Setting Your Own Network Security Standards

Article excerpt

Insider's Perspective gives guest columnists a chance to write about challenges and solutions in their corner of the information technology industry.

This summer, Congress delayed action on the Cybersecurity Act of 2012, which would have given network infrastructure owners clear, nonprescriptive guidance on minimum security standards. Without this guidance, private network managers are left to create their own security standards to meet the requirements of prospects, business partners, and executives. So how can they execute this without fear of a breakdown?

My most relevant experience came during my tenure as a director of security with a well-known holding company in the Middle East, where there are no information technology laws or regulations, except for some of the private banks.

As a holding company for nine different types of businesses, we were far behind the industry in security-essential international standards, and we had to achieve an adequate level for due diligence by international industry standards. I came up with a framework to accomplish a mature security program without a defined standard. In essence, we had to design, develop, and maintain our own cybersecurity standards to minimize the number of cybersecurity attacks.

The First Steps

The first critical aspect of information security is planning. There are three types of plans: strategic, tactical, and operational, which are all related and each of which makes a different contribution to enhancing an organization's overall security.

Our strategic plans were aligned with the group's strategic business and IT goals. These plans have a longer-term duration (i.e., 3-5 years to guide a long-term view of the security activities within the group). High-level plans, which create a vision for projects to achieve business objectives, provided guidance to ensure that other decisions fit in with executive management's vision of the group.

Here are some examples of the strategic goals:

* Launch an information security policy and procedure project.

* Understand risk and ways to control it.

* Educate users on their security obligations.

Our tactical plans described extensive initiatives to support and achieve the goals specified in the strategic plan. Tactical plans usually take less time and required these types of initiatives:

* Implementing change control for the infrastructure

* Implementing a vulnerability management program

* Developing a disaster recovery plan/business continuity plan

The last step is an operational plan. These specific plans have milestones, dates, and accountabilities while providing the communication and direction to ensure that individual projects are being completed.

For example, we developed an information security policy and procedures that included the following:

* Conducting security risk assessment, both technical and procedural

* Developing security policies

* Developing technical infrastructure to deploy and enforce policies and track compliance

* Training end users on policies and monitor compliance

DIY Options

To build your own cybersecurity standard, you need to protect all business information assets from intentional and unintentional loss, disclosure, alteration, destruction, and unavailability. After some intensive research, we developed basic components for achieving an efficient information security program.

The most important aspect is to have a channel of communication with the top executives. The person in charge of the security program should understand the organization's business objectives to ensure that the risk assessment methodology is properly executed. That methodology should consider the different threats and vulnerabilities affecting the organization, and at the end, it should communicate all of those risks to top management. …