As the world becomes increasingly digitized, so too does the complexity and frequency of cyber threats. This creates a big responsibility for in-house legal teams, who lead the way in making cybersecurity policies.
Company cybersecurity policies are essential for both following the law and preparing for future threats. It's up to the in-house legal team to ensure these policies keep the company's legal status, reputation, and operations safe.
Find out how you can go about building a cybersecurity policy that's as resilient as it is thorough in this post. We've also included a free template so you don’t have to start from scratch.
What is a cybersecurity policy?
A cybersecurity policy is a framework of guidelines and practices to protect an organization's digital assets from cyber threats. Its importance lies in preventing data breaches, protecting customer information, and ensuring business continuity.
Key components of an effective cybersecurity policy
Scope: Defines the boundaries of the policy, covering all aspects of the organization's digital infrastructure.
Roles and responsibilities: Allocates specific cybersecurity roles and outlines the responsibilities of all staff members.
Risk management strategies: Identifies potential cyber threats and outlines methods for managing and mitigating these risks.
Incident response plan: Provides a structured approach for responding to cybersecurity incidents, including steps for containment, investigation, and recovery.
Data management: Sets rules for handling, storing, and transmitting sensitive data to minimize risks and liabilities.
Training and awareness: Outlines ongoing training programs to keep employees informed about cybersecurity best practices and emerging threats.
“The most inexpensive way to help prevent a data breach is by properly training your workforce. This includes training on creating proper passwords (along with having technology that requires those passwords to meet certain criteria and be changed frequently); how to spot social engineering attempts (e.g., “Phishing”); what to do with suspicious emails (i.e., don’t click on the links and report it to IT office immediately); and how to be alert for industrial espionage (unauthorized visitors, picking up strange USB flash drives and plugging them into your computer to see what’s on them, etc.).”
~ Sterling Miller, CEO of Hilgers Graben PLLC
Ten Things: Things In-House Counsel Should Be Doing Before a Data Breach Occurs
Why does your company need a cybersecurity policy?
Digital threats lurk around every corner, so the question isn't whether your company needs a cybersecurity policy, but rather how quickly you can implement one.
Here's why having a robust cybersecurity policy is indispensable for any modern business:
#1 To protect the company’s sensitive data
Your company's data is a treasure trove. A cybersecurity policy is the key to safeguarding valuable assets like customer information, trade secrets, and employee records.
#2 To prevent financial losses caused by data breaches
Cyberattacks can lead to significant financial losses due to data breaches, system downtime, and the cost of rectifying the breach.
According to a report by Cybersecurity Ventures, cybercrime damages are expected to hit $8 trillion annually by 2023, highlighting the need for a robust cybersecurity policy.
#3 To ensure compliance with regulations
Navigating the maze of data protection laws requires a reliable compass. A comprehensive cybersecurity policy ensures your business stays in line with industry regulations, thus avoiding severe legal and financial repercussions.
#4 To maintain the company’s reputation
Trust is the foundation of customer relationships. A robust cybersecurity policy not only protects data but also fortifies your company’s reputation.
Studies show that 85% of consumers won't do business with a company if they have concerns about its security practices.
#5 To proactively prevent threats
Cyber threats are constantly evolving. A well-defined policy enables proactive identification and management of these threats, reducing the risk of a successful attack.
#6 To raise awareness among employees
An informed workforce is your first line of defense. Establishing clear guidelines and regular training programs fosters a culture of security awareness, turning employees into vigilant guardians of your digital domain.
4 Best practices in crafting an effective cybersecurity policy
Creating a robust cybersecurity policy is more than just writing rules; it's about developing a comprehensive strategy that addresses the unique needs and vulnerabilities of your organization.
#1 Conduct a risk assessment to understand potential vulnerabilities
Start by delving into the depths of your organization's digital landscape to identify and understand potential vulnerabilities. Ask your IT team about possible cyber threats that your company could become victim to.
- Analyze the types of cyber threats relevant to your industry. This could range from phishing attacks to ransomware
- Determine the potential impact of each identified threat on your business operations, data integrity, and finances
#2 Define clear objectives for measurable outcomes
Setting clear, achievable objectives is crucial in steering your cybersecurity policy towards tangible success and measurable outcomes.
- Establish specific objectives for your policy, like reducing phishing attacks by 50% within a year
- Include measurable targets to track progress, such as implementing two-factor authentication across the organization within six months
- Ensure that your cybersecurity goals align with your overall business objectives, enhancing rather than hindering operational efficiency
#3 Clearly define employee roles and responsibilities
When it comes to cybersecurity, every employee plays a pivotal role. This is why it is essential to clearly define and communicate everyone's responsibilities.
- Define specific cybersecurity roles, such as network security officers or data protection leads, especially in larger organizations
- Ensure that every employee understands their role in maintaining cybersecurity, from not sharing passwords to reporting suspicious emails
- Establish a culture where staff members are held accountable for adhering to cybersecurity protocols
#4 Regularly update the policy and train employees
Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving challenge, necessitating regular updates to your policy and continuous training for your team to stay ahead of threats.
- Regularly update your policy to reflect new threats and technological advancements
- Conduct ongoing training sessions for employees to keep them informed about the latest cyber threats and prevention techniques
- Encourage employee engagement with regular feedback sessions. You can then refine training methods and policy effectiveness
Also read: What Is Contract Management Security?
Step-by-step guide to writing your policy
Crafting a cybersecurity policy is a systematic process that requires careful planning and collaboration. Follow these steps to ensure that your policy is comprehensive, practical, and enforceable.
#1 Getting started: Laying the groundwork
- Assemble a team with representatives from key departments like IT, legal, HR, and executive leadership. This team will lead the policy development process
- Collect existing security policies, industry standards, and regulatory requirements that your policy should adhere to
- Clearly outline the breadth of your policy, including what assets, departments, and processes it will cover
#2 Writing the policy: Crafting a comprehensive framework
- Draft the introduction: Start with an overview of the policy’s purpose, scope, and importance to the organization
- Develop key sections: Address each component of an effective cybersecurity policy as discussed earlier, including risk assessment, objectives, roles and responsibilities, etc.
- Use clear, concise language: Ensure the policy is understandable to all employees, avoiding overly technical jargon where possible
- Incorporate feedback: Regularly seek input from different departments to ensure the policy is practical and covers all aspects of your organization's operations.
#3 Review and approval process: Fine-tuning and finalization
- IT department review: Ensure that the IT team verifies the technical accuracy and feasibility of the policy
- Executive review: Present the policy to executive leadership for final approval, ensuring it aligns with the overall business strategy
- Document approval: Once approved, formally document the policy and communicate its enactment to the entire organization
How to implement your cybersecurity policy effectively
The implementation of a cybersecurity policy is as crucial as its creation. It involves effective communication to ensure organization-wide awareness and understanding, followed by rigorous enforcement and monitoring to ensure compliance.
Spread the word with impact
#1 Have your leadership endorse the policy
When top brass leads the charge, people listen. Imagine a company-wide email or town hall meeting led by the CEO emphasizing cybersecurity's critical role. This sets a serious tone from the get-go.
#2 Conduct interactive training sessions
Let's face it, policy documents can be yawn-inducing. Spice up the training sessions with interactive quizzes, real-life hacking stories, and role-playing scenarios.
Make the training relatable. Use real examples of cyber attacks that had significant impacts on companies, showing how everyone's role is crucial in prevention.
#3 Provide easy access to the policy
Post the policy where everyone can find it—like the company intranet or the lunchroom bulletin board. There’s no point in having a policy that people aren’t aware of.
#4 Keep sending updates and reminders
Cybersecurity isn't a 'one-and-done' deal. Regular newsletters or pop-up quizzes on the intranet can keep the topic fresh and top of mind.
Also, regularly share news of recent cyber incidents in the industry. It's a wake-up call that threats are real and ever-present.
#5 Open-door feedback policy
“It was an hour a week drop-in policy. I met so many team members that way and learned what's really going on. You can chat and learn a lot about the context of why decisions are being made. It also made the legal team feel very accessible.”
~ Lydia Cheuk, GC at Away
Brand Building for Legal Teams with Lydia Cheuk, GC at Away
Encourage an environment where employees can voice concerns or suggestions about the policy. Basically, create a 'cybersecurity suggestion box' that welcomes all inputs.
Enforcement and monitoring: Making compliance stick
#1 Use tech tools wherever possible
Find tech tools that constantly monitor the network for compliance breaches. Here are some examples of such tools:
- Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS): Tools like Snort monitor network traffic for suspicious activities
- SIEM systems: Platforms like Splunk analyze security alerts from various sources in real-time
- Compliance management software: Solutions like ManageEngine Compliance Manager provide compliance reporting and risk assessments
- Network scanners: Tools like Nessus scan for network vulnerabilities and ensure compliance with security standards
- Endpoint Protection Platforms (EPP): Solutions such as Symantec Endpoint Protection offer device-level protection against threats
- Cloud Access Security Brokers (CASBs): Tools like McAfee MVISION enforce security policies in cloud applications
- Automated patch management tools: Systems like Automox automate software updates for security compliance.
#2 Conduct regular audits
Regular audits might sound daunting, but think of them as a 'cybersecurity health check-up.' These can be internal or through an external cybersecurity expect to ensure everything is in top shape.
#4 Make incident reporting easy
Create a simple, anonymous reporting system, where employees can report suspicious activities without fear.
#5 Implement access control
“Contract access to unnecessary stakeholders always puts the business at risk. In fact, organizations end up paying lumpsum amounts or huge liabilities in the wake of security breaches.”
~ Supin Prem, Senior Manager, Legal Tech, SpotDraft
Implement a robust access control system, ensuring only those on the list (with necessary clearance) get in.
#6 Devise clear consequences
Outline clear repercussions for policy breaches. It's not just about punishment, but more about reinforcing the policy.
Empower cybersecurity with SpotDraft
Crafting and implementing a robust cybersecurity policy is an essential step for any modern business. As you embark on this crucial task, remember, it's not just about safeguarding your data—it's about building a culture of security and trust that permeates every aspect of your organization.
Ready to take the next step in fortifying your company's digital defenses? With SpotDraft, you can automate contract-related aspects of your cybersecurity policy, ensuring that agreements are compliant with your newly established standards.
SpotDraft gives you the feature of access control. You could reduce risk and protect sensitive data by ensuring only key stakeholders have access to the information and contracts they need to perform their duties.
Setting role-based access controls augments security. That means certain contract types are accessible to a specific set of users, thereby trimming down unauthorized usage.
AES 256-bit encryption
“One way companies are starting to take risk out of a potential data breach is to encrypt the data. If encrypted data is lost or stolen (and the key is not taken too) most data breach notification statutes do not require any notice as the encrypted data is otherwise considered safe.”
~ Sterling Miller, CEO and Senior Counsel, Hilgers Graben PLLC
Ten Things: Data Privacy - The Essentials
Another significant feature is contract data encryption. Encryption prevents malicious attacks, whether stored in your server and transferred to or taken away from your contract lifecycle management (CLM) solution.
Fully encrypted signatures also allow you to detect any changes made to the contract after signing. The eSignature regulations that SpotDraft complies with include ESIGN (USA), eIDAS (Europe), and ECA (UK). Learn more about SpotDraft eSignatures here.
Moreover, SpotDraft’s intuitive design simplifies the process of managing contracts, which is a key element in maintaining the integrity of your cybersecurity measures.
Request a demo today!
Company cybersecurity policy: FREE template
To streamline your process of creating a robust cybersecurity policy, we've developed a comprehensive template. This template is designed to be easily adaptable to your organization's specific needs and requirements.
Feel free to modify this template to align with your company's specific needs and branding.