Written Information Security Program (WISP)

of businesses are closed 6 mos. after a data breach
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of attacks are delivered through email
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of businesses have cyber liability coverage
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DIY Cybersecurity: Written Information Security Program

While cyber threats continue to evolve and proliferate targeting small businesses like yours, protecting your business’s sensitive information has become more critical than ever. One of the key foundations of an effective cybersecurity strategy is the development and implementation of a Written Information Security Program (WISP). A WISP serves as a comprehensive framework that outlines your organization’s approach to safeguarding its information assets, ensuring regulatory compliance, and mitigating cyber liability risks.

At Centurion SecOps, we understand the importance of prioritizing a WISP for our clients. During the onboarding phase, we collaborate closely with businesses to build a robust WISP that aligns with their specific needs and security objectives. In this article, we will delve into the components of a WISP, providing detailed insights and practical steps to guide you in building a strong foundation for your organization’s cybersecurity posture.

Importance of a WISP in Cybersecurity

A WISP plays a pivotal role in fortifying your business’s cybersecurity and offers several key benefits:

  1. Protecting Information Assets: A WISP helps safeguard your organization’s critical information assets, such as customer data, intellectual property, financial records, and trade secrets, from cyber threats. By implementing security measures outlined in your WISP, you can mitigate the risk of data breaches, financial loss, and reputational damage.
  2. Ensuring Regulatory Compliance: Compliance with industry-specific regulations, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), or Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), is vital. A comprehensive WISP ensures your business adheres to these regulations, avoiding penalties and maintaining trust with customers, partners, and regulatory bodies.
  3. Cyber Liability Insurance Compliance: Many cyber liability insurance providers require businesses to have a robust WISP in place as part of the underwriting process. By demonstrating your commitment to information security through a well-structured WISP, you not only comply with insurance requirements but also enhance your organization’s risk management capabilities.

Building Your WISP

Components of a WISP: Building a comprehensive WISP involves several crucial components.

  1. Management Support and Commitment
    • Develop a management statement that highlights the significance of cybersecurity and sets a clear tone from the top.
    • Ensure management’s active involvement in the planning, implementation, and maintenance of the WISP.
  2. Information Asset Inventory and Classification
    • Conduct a thorough inventory of your organization’s information assets, including data systems, hardware, software, and third-party systems.
    • Classify the assets based on criticality, sensitivity, and confidentiality levels.
  3. Risk Assessment and Management
    • Perform a comprehensive risk assessment to identify potential threats, vulnerabilities, and impacts on information assets.
    • Evaluate the likelihood and potential impact of each risk and develop strategies to mitigate them.
  4. Policies and Procedures Development
    • Create robust policies and procedures that address various aspects of information security, including access control, data handling, incident response, and employee awareness.
    • Ensure the policies align with industry best practices, regulatory requirements, and the specific needs of your organization.
  5. Security Awareness Training
    • Design and implement a comprehensive security awareness training program to educate employees on cybersecurity best practices.
    • Cover topics such as password security, phishing awareness, safe browsing habits, and incident reporting procedures.
  6. Incident Response Planning
    • Develop an incident response plan that outlines procedures for detecting, responding to, and recovering from cybersecurity incidents.
    • Define roles and responsibilities, establish communication channels, and conduct regular drills to test and improve the effectiveness of the plan.
  7. Security Monitoring and Auditing
    • Implement continuous security monitoring tools and techniques to identify and respond to potential security breaches promptly.
    • Conduct regular internal and external audits to assess the effectiveness of security controls and ensure compliance with the WISP.

Building Your WISP: Now that we’ve explored the components of a WISP, let’s outline the steps to build a comprehensive program.

  1. Assess Your Organization’s Information Security Needs
    • Understand your organization’s unique requirements, industry-specific regulations, and cybersecurity goals.
    • Identify the scope of the WISP, including the systems, networks, and information assets it will cover.
  2. Formulate a Project Team
    • Assemble a cross-functional team comprising individuals with expertise in cybersecurity, IT, legal, compliance, and management.
    • Ensure that the team has sufficient authority, resources, and support from upper management.
  3. Gather Information and Conduct Risk Assessments
    • Perform a thorough inventory and assessment of your organization’s information assets, vulnerabilities, and potential risks.
    • Engage external consultants if necessary to conduct a comprehensive risk assessment.
  4. Develop Policies and Procedures
    • Based on the risk assessment findings, create policies and procedures that address identified vulnerabilities and risks.
    • Ensure policies are communicated clearly, understood by employees, and regularly reviewed and updated.
  5. Implement Security Awareness Training
    • Design and deliver comprehensive security awareness training programs for all employees.
    • Utilize a combination of methods such as e-learning modules, workshops, and periodic reminders to reinforce best practices.
  6. Establish Incident Response Capabilities
    • Develop an incident response plan that outlines the steps to be taken in the event of a cybersecurity incident.
    • Define roles and responsibilities, establish communication channels, and conduct regular drills to test the effectiveness of the plan.
  7. Monitor and Audit Security Controls
    • Implement tools and processes for continuous monitoring and auditing of security controls.
    • Regularly review and update the WISP based on emerging threats, regulatory changes, and lessons learned from security incidents.

Free Resources from NIST

With the increasing level of cyberthreats for small businesses throughout the world and the United States, there are many helpful (and FREE) resources to be found online which can be used by business owners and managers to have a good jumping off point. NIST.gov is a great website with lots of resources geared specifically toward small businesses such as:

The “Cyber Workbook” for small businesses to assist in planning and documentation.

Download the Cyber Workbook by Clicking HERE

Another tool our Centurion SecOps team utilizes to build our clients’ WISP is the “NIST Cybersecurity Framework” complete with policy templates and organizational structure. Downloading this tool and going through the framework one policy at a time is a great way to ensure that your WISP is accurate and complete!

Download the NIST Cybersecurity Framework by Clicking HERE 

Building a comprehensive Written Information Security Program (WISP) is a crucial step in fortifying your organization’s cybersecurity posture, ensuring regulatory compliance, and mitigating cyber liability risks. By understanding the importance of a WISP, its key components, and following the steps outlined in this article, you can develop a robust framework tailored to your organization’s specific needs. Remember, at Centurion SecOps, we prioritize the development of a WISP for our clients, as it forms the foundation of a strong cybersecurity strategy. Invest in your organization’s security today and safeguard your valuable information assets from evolving cyber threats.

Our hope is that you will use these resources to improve your cybersecurity posture. Remember, we’re always here to help.

By Derreck Ogden, CEO

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