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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

ISO 17799: Scope and implementation – Part 1 Security Policy.

By Gregory Yhan,, CISSP

As information security become increasingly important to the continue success for businesses,
many are seeking an appropriate security framework. The ISO 17799 standard is widely
becoming the choice for many. While this standard provides only a high-level description for
implementing and maintaining information security, it should be a starting point for any
organization trying to implement a comprehensive information security strategy. This is the first
article in a series of eleven devoted to reviewing this ISO 17799 standard. In part one, the
following information will be addressed. First, an overview of what the standard is and how it
should be used. Second, it will review the structure of the standard; this is vital for any successful
analysis. Last, it will examine the Security policy control clause, as outlined by the standard.
Subsequent articles will continue reviewing the other ten security control clauses mentioned in
the standard.

ISO 17799: What is it?
According to the ISO, the ISO 17779 ‘establishes guidelines and general principles for initiating,
implementing, maintaining and improving information security management in an organization.’
As mentioned, the standard simply offer guidelines, it does not contain indebt information on how
information security should be implemented and maintained.

The security controls, the means of managing risk, mentioned in this standard should not all be
implemented. The appropriate controls should be selected after an in dept risk assessment has
been completed. Only then should controls be selected to meet the specific needs of the
organization. Each organization is unique; therefore each will face different threats and
vulnerabilities. It is also important to understand that the controls mentioned in the standard are
not organized or prioritized according to any specific criteria. Each control should be given equal
importance and considered at the systems and projects requirements specification and design
stage. Failure to do this will result in less cost effective measures or even failure in achieving
adequate security.

The last point that should be highlighted about the standard is the ISO warning that no set of
controls will achieve complete security. The ISO encourages additional intervention from
management to monitor, evaluate and improve the effectiveness of security controls to support
the business objectives of the organization.

Security Policy
The Security Policy control clause is the first of eleven clauses that will be reviewed. As
mentioned earlier, the ISO 17799 is not a catalogue of indebt security procedures. The sole
objective of the security policy control clause, according to the standard, is to provide
management with direction and support for information security implementation. In essence it
demonstrates management commitment to security and provides high-level rules for protecting

The ‘main security category’ within the Security Policy clause is ‘Information security policy.’
This category has two controls listed, Information security policy document and Review of the
information security document (Figure 1). There are many resources available on how to
formulate security policies. The ISO 17799 offers a strong foundation on which to start.

Information security policy document: Control 1
The security policy document should be approved by management and communicated to all
employees and relevant external parties.
The ISO 17799 offers the following implementation guidelines on what a policy document should
a) a definition of information security, its scope and objectives
b) a statement of management’s support for security in conjunction with business objectives
c) a framework for setting control objectives and controls
d) an explanation of policies, principles, standards and compliance requirements:
e.g. legislative requirements, security education requirements, consequences of security
policy violations
e) references to documentation supporting the policy
The information security policy may be apart of a general policy document; however if distributed
outside the organization, care should be taken not to disclose sensitive information.
The second main security category within the Security Policy control clause is ‘Review of the
information security policy.

Review of the information security policy: Control 2
This control requires a review of security policy at ‘planned intervals’ or if ‘significant’ changes
occur, to ensure suitability and effectiveness.
According to the implementation guidelines for this control, the following should be implemented:
a) a policy should have an owner
b) the management approved owner is responsible for the development, review, and
evaluation of security policy
c) a review should consider opportunities for improvement
A review of the security policy should consider results from management reviews. Management
reviews should also be scheduled and contain inputs from sources such as:
a) feedback from interested parties
b) feedback from independent reviews
c) trends related to threats and vulnerabilities
d) reported security incidents
e) recommendations provided by relevant authorities
Outputs from management reviews should include:
a) improvement to the organization’s approach to managing information security
b) improving control objectives
c) improving available resources/responsibilities
Any revision to the policy should obtain management approval.

The ISO 17799 is widely becoming a framework for many organizations seeking to implement a
comprehensive information security framework. This article reviewed one of eleven control
clauses. A Security Policy provides management with direction and support for information
security. They Security Policy clause has one ‘main security category’, followed by two controls.
The security policy document should be approved by management and communicated to all
employees. Lastly, there should be a planned review of the policy.


Compliance Advisor said...

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forfin said...

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JohnSmith said...

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