Like other business functions, securing your company's critical data and information is a top-down process.
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If senior leaders don't participate in the information security process, data and information security won't be taken seriously throughout the organization. Although it's tough to add one more thing to your to-do list, taking a hands-off approach to data security simply isn't an option.
The role of senior management in securing information can vary from one organization to the next. If your company is incorporated, the board of directors will need to play a major role in policy creation and the establishment of accountability mechanisms. If your organization is a nonprofit, board members will also play a role in information security. But for the average small business, responsibility for information security falls squarely on the shoulders of the CEO and other senior team members.
- Provide oversight & coordination. Security management is a top-down business function. Senior management is required to provide the oversight and coordination that is necessary for both the design and implementation of the organization's security strategy.
- Participate in risk assessments. Don't make the mistake of completely offloading risk assessment tasks to your IT department. The information that is gained during the risk assessment process determines the policies senior management will create later on.
- Collaborate on a formal strategy. Information security strategy development is a senior management function. But make sure you collaborate with key employees and other stakeholders in your organization before you set your strategy in stone.
- Establish policies & control mechanisms. The creation of information security policies and control mechanisms is often a board-level function. If you don't have a board, your senior leadership team should work collectively to create a comprehensive set of policies and procedures.
- Define responsibilities. Everyone in your organization has responsibility for protecting sensitive data and information. But specific responsibilities should be clearly defined to avoid confusion and eliminate the potential for security gaps.
- Maintain accountability. Your security strategy should identify how individuals will be held accountable for their security responsibilities. Owners can't handle accountability alone, so you'll need to designate levels of accountability throughout the organization.
- Determine an acceptable level of risk. At the end of the day, it's impossible to completely protect your company from security intrusion. At some point, senior leaders will need to identify an acceptable level of risk and adjust the security strategy accordingly.