What to Include in Your Internet Security Policy

policies procedures bindersWhether you’re just launching your new enterprise or you’ve been in business for a while, you’ve probably outlined a set of policies and procedures designed to ensure the safety of employees, foster a welcoming workplace, and ensure efficiency in operations. Now you need to consider that modern business is conducted not only in board rooms and cubicles, but in virtual space as well.

It is therefore imperative to create an internet security policy to complement your other operational policies and procedures. Of course, such policies are still in their relative infancy.  With new threats popping up all the time you may feel some anxiety about your ability to keep up.

The good news is that many other businesses are in the same boat.  A consensus is beginning to form concerning the best ways to develop and implement flexible internet security policies. These strategies are designed to adapt to technological advances and the evolving nature of hackers. Here are just a few key points you’ll want to include in your internet security policy.

Security Strategy

Planning your policy should begin with considering a security strategy. This could include listing your objectives when it comes to implementing and maintaining internet security. It might also cover your ethical and legal responsibilities in terms of privacy laws meant to protect customers and employees.

Your policy should also include the variety of systems you use that operate online. Note how to protect each one with relevant security software and employee usage guidelines. Detailing these points will help you determine the course of your internet security policy. This way you can delve deeper into pertinent issues like which software to purchase, how much to spend, and how to train employees to do their part.

Specific Programs

You may need some professional guidance when it comes to planning your internet security policy.  If your business uses specialized software or equipment, your policy should include proper procedures pertaining to each specific system, network, and program you utilize. Naturally, this portion of your policy may change over time as you implement new software and systems.

It might seem like overkill to list specifications for hardware and software. However, if you expect employees to properly utilize these systems as part of their job, they need to understand potential risk factors so they can behave appropriately and keep your online operations secure.

Authorizations

Compartmentalization is a great way to increase the level of security for confidential data. For example, everyone in the company might need access to an employee directory, but you may limit access to financial records to only your finance and executive team.

While you may want to foster transparency and openness, you don’t necessarily want all of your employees to be privy to executive planning and communications.  You also can’t allow unfettered access to sensitive customer data like credit card or social security numbers. By compartmentalizing and setting up a system of authorizations for different positions, you can help to protect your company and your customers.

Don’t forget to include behavioral information in your policy as well. You need to make it clear that employees are not to share access with one another or with outsiders and that they will face penalties for doing so.

Password and Network Policies

Some of your internet security policy will focus on the technical elements of securing your online operations. The rest will pertain to employee behavior as a means of teaching workers how to behave in a manner that helps to protect the company.

Your employees no doubt have passwords to access computers, accounts, networks, and data. Your password policy should provide clear rules and regulations regarding how to access resources and how password usage works.

It seems almost silly in this day and age to remind employees not to share their login information with anyone, including their coworkers. Yet, it is still necessary to include this in your policies, along with protocols for password creation.

You also need to train employees to operate in a careful manner when it comes to email and other network usage. Some of the most common ways hackers gain access to company data involves employee error. This includes the use of weak passwords and blunders like clicking spammy links, visiting dangerous websites, or downloading files that contain viruses, spyware, or malware.

Expectations and Penalties

Employees need to understand what you expect of them when it comes to internet security. It is also important that they understand the consequences, to the company and to themselves, should they fail to act appropriately. Irresponsible behavior could result in a devastating data breach. Spell out penalties associated with such failures so that workers have ample motivation to follow your internet security policy.

How to Train Employees to Safeguard Against Hackers

employee training puzzle pieceHackers can cause all kinds of problems with a business. In addition to planting viruses, worms, spyware, and more, hackers can steal sensitive customer, employee, and business data.  These criminals will use this information to hijack identities and make a profit.

One of the latest threats many businesses face comes in the form of ransomware. This is when hackers infiltrate a computer or network and take files hostage by encrypting them. Businesses that want to regain their data have to figure out how to break the encryption, which is next to impossible, pay up in the time allotted, or lose access to their information for good.

The worst part about hackers gaining entry to a business’s virtual operation is the damage they leave in their wake. Perhaps just as disconcerting is how often employees are to blame for letting hackers gain access. The best security measures in the world won’t work if employees are holding open the virtual front door for hackers.

As a result, you not only need to make sure you have appropriate cyber security in place; you also must take steps to train employees to spot threats, behave in an appropriate manner, and act as a line of defense against hackers. Here are a few things you should include in your training program.

Policies and Procedures

As a business owner you enact any number of policies and procedures designed to maintain a safe, efficient, and productive workplace. Some policies (like sexual harassment or discrimination training) curb offensive employee behavior and limit your liability.

Other policies like NDAs and non-compete clauses help to protect your business from leaks that could compromise confidential data. You also need to develop policies and procedures intended to teach employees how to safeguard against hackers.

You could, for example, enact behavioral policies that spell out how employees should use your network resources. Employees should not open emails from unknown senders or click suspicious links. Above all they should heed the advice of software warnings when they try to access dangerous websites.

Policies and procedures designed to safeguard against hacking could pertain to password protection, network usage, and even sharing information between employees. Taking the time to list your expectations and make employees aware can only help to keep your operation safe from hackers.

Strong Passwords

Cracking passwords is one common way that hackers make their way into your system.  Luckily, there is a lot you can do to ensure greater protections in this area. A good start is to select software that prompts users to create strong passwords (requiring 8-12 characters and a variety of letters, numbers, and symbols) and requires employees to change passwords regularly.

Your software shouldn’t do half of a hacker’s job for them by repopulating fields when the login information entered is incorrect. Instead of leaving the name in place when the password is wrong (alerting hackers that they have the correct name), all fields should be automatically cleared.

You also need to make it clear that there will be serious consequences if employees share passwords, even with fellow coworkers. Compartmentalization of data, authorization for access to different areas, and password protections only work if individual passwords remain confidential.

Recognizing Threats

There are many ways in which hackers can target your employees. They can attach spyware and malware to seemingly innocuous links or downloads thereby piggy-backing on other programs to gain access to your system.

Employees must be trained to spot these scams in order to avoid them. Your security software can go a long way toward protecting your company from hackers, but when employees understand potential threats and how they might contribute to the problem, there’s a much better chance all of your protective components will work together.

Backups

Even with proper training, employees can still make mistakes that open you up to hackers. The best defense is always a good offense.

Having backup protocols in place could help minimize damage if employees slip up and hackers find a way in. A monitoring service is a good place to start, but you should also have system backups in place so that you can shut everything down, lock hackers out, and revert to a recent save point so as to resume business operations post haste.