As we introduced in part 1 of this “word crimes” series, cybersecurity terminology is important. Cybersecurity, IT professionals and legal professionals routinely abuse the terms “policy” and “standard” as if these words were synonymous.

In reality, these terms have quite different implications, and those differences should be kept in mind since the use of improper terminology has cascading effects that can negatively impact the internal controls of an organization.

con·trol /kǝn’trōl/ – According to ISACA, “internal controls” include the policies, standards, procedures and other organizational structures that are designed to provide reasonable assurance that business objectives will be achieved and undesired events will be prevented, detected and corrected.[1] Essentially, governance over these controls is the power to influence or direct people’s behavior or the course of events.

Why Should You Care?

Governance is built on words. Beyond just using terminology properly, understanding the meaning of these concepts is crucial in being able to properly implement cybersecurity and privacy governance within an organization. An indicator of a well-run governance program is the implementation of hierarchical documentation since it involves bringing together the right individuals to provide appropriate direction based on the scope of their job function.

To help visualize that concept, imagine the board of directors of your organization publishing procedural process guidance for how a security analyst performs daily log review activities. Most would agree that such a scenario is absurd since the board of directors should be focused on the strategic direction of the company and not day-to-day procedures.

However, in many organizations, the inverse occurs where the task of publishing the entire range of cybersecurity documentation is delegated down to individuals who might be competent technicians but do not have insights into the strategic direction of the organization. This is where the concept of hierarchical documentation is (Read more...)