Today's organizations rely on data and information to run their respective businesses. While utilizing relevant data is paramount, managing data is a bigger responsibility in itself. That's why Information Security Management should be core to any business that's using data. In this article, learn what Information Security Management is and how to implement it within your organization.
What is Information Security Management?
Every business that generates, stores, aggregates, and processes data must protect it from vulnerabilities. Information Security Management or ISM refers to the organization's approach to develop systems to maintain the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data.
ISM systems are responsible for the management of IT assets and protect them from cyber attacks. Otherwise, there will be data breaches and compromises that’d lead to data being lost or stolen.
The data to be protected include, but is not limited, to the following:
- Strategic documentation
- Products and/or service information
- IP and patents
- Proprietary knowledge
- Trade secrets
- Ongoing project documentation
- Employee data
- Customer data
The systems consist of a set of policies and procedural controls that are implemented across the IT infrastructure. The responsibility of ISM is often assigned to the Chief Security Officer, Chief Technical Officer, or the IT Operations Manager.
How to Implement an Information Security Management System?
For specific industries, implementing ISM systems is more than a requirement. It's a necessity to be able to operate in that vertical. Being GDPR complaint or HIPAA compliant (for the insurance industry) is a prime example. So you must have sound knowledge of how to implement an ISM system.
There are multiple ways to implement Information security management systems. But the one that's common to most organizations is the ISO 27001. You should view it as a basis for developing the ISM system.
The ISO 27001 follows the Plan-Do-Check-Act model, also known as the PDCA model. It's a great system for making continuous improvement too.
Here's what PDCA looks like:
First, you need to identify the problems related to managing data. Along with that, evaluate the threat and risk that is posed to the data. Based on the evaluation, you'll have to define the policies and processes to address the threats. Since ISM is a continuous process, you'd also have to plan for developing methods that'd ensure continuous improvement.
The next stage is all about implementing what has been planned earlier. Implement the security policies and processes and make modifications as necessary. The implementation should ideally be in line with the ISO standardization. But you can make the adjustment based on the resources available at your disposal.
In the third stage, you're required to check the policies that have been implemented. Measure the KPIs and metrics that'll help you conclude the effectiveness of the policies. Also, evaluate tangible outcomes and behavioral aspects of the ISM process.
The final stage is about acting on the results and making continuous improvements. Use a feedback loop system to allow the IT team to iterate the policies and controls.
ISO 27001 isn't the only ISM framework available. You can make use of ITIL and COBIT frameworks to implement ISM within your organization. It all depends on your requirements and capabilities.
The Seven Elements of an Effective ISM
Every ISM implementation strategy should revolve around seven key elements. These elements determine the scope and possibilities of Information Security Management policies to a great extent.
The seven elements are:
1.Resource at Hand
Creating and implementing ISM systems is a tough task, to say the least. To successfully pull it off, you need to deploy managers and team members. How proficient and well-equipped the personnel are will determine how you're going to implement ISM systems.
Along with manpower, resources also include time frame and budget. So you need to be clear on these aspects to avoid being under staff or under-budgeted.
2.Systems and Tools
ISM manages multiple resources ranging from your company's software to physical data centers to staff members. To oversee the entire operation, you'll have to utilize certain systems and tools. So be prepared to invest in implementation management tools.
3.Policies and Controls
This is perhaps the most important element of all. Policies will provide the overall direction and support to your changing business and security needs. In essence, they'll govern your organization from a data security point of view.
The ISO 27001 provides the guidelines for the following objectives:
- To develop security policies
- To address information security
- To manage digital assets
- Develop guidelines for human resource security
- Develop guidelines for physical and environmental security
- To communicate and manage operations
- To develop assess control
- To deal with incident management
- To comply with regulators
- To manage supplier relationships
4.Staff Communication and Engagement
Information Security Management is not only the IT team's responsibility. Everyone within the organization should take responsibility. Therefore, you need to formulate a framework to communicate the changes made to your staffs.
Among other information, you should communicate:
- Why ISM is important to the organization?
- How they can help the company in that pursuit?
- How they should act to make that happen?
Once communicated, you should keep them engaged in the process.
5.Systems and Tools for Supply Chain
ISM systems extend beyond the company into the entire supply chain. This includes third-party suppliers and customers. Your supplier holds valuable data at their end related to your business. And so does the customers with who you regularly exchange data.
You need to develop protocols for both sides to ensure data integrity. So you need to continuously assess your supply chain InfoSec.
6.Certification and External Audits
External auditors play a vital role in the implementation of ISM systems. If you want to become ISO 27001 certified, then you need to work with an accredited independent certification body. They'll conduct the inspection and approve the systems you've put in place. The independent body will also carry out a regular inspection to ensure you stay compliant.
An effective ISM demands continuous improvement and implementation. So you should deploy resources to audit current InfoSec and then develop and implement the necessary changes.