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Information Security Program Lifecycle: 6 Steps Overview

September 28, 2022

When it comes to IT and project management, information follows a lifecycle model for safety and efficiency measures.

What does this mean, exactly?

Essentially, life cycle programs provide a lot of valuable information as well as practical steps to ensure progress is being made.

In other words, the cycle follows the steps required for project managers and other professionals to successfully manage an information security project from start to finish

Traditionally, the information security program lifecycle steps are as follows:

  • Identify.
  • Assess.
  • Design.
  • Implement.
  • Protect.
  • Monitor.

What do those steps include and what does this look like in practice?

Below, we’ll break down the information security program lifecycle steps, and how your security team can benefit from this. 

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • What Is Information Security Lifecycle And How Does It Work?
  • 6 Information Security Program Lifecycle Steps You Need to Know About

What Is Information Security Lifecycle And How Does It Work?

In order to understand what is information security lifecycle, we first need to understand what’s information security.

Information security, often termed InfoSec, is the process of identifying, controlling, and protecting sensitive business information through different online and offline processes and tools.

Information security lifecycle, meanwhile, is the process of securing sensitive business information from being exploited or stolen by unauthorized sources through a series of steps or activities.

Let’s break this down a bit more.

What is the foundation of an information security lifecycle?

The definition of information security lifecycle seems quite simple, however, it isn’t as straightforward. 

Before establishing a clear lifecycle you need to lay its foundation, which is the security policy and standards. 

You may consider security policy and standards as a “Step 0” in the information security program lifecycle. It is essential for ensuring that all the stages of your security program have the best composition and outcomes.

You’ll specifically need policy and standards for the Access and the Protect steps, which will be further discussed below. You need it as a basis and for comparison of your current security systems assessment. In the Protect stage, you’ll need them to identify what’s more crucial and what can be assigned less effort. 

Read on for a more detailed overview of the security lifecycle program steps below.

Information security lifecycle vs cyber security

Whenever the word information security or information security lifecycle comes into play, people confuse it with cyber security. Given that in today’s world most of our information is digital, it’s understandable why this confusion exists.

So, what’s the difference between information security lifecycle and cybersecurity?

Information security lifecycle is the process of safeguarding sensitive business information from getting into the wrong hands. This could be in any form or medium, for instance, digital or hardcopy. 

On the other hand, cyber security is only concerned with the safety of computer systems and the data, software, and applications within. 

Simply put, the information security lifecycle is the process of protecting information in all forms, whereas, cyber security is only concerned with digital data. 

Now, let’s cover the actual information security 

6 Information Security Program Lifecycle Steps You Need to Know About

There are 6 essential steps involved in the Information Security Program Lifecycle. 

The steps are as follows:

  1. Identify.
  2. Assess.
  3. Design.
  4. Implement.
  5. Protect.
  6. Monitor.

Now, let’s take a look at what these steps mean in practice.

Identify

The first step in the information security program lifecycle is the identification of the types of information and data that needs to be secured. After all, unless you know what type of data or information you’re handling, you can’t protect it. 

So, first, you’ll want to understand your company’s network infrastructure. Start by identifying the number of servers, which server is responsible for what type of software, and sensitive information.

The major queries that you should look out for are:

  • How many hardware devices are there? These involve servers, routers, and switches.
  • Which operating system is used on your server? Is it Windows, Linux, or UNIX?
  • What applications or software are run by your server?
  • What are the most crucial information and data of your company?
  • Which assets are prioritised the most?
  • What sort of cyber security protocols are in place on your applications and software?
  • Have you restricted unauthorized access to your data center and server room?
  • Is there a firewall or any other cyber protection in place on your system?

The best way to assess and answer these questions is by having an IT audit team either permanently or on a contractual basis. 

They will thoroughly analyze your ICT infrastructure, and discuss the security measures required and in place with your security professionals and the IT staff on an ongoing basis. In addition to this, they’ll interview the concerned personnel to ensure everything’s okay and following the data security standards

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Assess

After identification of the types of data, the next step of the information security program lifecycle is assessment

In this step, the security team will conduct a thorough assessment of your company’s assets. It usually involves system assessment, server assessment, and vulnerability assessment.

Let’s take a look at what these examples mean.

System assessment

The first step in the assessment procedure of the information security program lifecycle is system assessment, which involves a thorough review of the system or ICT infrastructure. It includes analyzing:

  • Software types
  • Security and malware warnings
  • Security measures
  • Outdated software versions
  • Additional information to identify vulnerabilities

Server assessment

As the name indicates, server assessment involves a thorough analysis of the server to collect the required data and check its configurations, including the RAM size, operating system, license, and hard disk. 

In addition to the configurations, the IT team also looks into User IDs, login protocols, password security, and remote access. They will analyze all the settings, and find issues that might pose security threats in the future. This is also a great way to prevent potential data breaches.

Vulnerability assessment

After a thorough analysis of the system and the server, the next step is to identify vulnerabilities. The main emphasis is on the area that holds sensitive information and is most susceptible to attacks. 

The essential aspects of vulnerability assessment are as follows: 

  • Identification of the existing security threats.
  • Analyzing the preventive measures in place.
  • Estimating future security threats.
  • Understanding the capability to handle future threats.
  • Data security.

Now that we’ve covered the sub-steps of the “Asses” lifecycle step, let’s continue to the next security program parts.

Design

After identification and assessment, the next stage is design

This step of the cycle incorporates the formulation of a solution around all the necessary actions required to solve the issues identified during the previous stage, such as security risks, data breaches, and cyber threats.

The IT team responsible for the design phase considers the accessibility and continuity and system security.

Let’s take a look at what’s the difference.

Accessibility and continuity

The design should be secure and capable enough to be accessible and counter a system crash, a natural disaster, or any other such case. 

One of the best ways to cover this area is through primary and secondary servers. The secondary server, or the system backup, will ensure that the system stays online, performs as usual, and the business doesn’t halt in case the primary server goes down. 

System security

Your company needs strong system security in place to ensure its information and documents are secure, there aren’t any vulnerabilities, it's protected against cyber threats, and the data is easily available and accessible. While making sure your confidential information is protected.

To achieve all this, the IT team can design a solution with multiple security levels. They’ll utilize different cyber security tools, which will help protect your system through firewalls, antivirus software, authentication, and web application firewall. 

Implement

Now, to get back on track, the 4th step of the information security program cycle is Implementation.

In order to execute the design, an implementation strategy needs to be in place. 

Here’s what the process for this looks like:

  • The security team creates a step-by-step change plan. It's generally divided into most and least important segments, with the major emphasis on the most vulnerable areas. The plan also contains a strategy on how to provide professional training on the new processes to the concerned employees.
  • Once the plan is developed, the security team will assign roles and responsibilities to different team members, for instance, the IT team leaders, managers, and others.
  • The next phase involves necessary resource collection, such as security hardware and software.
  • Lastly, the team will test the change plan to ensure that everything’s working fine and the organization is transitioning well to the new changes. 

Protect

The next step of the cycle is Protect.

This step involves ensuring that the system has been secured appropriately as per the security rules and techniques outlined above. 

In this stage, the security team will thoroughly go through the whole system to check the new plan’s implementation. They’ll analyze whether it has been implemented correctly or not, and is it risk-free or requires further safeguards. 

The security team will also look for any new threats or requirements that might have surfaced due to the new changes. They’ll ensure the new issues are also handled properly. 

Monitor

Finally, the last step of the information security program lifecycle is Monitoring.

The key areas to look out for during information security monitoring include:

  • Ensuring system security against the new threats by increasing safeguards now and then.
  • Identifying risks, threats, and vulnerabilities immediately.
  • Manual or automatic system monitoring.
  • Network infrastructure and hardware devices monitoring and configuration.
  • Continuous updates to the operating system, firewalls, antivirus programs, and application software.
  • Continuous updating of the security team’s knowledge in cyber security through courses and workshops to counter the ever-updating attack techniques.

Conclusion

Hope this guide to information security was helpful!

If you’re managing a lot of internal, sensitive, or confidential information, ideally, you should be taking extra precautions to protect them from breaches or leaking.

The 6 steps of the information security program lifecycle outlined above are a great start. They will not only protect your company’s information, but also increase safeguards to your organization’s reputation.

Where do you go from here?

If you’re managing a lot of sensitive and confidential documents on your systems, you’ll also want to invest in secure document storage. Typically, this includes a robust document management system and following document management lifecycle steps with all the best information security practices in mind.

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