Writing a Security Policy for your ISO Certification

March 9, 2021 / by Frederid Palacios

Cybersecurity is a growing threat in the data industry, so companies are buckling down on security systems and policies to prepare themselves. In their efforts, companies are researching the best security tools to protect themselves against breaches. Many organizations have found that an ISO-compliant ISMS is the way to go, providing them with state-of-the-art and regulated security. But, while companies may choose that this system is right for them, they still need a security policy to define objectives and operations.

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When writing information security policies, there is often confusion regarding what information you should include. A common misconception is that you have to include every detail of your security, but this is not necessarily required by ISO 27001. While it is beneficial to include specifics about your ISMS and responsible parties, you can overcomplicate your policy in adding unnecessary information. To keep your policy clear and concise, we’ll take you through the steps of writing a security policy and what information is most significant to include.


Purpose of a Security Policy

Information security is vital to any organization, but not all members of a company may recognize that. For this reason, the primary purpose of your security policy should be to define what you want to achieve with your information security. This will clarify things for all levels of the organization, ensuring that everyone is in agreement with security protocols. In addition to this, the ideal security policy is an easy-to-understand document. This informs company executives that they are in control of everything occurring within the ISMS – letting them know what to expect and who is responsible while excluding nonessential information such as the exact details of your risk assessment processes. Using the policy recommendations of ISO 27001, there are five essential components to writing your security policy.

Cyber Security as a Competitive Advantage

What It Should Contain

Adapt it to You

One of the most crucial aspects of your security policy is that you adapt it to your organization. No one security policy will match another's, and because you will have different needs than a company of a different size, your policy should reflect that. It may be tempting to use a similar organization's policy, but it's important to understand that there will be key differences that do not apply to your organization. Elements to consider are your organization's size, what security measures you already have in place, and new actions you intend to adopt.


Define the Framework

Your security policy should define the framework of how you will set information security objectives. This will detail how objectives will be proposed, approved, and reviewed. Setting objectives is vital to successfully implementing a security policy so that your team members know what to aim for. Once your framework for objectives is defined, you can start setting them. An excellent practice for setting objectives is making sure that they are SMART; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based. This ensures that objectives are clear, providing you with the tools to track progress and achieve your security goals. Without clearly defined objectives, you may lose sight of your security goals, so establish objectives that you can easily follow and accomplish.


Establish a Commitment Statement

For your security policy to be successful, your organization must acknowledge it from the bottom up. To do this, your policy must include a commitment statement for top management. This commits management to fulfill the requirements of all interested parties and continuously improve the ISMS. A commitment statement will obtain an explicit acknowledgment from management of their responsibilities, ensuring that they do their part to implement your organization's policy.


Responsibility of Communication

It may seem obvious that your security policy should be communicated within the company. Still, it is essential to remember to share it with appropriate external persons, such as interested parties and stakeholders. It is also beneficial to define who is responsible for this communication and ensure that they continuously do so.


Regular Review

The final inclusion that ISO 27001 recommends of your security policy is a regular review. In writing, you should define the owner of the policy. This person will be responsible for keeping the policy up to date so that it remains accurate. With regular reviews, you can update objectives and roles so that your policy stays aligned with your organization's current status and make sure that you are following the protocols defined.

When writing your policy, there are a few inputs you should consider. Consider your top management's intentions with information security. Schedule a meeting with your CEO and take them through all elements of the policy, so they have time to review it. Additionally, look into your legislation and contractual requirements to ensure that your policy reflects any necessary components. You should also check to see if your organization has any existing security or objective-setting systems. If so, refer to it and implement aspects that are still relevant.

This may not seem like an extremely in-depth security policy, and that's because it isn't. Including this information is an excellent start for implementing ISO 27001 in your organization, and you will likely supplement it with additional policies such as access control, classification, and IT security policies. These policies combined will provide your organization with a complete guide to your security protocols, detailing specific responsibilities and actions to be taken. While not required, if you are interested in including more details, we'll run through some additional information that could be helpful to develop your security policy further.


Additional Inclusions

A beneficial yet optional inclusion for your security policy is outlining the scope of your ISMS. For some organizations, this will exist as a separate document, but it is helpful to include it within your security policy if that is not your company's case. If you have yet to define the scope of your ISMS, it essentially lays out what you plan to fortify using your security systems. This will include the information you plan to protect, where it is located, and who can access it.

Earlier, we discussed some responsibilities that should be included in your security policy, such as the document owner and person responsible for communicating the policy. If you want to go more in-depth, you can include who is responsible for the ISMS's additional key parts. These responsibilities may consist of persons responsible for day-to-day operations and coordination, risk assessment, internal audits, incidents, and security on the executive level. While not necessary, it can be beneficial to clarify who is in charge of these tasks to ensure they are completed to standard.

Continuing with responsibilities, you must determine who will measure the achievement of your security objectives. This not only includes if the objectives have been achieved but also who the results should be reported to and how often they should be measured and reported. Measuring your security policy's objectives is extremely vital, so it is important that you clearly define who will hold that role and carry it out.

As part of your holistic drive to obtain your ISO 27001 certification, the information security policy should serve as a link between top management and information security activities. This is vital for meeting ISO 27001 requirements to ensure your ISMS and its objectives are compatible with your company's strategic path. Writing a policy with a clear and concise plan will guide your organization to successfully implement your information security management system and secure your certification.

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Tags: Cyber Security

Frederid Palacios

Written by Frederid Palacios

Fred Palacios is a seasoned software architect with more than 20 years of experience participating in the entire software development cycle across a host of different industries--from automotive and services to petroleum, financial, and supply chain. In that time, his experience working closely with high-level stakeholders has provided him with a strategic vision for developing the right solutions to flexibly meet critical business needs. As CTO of Intertec, he's continuing to focus on the creation of business-critical applications for large enterprise projects, particularly those that handle high concurrency and large datasets. He is passionate about using technology as a tool to solve real-world problems and also mentoring technical teams to achieve their maximum potential and deliver quality software.

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