7 Things That You Should Be Considering Today For Your Security Governance Program

Managing Partner, CISO

In our last article, we discussed Governance, Risk, and Compliance very generally and addressed some of their benefits. Today, we will discuss some things you should consider about your governance functions.

What is Governance?

Security Governance is a framework through which your organization sets and achieves its security objectives, establishes decision-making authority, and implements mechanisms to oversee the effectiveness of its security strategy.

Governance incorporates the policies, procedures, and guidelines that guide managing and protecting information and technology assets and capabilities, ensuring they align with the organization’s business goals and risk tolerance. Security governance is strategic, focusing on leadership, organizational structures, and the culture needed to foster a secure and resilient environment. It sets guiding principles and a direction for managing security across the enterprise.

Governance and compliance are often confused but differ in scope and focus. Security governance is internally driven and aligns security practices with the organization’s objectives and risk management strategies. Compliance is externally driven and focuses on meeting requirements imposed by outside entities to prove that the organization meets specific security benchmarks.

Some Things to Consider

What we discuss below is not a comprehensive list; however, we often need to address these vital areas with our clients as they set up their governance programs. It can be argued, likely effectively, that some of these points below fall additionally into compliance or risk; as we stated in our previous post, the relationships here are intertwined and often inseparable.

  1. Ensure Board and Senior Level Support: Executive and board-level support ensures that cybersecurity is prioritized across the organization and aligns with strategic objectives. High-level backing provides the necessary resources to develop and maintain robust security measures, including funding and staffing. Moreover, executive support helps swiftly respond to security incidents with a coordinated effort, minimizing potential damage.
  2. Define Roles and Responsibilities: The importance of clearly defining and communicating roles and responsibilities related to information security within the organization, which ensures accountability and effective governance, cannot be overstated.
    Roles should be formally documented in standard business formats and clear, simple language. Formal documents include job descriptions, RACI diagrams, and organizational security charts.
  3. Develop and Adopt Comprehensive Security Policies: Create and maintain clear, comprehensive security policies that define organizational security standards, procedures, and expectations. Policies are often overlooked in small and medium enterprises as inconsequential or inhibitors of the agile movement or tribal knowledge operating modes of the organization. This cannot be further from the truth. The guardrails and guidance provided by strong, clear, concise policies allow your organization to move faster, with standardized guidance, in a more secure manner.
  4. Adopt a Security Governance Framework: Adopt a security governance framework that aligns with the organization’s business objectives and risk tolerance, such as the Center for Internet Security (CIS), the International Standards Organization (ISO) 27001, or the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework.
    Adopting a security framework provides a structured and tested approach to managing cybersecurity risks. These frameworks offer best practices, guidelines, and security controls designed to protect against a wide range of cyber threats. Adopting such frameworks facilitates a common language for cybersecurity across the organization and with external partners, enhancing collaboration and understanding. It also helps in prioritizing security investments.
  5. Implement a Security Awareness and Training Program: Develop a program to regularly train employees on security policies, emerging threats, and safe practices to foster a
    culture of security awareness.
    Many security breaches come from successful phishing attacks and user misuse. Educating your employees on the acceptable use of information assets, as defined by policy, and about the risk introduced by malicious third-party actors is critical to promoting a security culture.
  6. Monitor and Review Security Controls and Policies: Regularly review and monitor the effectiveness of security controls and policies to adapt to new threats, technologies, and business changes.
  7. Engage in Regular and Formal Strategic Security Planning: Strategic planning sessions align security initiatives with long-term business goals, ensuring that security governance evolves with the organization.
    Document and review previously documented plans for applicability and progress. Do not be afraid to alter and reprioritize your strategy to fit current conditions, capabilities, and budgets.

Establishing an effective security governance program involves several critical considerations, such as executive support, defining roles and responsibilities, developing comprehensive security policies, adopting a security governance framework, implementing a security awareness and training program, and regularly monitoring and reviewing security controls and policies. Organizations can prioritize these considerations by aligning their security practices with business objectives and risk tolerance, ensuring a robust and effective security strategy.

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