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Identifying linkages between statements in information security policy, procedures and controls

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Purpose ‐ The information security policy document of an organization needs to be translated into controls and procedures at the implementation level. The technical and business personnel in-charge of implementing the controls and procedures need to consider a large number of security-related statements from a heterogeneous pool of security documentation and decide on the implementation plan. The purpose of this paper is to propose an approach to analyze a set of security statements to establish an implicit hierarchy and relative importance among them. Design/methodology/approach ‐ A set of statements relevant to e-mail service security is chosen from the classified documentation of an IT firm. The authors contacted the technical person who was the owner of this service to obtain a one-on-one comparison between the policies. These policies and their inter-relationships are represented as a graph. Centrality measures based on the in and out degrees of a node are used to calculate the relative importance of a policy. The authors present an improved approach based on DEMATEL, which considers the level of influence of one policy on another. Findings ‐ Security statements fall into different categories based on their relative intensity and nature. They could be of high importance or low on one axis and of driving or receiving nature on the other. The driver policies are the action items that could be implemented to satisfy a large number of other security requirements. The policies that are predominantly receiver in nature, for their fulfillment, need many other requirements to be satisfied. Practical implications ‐ The intense driver policies are the ones to be considered for immediate implementation so as to achieve maximum benefits. If such an action item cannot be implemented at the level of consideration, it needs to be communicated to the appropriate level where it could be addressed effectively. An orphaned policy statement can indicate to a high-level requirement left without any action plan or an unnecessary control. Establishing clear linkages between the implemented controls and the organization's security policy document could be very effective in convincing the employees to adhere to security practices. Originality/value ‐ Analyzing a set of informal security statements to identify the linkages between them is a novel idea. While other works establish the need for translating the security policy to lower levels of implementation, the authors propose an approach to identify the existence or absence of an effective translation. The graph representation with associated centrality measures, and the application of DEMATEL technique to deduce the nature and intensity of security statements are not yet found in literature.
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Keywords: Data security; Decision making trial and evaluation technique; Degree centrality; Information management; Information security management; Information security policy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2012-10-05

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