should be the opposite — as general and broad as possible. Most policy provisions and guidance should be sufficiently open-ended to give all organizational departments freedom in the present and the future.
This also allows room for iteration based on failed attempts to follow the cybersecurity plan that didn’t work. As more attempts and reviews of cybersecurity policies take place, they can become more specific based on how your actual employees and team are using them.
4. Balance Guidelines and Technical Control Methods
In a corollary to the above, technical recommendations that will be challenging for staff employees to comprehend when putting the regulations into action aren’t necessary for a solid cybersecurity policy.
Instead, guidelines around the multiple technical controls should be added to ensure that important provisions are implemented by the appropriate departments. Clear guidance on who implements what is an important part of these guidelines so there isn’t any confusion around action plans when security is in threat. See more in Tip 5 about IRPs and how they can be used to assign everyone clear tasks during responses to attacks.
5. Respond Quickly and Effectively To a Cyber Threat
Outlining an incident response plan (IRP) for your organization, or a methodical set of steps to follow in the event of a security breach or cyber attack helps define each person's responsibility in the event of an incident. Ensuring that these outlined responses are realistic and enforceable can also ensure that the response plan will happen quickly.
If everyone knows their role as well as concrete steps to mitigate compromised data and data loss, they can quickly contain the situation and effectively remove the threat.
6. Set Clear Expectations for Safe System Management
Clear communication is key here. Consistent documentation of the AUP, equal configuration settings on all devices, and changes and upgrades to other safety measures are all strategic ways to ensure safe system management.
In addition, continuous updates to security processes that are clear and shared widely can help provide easy steps for any employee caught in a disaster recovery event. This record can also help companies meet requirements for legislation like HIPAA and Sarbanes-Oxley, as well as regulations and standards like PCI-DSS, ISO 27001, and SOC2.
In conjunction, explaining and implementing updated schedules for all systems using the documentation can ensure the most recent security protocols — such as SSH and TLS suites — as well as firewalls and other framework protection measures, are keeping company devices current in virus protection.
7. Prepare for Natural Disaster Contingencies
Similar to an IRP, a disaster recovery plan (DRP) lays out instructions and processes on how to continue business after a natural or man-made catastrophe.
For example, many web hosting services have numerous "server outposts" that hold information from their main facility — providing redundancy. This way, if a hurricane, earthquake, or other disaster occurs, knocking out the servers of their main facility, a simple switchover enables the outposts to continue hosting with little to no interruption of service.
Different organizations will require different policies to meet their needs. Whatever set of procedures you adopt, remain vigilant with them and keep qualified personnel on top of security measures to ensure they will work in a disaster event.
"If you spend more time on coffee than on IT security, you will be hacked." Richard Clarke, White House Cybersecurity Advisor, 1992-2003
8. Plan for Other Contingencies
Every one of the above pieces of a proper cyber security risk management plan can be in place and ready to go and there will still be gaps that may not seem like they need to be explicitly stated. They do.
When it comes to contingencies that can occur during an actual cybersecurity incident, it’s even more important to document action plans and make sure everyone knows what to do during one of the following situations:
- An attack that happens when the chief security technician is away
- Designate a person to handle the attack if this happens
- How to respond to customers and clients after an attack
- Provide them with contact information upfront that they can use in the aftermath of an attack; this will allow IT to contact customers about changed protocols after an incident as well
- Somebody critical to the cybersecurity policy changes roles or leaves the company
- Schedule a review of the company’s cyber risk to help fill any holes left by a missing person in the policy
9. Do a Final Check
A cybersecurity plan is no good if it is created and then put away in the hopes that there is never a rainy day.
Here are a few things to look at before putting the company seal on the finished work:
- Make sure it can be implemented. This means that the personnel and any software, hardware, or other tools are in place as described in the plan.
- Double-check the guidelines or regulations within the policy. Make sure they meet the standards for the industry within which the company operates. The same goes for countries, states, regions, etc.
- Double check the policy is concise, clearly written, and as detailed as possible. This will help provide the information necessary to your employees so they can implement the regulation. Even if it was mostly written by a small group of individuals, everyone needs to be able to understand it.
There is not an industry, sector, or business on the planet that is not susceptible to possible cybersecurity attacks. There’s no limit to what can and will happen when it comes to access to important data over the course of any modern organization's existence.
A complex and thorough cybersecurity plan and policy ensures company teams are aware, prepared, and supported when it comes to taking action during a sensitive data breach or attack. The best plans and policies are those that are reviewed and revised regularly to plan for any new threats that may occur.
When IT teams are equipped with technology and tools that can help them monitor a company’s tech assets and devices, like Prey, they are better set up for success in protecting sensitive information and saving a business’s time and money from a hack.
From tracking and monitoring the location of cell phones and laptops to providing device security to protecting company data to managing IT equipment, Prey has the features and functionalities to assist any size company and help ensure their data remains private and safe.
Try Prey and let us show you how we can help you track, manage, and protect your organization’s devices.