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How to Protect Your Company from a Cyberattack, Part 3: Policies and Security Governance


Wait! Don’t click to a new page just because we said “policies” and “governance” in the title. If your reaction to talk of more policies and paperwork is to roll your eyes, believe us—we get it.

But what if we told you—and here we’re doing our best impression of a D.A.R.E. officer in a middle school, turning our chair backwards before sitting down—that having a policy in place for cybersecurity at your organization could save you a ton of time and money down the road? That doing so is way simpler and quicker than you think, and protects you legally? That policies make you cool and get you invited to rap stars’ after-show parties?!

Okay, maybe that last one is a stretch, but the rest is 100% true. Let’s talk about why.

Businesses Need Official Security Guidelines

One of the most misunderstood aspects of a holistic security program is governance—in other words, putting down rules that should be followed in the form of policies and standards. Putting together a governance document for a business is like packing a spare tire in the trunk of your car. It’ll be easy to forget it’s there, but when something goes wrong, you’re going to be grateful you took the time to prepare.

Written guidelines help companies meet compliance by making sure everyone knows what is required by law, what actions are acceptable, and what needs to be done in certain situations. Without policies and standards, compliance issues are bound to be a thorn in your side, and continuity becomes trickier when an employee moves to a new department or leaves the company entirely. They will take their security and procedure knowledge with them, and they’ll be nothing for their replacement to work from if there isn’t anything written down.

Setting Expectations and Getting Started

Policy documents are important because they set expectations for what employees need to do as part of their job. Governance, meanwhile, is about making sure they’re doing things the right way, and securely.

And, crucially, policies provide you with legal cover. They lay out what needs to be done, who is responsible for what, and the actions that need to be taken in case of a security breach. The standards you set make it clear how these actions should be taken. In the case of any legal action following a security incident, it will go a long way for your company to be able to point to clear governance policy and guidelines that were in place before the incident. This shows proactive and responsible security efforts and will help fend off the possibility of being found negligent.

The simplest way for a small or medium-sized business to get started is to put together a straightforward policy statement on security and a checklist with specific tasks and to-dos in order to make sure the organization and its data is secure.

A “security policy” sounds daunting to get started on, doesn’t it? But a checklist is extremely doable, and it’s a great first step. Start there—before you know it you’ll have some accountability and process visibility in place. Security firms often help business write the full policies, but a checklist gives you a starting point to build from.

You Wouldn’t Go Skydiving Without a Parachute

Without policies in place, compliance issues will haunt your company annually, and resiliency—making sure your people know what to do in a crisis—will be hard to ensure, even though it is critical to any business in the 21st century.

And beyond that, the policies and standards need to be taken seriously—often, that means they need to be enforced. It’s not enough to pay lip service. For example, you could have a sign out front of your data center that says “No food or drink beyond this point!” but if that rule is not spelled out in a policy that employees must read or sign upon being hired (or the policy being enacted), you aren’t protected if someone bringing in a Mountain Dew and spilling it on an entire rack costs your clients millions in downtime.

There are also occasionally instances where you have to fire an employee for breaking the rules, and if there’s no established, well-known and enforced policy you can point to, they have a shot at winning if they were to come after your organization for wrongful termination.

No one wants to think about these possibilities, but there are endless reasons why some proactive work now could save you millions—or even save your entire business—down the road.

Call in the Pros

Once you have a security checklist and basic policy standard written, the best next step is to bring in a professional cybersecurity team like Mission Cyber Group. Having a seasoned group of security professionals will allow you to contextualize your policies to your specific business, and crucially they can write it in a way that is clear and enforceable (i.e., just writing “don’t let hacks happen” in so many words is not going to cut it for a policy, sorry!), and explains the next steps needed when something does occur. These professionals can also help define what security services you will provided, and if it’s something that is outsourced, they’ll make sure it’s outlined as such in your policy.

We have seen too many small businesses with poorly written documents and guidelines that could potentially open them up to lawsuits if something went awry (which seems like an inevitability in 2022!). Don’t be like them—take the time to get things down in paper, the right way. Or even better—let a professional team of experts like us come in and do it for you!

Don’t go one more day without a security policy, standards, and corporate governance in place to protect your business. Need a hand putting things where they need to be?  Reach out to David at Mission Cyber Group at [email protected], or hit us up on our Contact page.