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We’ve all stared down a stack of 60-something pages of security documents outlining minute details and rules on our first day at a new job. If you thought, “I’m never going to remember this. I’m just going to sign it and forget about it,” you aren’t alone.

Crafting effective security policies that your employees adopt into your organization’s security culture is possible.
Policies are often written only from an enforcement perspective, but the most effective policies also emphasize employee education on how and why following these guidelines is essential for your organization’s safety.

Think about how you are sharing the information, what data the policy is protecting, and who you are communicating the guidelines with.

The goal of every security policy is to motivate employees to practice risk-reducing behavior that protects your organization. They learn those behaviors from the documents and training opportunities you provide them.

Employees should be able to understand what your policy is asking of them and how to apply the policy in their day-to-day lives.

Comprehensible policies and consistent training practices support an informed security culture.

A sure way to discourage an employee from reading your security policy is to make it dense, long, and full of jargon and legalese. Removing these confusing boundaries makes it more likely that your employees will understand, remember and follow the guidelines that add protection to your organization.

Make your policy concise.
Spell out your security guidelines in clear language that people can understand and get behind. Remove or define jargon. Avoid listing micro details. Instead, focus on providing the information in a way that helps the employee independently think on their feet.

If your organization absolutely needs a long policy, we recommend you also include a summarized version of the most important takeaways in straightforward language on the cover page to guide employees through understanding the denser version.

Context matters.
Most employees want to protect the organization. When employees don’t understand the policies, sometimes they do their own research. While enthusiasm is welcome, sometimes this can be confusing for employees when they don’t have the context gained from being a security professional.

Similar to self-diagnosing medical conditions online, diagnosing security weaknesses without context can lead to inefficient and ineffective solutions. Including context about your recommendations in your policies helps your employees understand what threats and situations pose the most risk to your organization.

Technology leaders spend a lot of their time thinking about how to use, distribute, optimize and profit from data, but sometimes overlook the crucial step of seeking out a deep understanding of the actual data they’re protecting.

Much like a miner would need to understand the difference in characteristics and value of different kinds of gems and minerals in the mine they’re working to be successful, you should aim to understand the differences in the data you’re protecting. Companies of all stages benefit from this deeper look into their data and how protection priorities align with value.

Learn more about how to evaluate your systems in ZeroWall’s whitepaper Think Like a Hacker. Defend Like a CISO.

Only provide employees the information they need.

You need a foundational policy for rules that are relevant to every employee, but some policies only apply to a subgroup of your employees. For example, you may have a policy about how to handle customer data, but only a subset of your employees handle customer data.

Instead of including the requirements for handling customer data in your foundational policy, break those recommendations out into a separate policy that is only provided to employees who need that information.

Make it easy for employees to find help.

Remind employees repeatedly where they can find support and answers to their questions throughout your policy.

In the beginning, this contact is likely you. This responsibility can be distributed throughout your organization’s managers as they gain a deeper understanding of your policy.

Here are three essential policies your organization should have defined:

Data Classification and Handling
Outlines what type of data exists in your organization and how it should be handled.

Acceptable Use Policy
Outlines how employees are expected to use the internet and company equipment, and what happens if these guidelines are not followed.

Segregation of Duties
Defines which specific systems, data, or other resources are accessible to employees based on their job function.

Evaluate your data and systems, then use your learnings to clearly outline how employees can affect the organization’s risk level in your policies. When employees better understand how their actions contribute to protecting the organization, they are more likely to consider your security policy while they make decisions.

There is a clear cyclical link between how an organization defines and practices its set of beliefs. A strong security culture leads to effective security policies. Clear security policies lead to informed security culture.

Put the right information in your security policies.

Let the security experts at ZeroWall evaluate your security profile.

Taking the ZeroWall Assessment™ is the fastest way to get an expert evaluation of your security profile and risks. The findings provide a strong foundation to craft effective security policies on top of.

ZeroWall’s Threat Model Engine works its magic on your answers and delivers you an Insights Report that outlines:

  • The gaps in your security program
  • How your current investments are addressing risks
  • How you compare to similarly-sized organizations in your industry
  • Right-sized recommendations catered to your unique organization

Get the information you need to build your organization’s right-sized program. Get started >

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