15 Information Security Policies Every Business Should Have

by Tori Thurmond / February 6th, 2024

When a business suffers a data breach or any other information security failure, it’s best practice to launch a root-cause investigation. We want to know what happened, how it happened, and how it could have been prevented. Whatever the ultimate conclusion of the investigation, among the causes, you will usually find either:

  • Inadequate information security policies
  • A failure to properly implement existing information security policies

Information security policies are how businesses shape the procedures and processes that keep information safe or, in some cases, fail to do so. Inadequate policies lead to data breaches, ransomware attacks, financial losses, regulatory penalties, and damage to a business’s reputation. They also hinder a business’s ability to respond to cyber-attacks and data breaches, compounding the risk.

But which information security policies does your business need? This article explores security policy examples that will help minimize security risks and keep your and your customers’ data safe.

Why Do You Need Information Security Policies?

Why do you need information security policies? What role do policies play in your organization’s security structure? You’re probably familiar with basic policies such as a Disaster Recovery Policy, Data Backup Policy, or Risk Assessment Policy, but there are other must-have information security policies that you should be implementing. The point of having extensive policies in place is to provide clarity for your employees, direction for proper security procedures, and proof that you’re doing your due diligence to protect your organization against security threats.

15 Information Security Policies Every Business Should Have in Place

We’ve gathered a list of 15 must-have information security policies that you can check your own list of policies against to ensure you’re on the path towards security:

Acceptable Encryption and Key Management Policy

An Acceptable Encryption and Key Management Policy is critical for safeguarding sensitive data within an organization. This policy should outline the standards for encrypting data at rest and in transit and establish procedures for managing the cryptographic keys used to encode and decode information.

Organizations handling sensitive information – such as financial institutions subject to the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), healthcare organizations regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), or any entity under the purview of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) should implement this policy to meet compliance obligations.

Acceptable Use Policy

An Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) is a set of rules that defines how computer systems can be used. AUPs are a crucial aspect of information security policies as they define user permissions with IT resources, including computers, networks, and data. The policy typically covers restrictions on accessing certain websites, the prohibition of illegal activities, guidelines for downloading software, and rules about confidentiality and handling sensitive information.

An AUP is the first defense against security breaches and legal issues. This policy informs users about their responsibilities and helps prevent system misuse that could lead to malware infections, data breaches, and leakage of sensitive information.

Clean Desk Policy

A Clean Desk Policy requires employees to keep workspaces tidy and free from sensitive information when not in use, particularly when they leave for an extended period or at the end of the day. Clean Desk Policies help prevent unauthorized access to sensitive information and mitigate the risk of data theft and privacy breaches.

Documents should be filed or securely disposed of, and digital information should be safeguarded by locking computer screens and logging off when desks are unattended. The requirement to maintain a clean desk may extend beyond the desktop to include whiteboards, notes, and removable storage devices.

Data Breach Response Policy

A Data Breach Response Policy outlines the protocols to be followed when a data breach is detected, ensuring a swift and structured response to mitigate the impact. These policies include procedures for breach notification, steps for containment and eradication of the breach, and strategies to prevent future incidents. The policy also assigns roles and responsibilities, ensuring all team members understand their tasks during a breach.

Data Breach Response Policies help businesses comply with regulations like GDPR and HIPAA, which mandate prompt notification and mitigation responses to data breaches.

Disaster Recovery Plan Policy

The Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP) Policy delineates a framework for restoring IT systems and operations after a disruptive incident. It is crucial for business continuity, reducing downtime, and mitigating financial loss. The policy outlines backup processes, recovery priorities, assigned roles, communication strategies, and regular testing protocols.

Organizations should maintain an up-to-date DRP to swiftly recover from cyberattacks or natural disasters. DRPs are essential to regularly update the plan to account for evolving threats and changing IT systems. Changes to the plan should be accompanied by staff training on new emergency procedures and drills to ensure the plan works as intended.

Personnel Security Policy

A Personnel Security Policy mitigates the risk of insider threats by outlining procedures for screening potential employees, defining access controls, and managing staff transitions such as transfers, departures, and terminations. These policies often mandate processes such as background checks, confidentiality agreements, and ongoing security awareness training to ensure that personnel know their roles in maintaining security.

Data Backup Policy

A Data Backup Policy dictates the frequency of backups, designated storage locations, and roles responsible for executing the backup process. This policy also includes procedures for verifying backup integrity and data restoration protocols.

Organizations handling sensitive data must implement a Data Backup Policy to ensure business continuity in the face of cyber-attacks, system failures, or natural disasters. Backup plans must be regularly updated and tested to address new threats and technology changes.

User Identification, Authentication, and Authorization Policy

This policy defines objectives, processes, and procedures for controlling user access to networks, computer systems, and data. A user identification, authentication, and authorization policy specifies protocols for assigning user IDs, authenticating credentials, and granting permissions. It is particularly critical for organizations handling sensitive data subject to regulatory compliance requirements, such as finance, healthcare, or government sectors.

Incident Response Policy

An Incident Response Policy aims to limit the impact and reduce the recovery costs of security incidents. This policy provides structured procedures for incident detection, planned responses, recovery processes, and team roles.

Effective response policies are cross-organizational and should involve IT, HR, legal, and PR teams. Staff training on the policy should be routine, with regular updates to address emerging threats and integrate insights from previous incidents.

End User Encryption Key Protection Policy

An End User Encryption Key Protection Policy defines how to handle every aspect of encryption key management, from creation to destruction and ensures that only authorized users can access keys. Leaked encryption keys can lead to data breaches and the subversion of data protection systems, rendering even the strongest encryption useless.

Risk Assessment Standards and Procedures

A Risk Assessment Standards and Procedures policy outlines the methodology by which a business identifies, evaluates, and measures the risk to its information assets. This policy typically outlines procedures for regular risk assessments to detect vulnerabilities and threats, organizational risk tolerances, and policies for ensuring that risk mitigation strategies are prioritized and implemented effectively.

Remote Access Policy

A Remote Access Policy delineates the rules and requirements for remotely accessing an organization’s network. As remote work has become more prevalent, businesses must take steps to ensure employees securely access and safeguard sensitive data. This policy typically mandates strong encryption, robust authentication, clear data usage guidelines, and software update rules for off-site access points.

Secure Systems Management Policy

A Secure Systems Management Policy sets standards for managing secure IT systems effectively. It sets a baseline for system configuration, patch management, asset inventory, and user access controls. The policy should detail the responsibilities of IT staff, specify requirements for system updates and patches, and describe procedures for responding to security incidents.

Monitoring and Logging Policy

A Monitoring and Logging Policy outlines the procedures and guidelines for monitoring system activities and logging security events. These policies aim to ensure all actions on the network and within secure systems are tracked, creating an audit trail that can be used to detect unauthorized access, system misuse, or data breaches.

Change Management Policy

A change management policy sets guidelines to help organizations plan, organize, lead, and execute changes effectively. This policy aims to ensure standardized methods and procedures are used for beneficial changes while minimizing disruptions. Key aspects include planning changes, communicating changes, training those impacted, and reviewing/improving the change process.

Information Security Policies Are Not the Finish Line

Now that you know 15 must-have information security policies, you should also know that policies are not the finish line. You also need to implement procedures and standards to give your employees tangible direction on how to follow information security policies – plus, developing procedures and standards are required for compliance with information security frameworks. It’s also not enough to just have written policies and procedures. You need to make sure every employee in your organization has a chance to read, understand, and acknowledge their your policies. That’s why it’s important to develop an Employee Handbook and require each employee to sign a Policy Acknowledgement. These steps help to ensure those 15 must-have information security policies are implemented well and further your information security goals.

How KirkpatrickPrice Can Help You Develop an Information Security Policy

When you engage in a gap analysis with KirkpatrickPrice, the auditor assigned to work with your organization determines if there are any gaps in your information security structure. Many times, we find organizations are missing policies that give structure to their information security plan. After completing a gap analysis, you can elect to have one of KirkpatrickPrice’s Professional Writers develop customized policies to help you meet your specific compliance requirements. Writing or adding to your information security policies based on your gap analysis results will aid in your remediation efforts.

We understand that making sure your policies and procedures are in place and working as they should be can feel overwhelming, but we are here to help. Have one of our experts review your information security policies so you can feel confident about your organization’s security posture.

If you’re looking to develop strong policies and procedures or have further questions about how you can partner with KirkpatrickPrice to meet your compliance goals, contact us so we can help you develop standards that fit your organization.

More Policy Resources

SOC 2 Academy: Expectations of Policies and Procedures

Quickstart to Information Security Policies for Startups

Auditor Insights: Policies and Procedures are Better Than Gold

About the Author

Tori Thurmond

Tori Thurmond has degrees in both professional and creative writing. She has over five years of copywriting experience and enjoys making difficult topics, like cybersecurity compliance, accessible to all. Since starting at KirkpatrickPrice in 2022, she's earned her CC certification from (ISC)2 which has aided her ability to contribute to the company culture of educating, empowering, and inspiring KirkpatrickPrice's clients and team members.