To understand information security governance, it’s important to understand the difference between governance and management.

Management is day-to-day decision making about business processes and operations. It’s the nuts and bolts of running a business unit, implementing policies, and making sure that everyone has the tools needed to do their jobs. Information security management is the running of backups, monitoring of cloud computing services, and the checking of firewalls; it’s the majority of the everyday work of your IT department.

Governance is the set of broad principles and values that guide the way you manage your organization. It is about the vision, mission and values of your business. Corporate governance is the soul of your business; it keeps everyone on track and helps you reach your goals.

In this piece we take a look at information security governance: the principles and vision that guide the process by which you create an effective information security system.

Information security governance plays an important role in the business world today, because it allows you to show potential business partners that you have an actual governance structure and process that guides your information security decisions and incident responses. You are running a tight ship, and not leaving anything up to chance.

That quality makes a business more attractive to its customer base, and gives you a competitive advantage over rivals that don’t apply good governance to their IT security needs.

The Five Goals of Information Security Governance

  1. Provide IT governance and organizational structure that constantly works to improve data protection. Information security management includes risk management, which we can define as the practice of identifying poor practices for handling information that should be avoided, and also having a plan for how to mitigate security incidents and handle new or unexpected information security risks.
  2. Protect business investments by securing business continuity in case of security breaches or other cybersecurity events. Protect the value of your business and its reputation.
  3. Monitor staff and define security measures to assure business needs have the highest priority. Compile metrics and make sure your security practices are easy to understand and apply, no matter where in the business they are needed. Remember: any security control is only as good as the metrics you collect from it.
  4. Make sure your business stays in compliance with regulatory requirements and other standards. Here are some commonly used information security governance frameworks that will help you stay in compliance; pick the one that applies to your business:
    • National Institute for Security and Technology (NIST) publication 800-53
    • International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27001
    • Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT)
    • Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)
    • Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS)
  5. Protect and communicate your information security standards both internally to staff and externally to potential business partners. It’s important that all stakeholders are involved in the governance process, from boards of directors through executive management and on to each individual staffer.

How to Implement Information Security Governance

Information security governance is the purview of an organization’s board of directors and executive management, foremost the chief information security officer (CISO) who’s in charge of implementing the governance strategy.

If you’re uncertain how to go about structuring your governance system, you can get help from IT Governance Institute — a branch of ISACA (previously known as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association).

Information security governance is part of cybersecurity and IT governance, and it addresses typical IT security issues such as data breaches, security policies, and mitigation of security incidents.

It’s natural to begin implementation in the IT and cybersecurity departments, but it’s crucial that you go beyond those departments to encompass your entire business enterprise. Every stakeholder should be informed and included in shaping security policies as they are being developed.

How Information Security Governance Works

As you grow and shape your information security governance program, senior management and staff should work together to identify information assets and security risks related to your information technology systems. That perspective then lets management set the strategic direction for implementing the governance system.

Those conversations increase security awareness across the enterprise, and help to create an information security strategy that aligns with your business objectives. But all this effort is worth little if you don’t also put in place a method to collect feedback on the information security program — to understand which practices do or don’t work well, and to apprehend new risks as those threats emerge. Getting everyone involved has to become part of your business strategy.

A strong information security governance strategy will help create an information security policy that will shine a light on cybersecurity issues, and help you develop measures that will improve overall organizational security awareness.

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