A Guide to Writing an Effective Cybersecurity Policy

## Introduction

This guide is intended to help you write an effective cybersecurity policy for your organization. It is designed to be used in conjunction with the Best Practices for Cybersecurity Policies document.

## Overview

The purpose of this document is to provide you with a set of best practices for writing a cybersecurity policy. The policy should be a living document that is regularly reviewed and updated to reflect changes in your organization’s needs and the ever-changing landscape of cybersecurity threats. This document will help you ensure that your cybersecurity policy is written in a way that is clear, concise, and easy to understand. It will also help you avoid the common pitfall of writing a policy that is too long, wordy, and difficult to understand, which can result in the policy not being read, understood, or enforced.

### Definitions

Terms are used throughout this document to refer to different parts of the policy. These terms are defined below:

1. Compliance – A term that refers to the legal, regulatory, and contractual requirements that your organization must meet in order to be in compliance with the law. For example, if you are a financial institution, you may be required to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley, the Bank Secrecy Act, the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, and other laws and regulations that apply to financial institutions. If your organization is a healthcare provider, your compliance may be governed by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (ITECH), and other regulations that govern the use of electronic health records (EHRs). If you are an educational institution, compliance may include the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and the Student Privacy Protection and Enforcement Act (SPPEA), among others. If you own or operate a business, you might be subject to the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTCA), the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (ECOA), the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCP), and many other federal and state laws that govern consumer protection, debt collection, and financial services.

2. Audit – An audit is a process by which a third-party, such as an independent auditor or an internal audit team, reviews your policies and procedures to ensure that they are being followed and that they meet the requirements of the law, regulations, and contracts. An audit can be performed on a periodic basis, or it can be triggered in response to an incident or a complaint. Audits can also be performed at the request of regulators or other third parties, or they can be self-initiated by your organization to identify weaknesses in your policies, procedures, and systems. Auditing your cybersecurity policies is an important part of ensuring that you are meeting your compliance obligations, and it can help you identify areas where you may need to make changes to your policies or procedures to better protect your organization and its customers, patients, students, or other constituents.

3. Legal – The term “legal” refers to any law, regulation, or contract that applies to your organization or to the products or services that you offer. Examples of legal requirements include:

4. Laws that govern financial institutions, healthcare providers, educational institutions, and any other organization that offers financial services, healthcare, education, or any other product or service. Examples include the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Federal Credit Union Act (CUNA).

Laws that are specific to your industry or to your products and services. These may include laws that regulate the sale of alcohol, tobacco products, or firearms, as well as laws that apply specifically to the healthcare industry, the financial services industry, or the telecommunications industry.

5. Privacy – Privacy is the right of individuals to control what information about them is collected, used, and disclosed by others. This includes the right to control the collection, use, and disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII). PII is any information that can be used to identify, contact, or locate an individual, including a person’s name, address, telephone number, email address, social security number, date of birth, driver’s license or other government-issued identification number, medical or health insurance information, financial information, or biometric information (e.g., fingerprints, retina scans, voice prints, or facial images).

Privacy is also a term that is used to describe the collection and use of data that does not identify a specific individual, but that can nonetheless be linked to that individual. For instance, your organization may collect and use data that is not personally identifiable, but it may be possible for that data to be associated with you or your organization, or to link you to other information that is personally identifiable.

6. Security – Security is the process of protecting data and information from unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration, or destruction. It is important to note that security is not the same as confidentiality. Confidentiality is the ability of an organization to keep information from being disclosed to unauthorized individuals or entities. Security is a broader term that includes both confidentiality and physical security.