Tuesday, 16 December 2008 07:55

Repetition the key to risk and compliance success

Research findings that employees remain the most likely cause of IT security breaches is a strong indication that repeated exposure to IT security policy – and closing off options for policy ignorance – is key to maximising compliance, says policy management company PolicyPoint.

The overwhelming majority – some 86 percent - of IT executives surveyed by YouGov in September 2008 thought that employees breach IT security policy for reasons including staff “… ignoring, not being made aware of or not being sufficiently trained on security policies, as well as making mistakes or committing industrial espionage.”[1]

“While IT executives have known for years that most breaches probably originate from inside the firewall, too few businesses effectively address the ignorance that underlies these security breaches,” comments Andrew Stein, Director of PolicyPoint.

“There are many reasons - from staff turnover to irregular working arrangements – that explain why employees aren’t sufficiently aware of the business’ IT security policies.

“But each of these reasons highlights the central fact that just putting your IT security policy and procedures on the intranet is not enough.

“There is only one way to ensure staff compliance: that is, by implementing a program by which staff actually review and understand your policies and procedures, and by repeating policy education at regular intervals,” he adds.

PolicyPoint’s management platform – which allocates and manages each employee’s individual policy, procedures and online training program – is used by Government departments and local councils, as well as blue-chip corporations in financial services, manufacturing and heavy industry.

Drawing on this experience, Mr Stein says that the most effective IT security compliance program includes the following elements:

1.  Creating ‘plain English’ policies and procedures that clearly outline which behaviours are required (as well as behaviours that are specifically prohibited). These policies need to clearly articulate who employees should report breaches to, or contact for further information/clarification.

2.  Ensuring these policies and procedures are easily accessed and alert all users to their location – and, importantly, emphasise the requirement that employees read and understand them.

3.  Ensuring users actually know the policies and procedures (rather than just knowing they exist).  Because many may miss the email about your IT security policies and procedures – or put off the task of reviewing them - business needs the assurance of knowing that staff are fulfilling their requirements. This can be achieved by nagging each staff member, individually and repeatedly, or by automating the process with the PolicyPoint platform that distributes the policies and procedures and follows up to ensure (and track) successful knowledge transfer.

4.  Repeating policy and procedures reviews as often as is required (at least twice a year) to ensure the information remains top-of-mind for IT users.  

“While information is, increasingly, the business’ lifeblood, today’s extended enterprise means that sensitive data is open to more people – and therefore, greater risk – than ever,” comments Mr Stein.

“With this in mind, it is more important than ever to ensure that IT users understand exactly how they need to protect the information. Knowledge really is the key to compliance – and repetition is the key to ensuring that this knowledge remains fresh,” he concludes.  

- ends –
[1]”Human error is the No 1 IT security issue for UK IT directors”; Media release dated 1.12.08 retried Dec ’08 from www.clavister.com

About PolicyPoint
PolicyPoint Pty Ltd is an Australian-based developer of a business service that ensures comprehension of vital organisational policies and procedures. It is a proven, Web-based compliance education system, developed in conjunction with a major international services firm over four years in actual operating conditions.
PolicyPoint focuses in legal, financial, manufacturing and government, where its services are used extensively in leading organisations in Australia and New Zealand.  For further information, visit us at www.policypoint.com
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