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How Often Should You Review Your Policies and Procedures?

When was the last time your organization reviewed its information security policies and procedures? Although many individuals tend to view these policies and procedures as inflexible and unchanging, they should actually be living, breathing documents that evolve and change as your company grows, or new technologies are implemented, or new threats are detected, or your industry implements new regulations.

Information security policies and procedures work to ensure that your organization is protecting its data effectively. Without reviewing your company’s policies, it's impossible to tell if they’re working to minimize the risk of breaches, identify potential threats, spot suspicious activity, and offer a plan of action if something does happen.

A thorough IT security policy is a battle plan that guides your organization. So, to make sure it stays that way how often should you review your information security policies and procedures?

Review Your Policies and Procedures Annually  

With so many tasks on your plate every day, it’s easy to overlook a policy review. However, it’s important to schedule a review in your calendar annually.

Once a year you should look to strengthen your company’s information security policy design and analyze its effectiveness. By taking the time to review your security policy and procedures you’ll help ensure your business’ security measures are working when needed and are consistent with industry best practices.  

For high-risk industries such as healthcare, public safety, and financial services it might even be wise to review your organization’s policies and procedures twice a year.Want more tips like these in your inbox? Subscribe here to get notified when  we share valuable cybersecurity tips and news.

Review Your Policies When There Are Major Changes

Your company’s policies and procedures should be reviewed at least once a year but when new business requirements come into place, don’t wait until the scheduled policy review.

Changes can include:

After all, the security policy and procedures are there to minimize risk. If you wait too long to update your policy with new regulatory changes, new laws, or the use of new technologies you’re defeating the purpose of the policies and procedures. Typically, policies will need to be changed much less frequently than procedures. Policies are at a higher level, while procedures may need to be changed if you change a software tool, or with other relatively small changes. Major changes such as new regulations or new management may necessitate a change at the policy level as well.

For example, when USB sticks started to become mainstream, many businesses waited years before updating their policies on how to properly use USB sticks within their enterprise. By failing to review and update their policies and procedures, many companies exposed themselves to an increased risk of data loss. Now, with the growth of IoT technology, organizations need to ensure their policies and procedures reflect the risks these devices impose.

Reviewing and revising these policies are a vital part of managing your business effectively and ensuring everything aligns with your organization's mission, vision, and values.

Don’t Wait for an Incident to Occur

Did you know the average cost of a security breach in 2018 was $3.86 million?

What’s more, 46% of IT security incidents are caused by uninformed or careless employees.

A regular review can go a long way in preventing security breaches at the end-user level by keeping your employees up to date on safe business practices - and it can save your company a lot of money in the long run.

Identify Policies and Procedures that Need Updating

Reviewing your policies annually will help employees make sound decisions in the face of risk. However, if an incident does take place, make sure to debrief with your team to determine whether your policy had its intended effect.

Analyze the details of the event to see if procedures were performed correctly and make sure there were no gaps in training or your employee’s understanding of the policy. This will help you figure out where changes to the policy in question need to be made. Of course, you might not have to revamp the entire policy due to one violation. Sometimes it’s an isolated incident, that only needs additional training or remediation for those involved.

However, if you see more than one incident in the same area, this is a sure sign that your policy or procedures need to be reviewed and revised. Often, multiple incidents mean that your policy is outdated, confusing, or requires additional training.

Policy Reviews Don’t Have to be as Intimidating as They Sound

Although you should review your policies and procedures at least once a year, this doesn’t mean you’ll need to make significant changes every year. Sometimes you might be required to address a new law or regulation but other times just a few small tweaks might be all that is needed.

When conducting a review it’s important to ask questions about your organization's policy and procedures:

  • Is the policy outdated?
  • Are the procedures hard to follow?
  • Have you begun using new technologies or processes that are not yet written into your procedures?
  • Does proper implementation of the policy and procedures require more employee training?

Don’t forget to ask for employee feedback to help figure out what else can be done to ensure that policies and procedures are followed, or if any wording needs to be improved..

Your organization's information security policies play a vital role in protecting your company from financial, reputational, and data losses. By making the necessary updates to the information security policies at least once a year your business will stay ahead of potential threats, minimize risk, and better comply with all laws and regulations.  

A little bit of work can go a long way in keeping your company ahead of the curve when it comes to information security policies and procedures.nist guide assess cybersecurity risk

Anirudh Nadkarni
Anirudh Nadkarni

Anirudh Nadkarni holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in History from the University of Florida. As a Senior Security Analyst at 24By7 Security, Inc., his main focus in on compliance. Anirudh’s role includes performing on-site Security Risk Assessments, assisting in the development of Privacy and Security Policies & Procedures, and conducting HIPAA training for healthcare providers and their staff. Anirudh is certified as a Health Care Information Security and Privacy Practitioner (HCISPP) from ISC2, HITRUST Certified CSF Practitioner (CCSFP) and as a Certified Data Privacy Professional (CDPP) from Network Intelligence. Sign up for the 24By7Security blog and follow Anirudh’s musings.

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