Free Template: Build an Effective Data Security and IT Compliance Policy
Improve your company's file sharing policy.
Key Components Needed in Your Data Security Policy
It doesn’t matter what kind of business you’re running, what industry you’re operating in or what size your company is, the truth is NO organization is completely safe from the danger of security breaches. Protecting your business from the threats that face your critical data and information is a crucial effort -- and one that must be shared by your entire company. Every individual with access to your systems is either part of the problem or part of the solution. To get everyone on board with helping to prevent harmful, costly data breaches, it is essential to develop a documented data security policy, one that encompasses all of the necessary components.
Constructing a data security policy that hits all the right notes and ensures that every member of your organization understands their role in defending against data threats may seem like an overwhelming endeavor. Where do you start? What elements should be included? How do you know if you’re touching on all the most important factors? How do you communicate clear expectations about behavior that promotes data security? How do you make sure the policy is easy to follow and enforceable? To make the process less intimidating and feel confident that you’re on the right track, use the following components as a basis for creating a solid data security policy for your organization.
Background & Purpose
Begin crafting your document by presenting the context for your data security policy as a whole, explaining why it has been created and articulating any relevant laws, standards or regulations. You need to establish a foundation for that which the policy aims to address and help foster an understanding of the policy’s importance. Be sure to describe the intended goals and outline the specific objectives your organization expects to achieve by implementing the policy.
Example Background & Purpose:
Today’s organizations are challenged to foster a productive work environment while securing both their network and their data. As technology continues to advance and data regulations evolve, [Company Name] must help its employees understand their role in data security. This policy outlines how employees should be interacting with [Company Name]’s IT systems and data.
It is essential for [Company Name] to safeguard restricted, confidential or sensitive data from theft, leakage or any other type of infringement, so as to prevent detrimental outcomes like reputational damage, productivity loss or regulatory repercussions. [Company Name]’s Data Security Policy is designed to reflect the organization’s dedication to manage all information, including that of employees, customers, stakeholders and others, according to strict standards of confidentiality and care. The policy’s goal is to ensure that data is gathered, stored and handled in a manner that honors individual rights and protects all parties from any harm caused by the misuse of data or IT systems.
Once you’ve defined the goals and foundation of your data security policy, it’s necessary to detail its scope. This is a vital aspect of making the document easy for users to digest. Spell out in very specific terms that which is covered in your policy -- from people, places and technology to types of data, jurisdictions, etc. Be clear about whom the policy addresses, the range of data it protects and any additional criteria that governs its enforcement.
This universal company policy refers to any person or party who uses [Company Name]’s data or systems in any way, including employees, vendors, stakeholders, consultants, contractors, etc. It includes anyone we collaborate with or who acts on our behalf and may need access to our data, such as but not limited to:
- Financial information
- Personally identifiable information
- Sensitive or confidential data
- Login credentials and passwords
- Critical business assets
In cases where any aspect of this policy affects areas governed by local legislation, local legal compliance has clear precedence over this policy within the bounds of that jurisdiction. Employees of [Company Name] who monitor and enforce compliance with this policy are responsible for ensuring that they remain compliant with relevant local legislation at all times.
Now you need to address the core of the policy. This is where you’re going to lay out, piece by piece, each of the governing rules and principles to be followed. Your policy statements should entail robust explanations for how you require all users to contribute to the overall data security effort and minimize the risk of a data breach.
Example Policy Statements:
- [Company Name] must collect and process data as part of our operations. All users must ensure that this data is accurate, up-to-date, managed lawfully and protected against any unauthorized or illegal access by internal or external parties.
- Any information that is particularly sensitive or vulnerable must be encrypted and/or securely stored to prevent unauthorized access. In addition, all users must enforce all necessary protocol to minimize unauthorized access to confidential information.
- Users are not permitted to send, upload, remove or otherwise transfer any confidential information except where explicitly authorized to do so in the performance of their regular duties.
- Users are required to keep passwords secure and not allow others to access their accounts.
- Users who are supplied with computer equipment by [Company Name] are responsible for the safety and care of that equipment, as well as the security of software and data stored on it and on other [Company Name] systems that they can access remotely using it. Users must immediately notify the IT team in the event that a device containing sensitive data is lost.
- Users must be trained on and take all necessary measures to guard against the risk of malware infecting [Company Name]’s systems, and they must report any actual or suspected malware infection immediately.
- No user is permitted to circumvent [Company Name]’s implemented security systems or protocols or to use any software or applications that are not approved and monitored by our IT team.
Please note that this list is not exhaustive; your document should comprise many more policy statements than those listed here. For a more dynamic list of examples, download our free data security policy template.
Finally, you must lay out any procedural requirements or efforts that your organization intends to enact in order to fulfill the objectives of the data security policy. These should be procedures that the IT team, with the backing of leadership, are able to carry out effectively in support of the organization-wide effort to fortify data security.
In accordance with [Company Name]’s commitment to data security, we will make every reasonable effort to execute the following actions and procedures:
- Train all employees on their responsibility to uphold the provisions of this policy
- Develop secure networks capable of protecting our systems and data from cyber attacks
- Restrict and monitor access to sensitive data
- Employ security defenses in the form of software, applications or other technological means, and keep them fully up-to-date
- Develop transparent data collection procedures
- Create and communicate clear procedures for reporting privacy breaches or data misuse
There’s never been a greater urgency to build a data security plan that successfully mitigates file sharing security risks and protects your business. For more expert assistance on developing a proper data security policy for your organization, access our free template here.
About Martin Horan
Founder of FTP Today and an expert in secure file transfer and Internet protocols. A software and IT geek since a young age, Martin has successfully led his companies through the digital age by spotting market niches and filling them with quality IT services.