In an era when security threats morph daily and compliance regulations get more complex every year, creating a solid and up-to-date security program is crucial. Here’s how to do it.

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To be worth its salt, a good security program must cover your organization end-to-end and line up with your company’s risk management strategy, and provide all the necessary standards, guidelines, and policies to enforce the program. It must also be flexible enough to incorporate ongoing revisions and updates. And it must be enforceable – otherwise, it’s just an object of employee derision and a waste of time.

Create an end-to-end policy (don’t just talk about it)

A 2013 study showed that business executives and IT managers believed coordination of a security program across the company’s entire data network was “essential.” Nevertheless, many organizations neglect to include their whole range of data assets when setting a program and developing policies. End-to-end security means protecting data from its point of origin, through all points of transit, to its resting point in storage. You need to examine these points for all of your company’s data, whether they lie on your own servers or in a cloud, and set up measures to address any potential security gaps. Encryption, authentication, authorization, and other means of access control should all be included in the policies and spelled out for every type of data. Include information about penalties for violations, such as revocation of credentials and denial of access, so users can see that the program has teeth.

Coordinate with risk assessment

Before you finalize your program, go over your company’s risk assessment documentation to make sure it covers all relevant potential hazards identified, including special risk circumstances and industry-specific compliance regulations. No two businesses are exactly alike, and while it may be tempting to cut and paste a generic policy from the internet, as many organizations do, you are doing your company a disservice unless you address your specific risks.

Build in a plan for updates and revisions

Once you have a security program in place, review it regularly to make sure it still meets your business needs. The IT department should keep up with current trends, monitoring news and comparing its own program with competitors’ to make sure that new threats are addressed. Whenever your company expands its operations, a review should be done, both to make sure the current program is up-to-date and to account for any new wrinkles the new business line may introduce.

Make it enforceable

A security program is useless unless all of its provisions can be enforced. Employees will notice unenforceable requirements and become frustrated and less trustful of the entire program. You can use a variety of security compliance tools that formulate policy requirements into a database and monitor compliance across networks, fixing vulnerabilities as they occur. These systems need to be coordinated with anti-virus software, firewalls, and other security programs already in place.

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