In simple terms, a data security policy describes how sensitive data should be handled, including the logical and physical safeguards in place to keep it secure. A data security policy must be continuously reviewed and updated as technologies, threats, and compliance requirements change.
Key Elements of a Data Security Policy
Below are the most important elements (or sub-policies) of a data security policy:
This policy should outline how users can access and use company resources, specifically for non-work-related activities. The policy should also include details about how the acceptable use policy is enforced.
This policy will include details about the required length and complexity of passwords, including the procedures for password expiration and resets. The policy should also specify how passwords should be stored and remembered by the employee, and how they should be processed and stored by the company.
This includes information about how email accounts can be used, the techniques used to mitigate phishing attacks and SPAM, whether mailboxes are encrypted, and what types of data can be shared with whom.
This section should specify how your network is monitored for anomalous activity. This includes how you plan to gain visibility into logon attempts, access and use of sensitive data, configuration changes, network traffic, and more.
Social media usage
Since it is common these days for employees to use social media platforms when they are at work, a policy will be required that specifies if, how, when, and where, these platforms can be used.
Were a security incident to unfold, there will need to be a clear set of procedures that describe how they are handled, and by whom. The Incident Response Plan (IRP) should also include a section that describes how to investigate and mitigate future incidents.
A data classification policy should describe how you intend to classify your data, as well as the technologies used to do so. A classification schema might include general categories, such as Public, Private, and Restricted. Alternatively, your data could be classified in accordance with the data privacy laws relevant to your organization.
An access control policy describes how access to critical resources is granted and revoked. This should also include information about the types of authentication protocols used (e.g. MFA), and the types of access control methods used (e.g. RBAC).
This section will describe the physical safeguards that are (or should be) in place to protect servers, desktops, routers, firewalls, and other critical network resources. Examples of safeguards might include screen locks, door locks, movement sensors, CCTV cameras, key cards, and so on.
Mobile Device Management (MDM)
An MDM policy will describe how mobile devices can connect to your network, including the resources they are allowed to access.
Your data encryption policy should explain how sensitive data is encrypted, both at rest and in transit. It should explain the encryption methods used (e.g. RSA) and the types of data that need to be encrypted. Your encryption policy should be in alignment with your data classification policy.
Backup & recovery
You will need a policy that describes how and when backups are taken, where they are stored, and how they are secured. You will also need to include information about how the backups are tested, and how they can be restored in a timely manner.
Software license management
You will need procedures for purchasing software, which will include creating an inventory of all software used, along with any licensing information. You will also need to periodically scan your system for any unauthorized or unlicensed software.
In order to ensure that critical software patches are installed as soon as they become available, you will need to document and follow some sort of patch management procedure. You will also need to periodically scan your network for software vulnerabilities.
A section of your data security policy should be dedicated to the data privacy regulations that your organization is bound by. For example, if you are covered by the GDPR, you will need to describe the rights of data subjects, data breach notification procedures, how you plan to lawfully collect, process, and store personal data, and so on.