Effective storage security policies

What you will learn from this tip: We always hear about the importance of security policies, but just how they relate to storage security can be a bit unclear. In this tip, information security expert Kevin Beaver outlines essential policy creation processes along with specific policies you'll likely need in order to ensure storage security is not kept out of the loop or overlooked altogether.

There are a lot of sample information security policies floating around the Internet. If you know which policies you need, you can even purchase policy templates if you're willing to spend the money. So, what does it mean and what does it take to have a practical set of storage security policies that can work for you in the real world?

For starters, you need to perform a formal risk analysis on your storage systems. This can be done internally or part of a larger information risk assessment performed by an outside expert. If you take this project on yourself, be sure to lean on existing methodologies instead of re-inventing the wheel. The bottom line is that you've got to know which risks are present in your storage systems and which ones would have the greatest impact and likelihood of occurrence before you can implement the appropriate policies and supporting controls.

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Once you determine which risks are present (and there will certainly be some), you can create policies to help with mitigation and control. The policies that you create can be storage-specific or apply across the board in your organization. In other words, you may have one or more policies that only apply to your storage systems or you can integrate your requirements into higher level security policies that apply to your entire organization. The latter is the preferred method since it's higher-level and can integrate well with other security policies. However, if your organization's size, business needs, etc., require that the policies be very specific to certain storage systems, that's okay. Whatever works best for you and your organization is what you need.

In order to stay organized and keep things simple, you'll need to have a standard security policy template. This will make policy creation and maintenance so much simpler in the long-term than simply bundling everything into one large and unorganized document. The security template located here works well for all security policies.

Now it's time to create your actual policies. Remember -- create policies based on risks discovered and business needs. However, the following policies should be on your radar as they all relate to storage security in one way or another:

  • Access controls -- admin rights, file/share permissions, cryptographic controls, zoning configurations, etc.
  • Asset management -- system/data inventory, ownership, acceptable use, etc.
  • Authentication controls -- applications, operating systems, databases, storage, etc.
  • Business associates -- external contractors, offsite storage companies, contract provisions, etc.
  • Business continuity -- disaster recovery and/or business continuity plan requirements
  • Change management -- why, when, who, testing requirements, backout procedures, etc.
  • Data backup -- what, when, methods used, etc.
  • Data retention -- what, why, how long, etc.
  • Information classification -- public, internal, confidential, labeling requirements, etc.
  • Physical security -- building, data center, servers, storage appliances, etc.
  • Removal of property -- servers, storage appliances, drives, tapes, etc.
  • Security testing and audits -- what, how, when, who will perform testing, etc.
  • Separation of duties -- users, system administrators, security auditors, etc.
  • System maintenance -- patching, system purging, cleanups, etc.
  • System monitoring and incident response -- real-time monitoring, audit logs, incident response plan requirements, etc.
  • User authorization -- granting access -- who, what, when, how long, etc.

Once your policies are documented and implemented, don't let all of your diligent efforts be in vain. Work with management, and ideally an organization-wide security or IT governance committee, to make sure these policies are approved, well-accepted, properly maintained and, most importantly, actually enforced.

For more information:

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About the author: Kevin Beaver is an independent information security consultant, author and speaker with Atlanta-based Principle Logic, LLC. He has more than 18 years of experience in IT and specializes in performing information security assessments. Kevin has written five books including Hacking For Dummies (Wiley), Hacking Wireless Networks For Dummies, and The Practical Guide to HIPAA Privacy and Security Compliance (Auerbach). He can be reached at kbeaver@principlelogic.com.

This was first published in December 2005

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