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Guidelines for Security Documentation

This chapter of the ISM provides guidance on security documentation.

Security documentation can be used to define an organisation's cyber security strategy and how to protect their systems. This chapter outlines how to develop and maintain security documentation, as well as explaining security documentation that an organisation can use to support security assessment and assurance activities.

Development and maintenance of security documentation

Cyber security strategy

A cyber security strategy sets out an organisation's guiding principles, objectives and priorities for cyber security, typically over a three to five year period. In addition, a cyber security strategy may also cover an organisation's threat environment, cyber security initiatives or investments the organisation plans to make as part of its cyber security program. Without a cyber security strategy, organisations risk failing to adequately plan for and manage security and business risks within their organisation.

Security Control: 0039; Revision: 4; Updated: May-19; Applicability: All
A cyber security strategy is developed and implemented for the organisation.

Approval of security documentation

If security documentation is not approved, personnel will have difficulty ensuring appropriate policies, processes and procedures are in place. Approval of security documentation not only assists in the implementation of policies, processes and procedures, it also ensures personnel are aware of cyber security issues and security risks.

Security Control: 0047; Revision: 4; Updated: May-19; Applicability: All
Organisational-level security documentation is approved by the Chief Information Security Officer while system-specific security documentation is approved by the system’s authorising officer.

Maintenance of security documentation

Threat environments are dynamic. If security documentation is not kept up-to-date to reflect the current threat environment, policies, processes and procedures may cease to be effective. In such a situation, resources could be devoted to cyber security initiatives or investments that have reduced effectiveness or are no longer relevant.

Security Control: 0888; Revision: 5; Updated: May-19; Applicability: All
Security documentation is reviewed at least annually and includes a ‘current as at [date]’ or equivalent statement.

Communication of security documentation

It is important that once security documentation has been approved, either initially or following any changes, it is published and communicated to all stakeholders. If security documentation is not communicated to stakeholders they will be unaware of what policies and procedures have been implemented for systems.

Security Control: 1602; Revision: 0; Updated: Aug-20; Applicability: All
Security documentation, including notification of subsequent changes, is communicated to all stakeholders.

Further information

Further information on system-specific security documentation, such as a system security plan, incident response plan, continuous monitoring plan, security assessment report and plan of action and milestones, can be found in the following section of these guidelines.

Further information on business continuity and disaster recovery plans can be found in the Guidelines for Cyber Security Roles.

Further information on intrusion detection and prevent policy can be found in the Guidelines for Cyber Security Incidents.

Further information on cyber security incident registers can be found in the Guidelines for Cyber Security Incidents.

Further information on authorised Radio Frequency and infrared device registers can be found in the Guidelines for Physical Security.

Further information on cable registers can be found in the Guidelines for Communications Infrastructure.

Further information on cable labelling processes and procedures can be found in the Guidelines for Communications Infrastructure.

Further information on telephone system usage policy can be found in the Guidelines for Communications Systems.

Further information on denial of service response plans for video conferencing and Internet Protocol telephony services can be found in the Guidelines for Communications Systems.

Further information on fax machine and multifunction device usage policy can be found in the Guidelines for Communications Systems.

Further information on mobile device management policy can be found in the Guidelines for Enterprise Mobility.

Further information on mobile device usage policy can be found in the Guidelines for Enterprise Mobility.

Further information on mobile device emergency sanitisation processes and procedures can be found in the Guidelines for Enterprise Mobility.

Further information on ICT equipment management policy can be found in the Guidelines for ICT Equipment.

Further information on ICT equipment sanitisation processes and procedures can be found in the Guidelines for ICT Equipment.

Further information on ICT equipment disposal processes and procedures can be found in the Guidelines for ICT Equipment.

Further information on ICT equipment registers can be found in the Guidelines for ICT Equipment.

Further information on media management policy can be found in the Guidelines for Media.

Further information on removable media usage policy can be found in the Guidelines for Media.

Further information on media sanitisation processes and procedures can be found in the Guidelines for Media.

Further information on media destruction processes and procedures can be found in the Guidelines for Media.

Further information on media disposal processes and procedures can be found in the Guidelines for Media.

Further information on removable media registers can be found in the Guidelines for Media.

Further information on system administration processes and procedures can be found in the Guidelines for System Management.

Further information on patch management processes and procedures can be found in the Guidelines for System Management.

Further information on software registers can be found in the Guidelines for System Management.

Further information on change management processes and procedures can be found in the Guidelines for System Management.

Further information on digital preservation policy can be found in the Guidelines for System Management.

Further information on data backup processes and procedures can be found in the Guidelines for System Management.

Further information on data restoration processes and procedures can be found in the Guidelines for System Management.

Further information on event logging policy can be found in the Guidelines for System Monitoring.

Further information on event log auditing processes and procedures can be found in the Guidelines for System Monitoring.

Further information on database registers can be found in the Guidelines for Database Systems.

Further information on email usage policy can be found in the Guidelines for Email.

Further information on network device registers can be found in the Guidelines for Networking.

Further information on web usage policy can be found in the Guidelines for Gateways.

Further information on data transfer processes and procedures can be found in the Guidelines for Data Transfers.

System-specific security documentation

System-specific security documentation

System-specific security documentation, such as a system security plan, incident response plan, continuous monitoring plan, security assessment report, and plan of action and milestones, supports the accurate and consistent application of policies, processes and procedures for systems. As such, it is important that they are developed by personnel with a good understanding of security matters, the technologies being used and the business requirements of the organisation.

System-specific security documentation may be presented in a number of formats including dynamic content such as wikis or other forms of document repositories. Furthermore, depending on the documentation framework used, details common to multiple systems could be consolidated into higher level security documentation.

System security plan

The system security plan provides a description of a system and includes an annex that describes the security controls that have been identified and implemented for the system.

There can be many stakeholders involved in developing and maintaining a system security plan. This can include representatives from:

  • cyber security teams within the organisation
  • project teams who deliver the capability (including contractors)
  • support teams who operate and support the capability
  • data owners for data processed, stored or communicated by the system
  • users for whom the capability is being developed.

Security Control: 0041; Revision: 4; Updated: Dec-21; Applicability: All
Systems have a system security plan that includes a description of the system and an annex that covers both applicable security controls from this document and any additional security controls that have been identified.

Incident response plan

Having an incident response plan ensures that when a cyber security incident occurs, a plan is in place to respond appropriately to the situation. In most situations, the aim of the response will be to prevent the cyber security incident from escalating, restore any impacted system or data, and preserve any evidence.

Security Control: 0043; Revision: 4; Updated: Dec-21; Applicability: All
Systems have an incident response plan that covers the following:

  • guidelines on what constitutes a cyber security incident
  • the types of cyber security incidents likely to be encountered and the expected response to each type
  • how to report cyber security incidents, internally to the organisation and externally to relevant authorities
  • other parties which need to be informed in the event of a cyber security incident
  • the authority, or authorities, responsible for investigating and responding to cyber security incidents
  • the criteria by which an investigation of a cyber security incident would be requested from a law enforcement agency, the Australian Cyber Security Centre or other relevant authority
  • the steps necessary to ensure the integrity of evidence relating to a cyber security incident
  • system contingency measures or a reference to such details if they are located in a separate document.

Continuous monitoring plan

A continuous monitoring plan can assist organisations in proactively identifying, prioritising and responding to security vulnerabilities. Measures to monitor and manage security vulnerabilities in systems can also provide organisations with a wealth of valuable information about their exposure to cyber threats, as well as assisting them to determine security risks associated with the operation of their systems. Undertaking continuous monitoring activities is important as cyber threats and the effectiveness of security controls will change over time.

Three types of continuous monitoring activities are vulnerability assessments, vulnerability scans and penetration tests. A vulnerability assessment typically consists of a review of a system’s architecture or an in-depth hands-on assessment while a vulnerability scan involves using software tools to conduct automated checks for known security vulnerabilities. In each case, the goal is to identify as many security vulnerabilities as possible. A penetration test however is designed to exercise real-world scenarios in an attempt to achieve a specific goal, such as compromising critical system components or data. Regardless of the continuous monitoring activities chosen, they should be conducted by suitably skilled personnel independent of the system being assessed. Such personnel can be internal to an organisation or from a third party. This ensures that there is no conflict of interest, perceived or otherwise, and that the activities are undertaken in an objective manner.

Security Control: 1163; Revision: 7; Updated: Dec-21; Applicability: All
Systems have a continuous monitoring plan that includes:

  • conducting vulnerability scans for systems at least monthly
  • conducting vulnerability assessments or penetration tests for systems at least annually
  • analysing identified security vulnerabilities to determine their potential impact
  • using a risk-based approach to prioritise the implementation of mitigations based on effectiveness and cost.

Security assessment report

At the conclusion of a security assessment for a system, a security assessment report should be produced by the assessor. This will assist the system owner in performing any initial remediation actions as well as guiding the development of the system’s plan of action and milestones.

Security Control: 1563; Revision: 0; Updated: May-20; Applicability: All
At the conclusion of a security assessment for a system, a security assessment report is produced by the assessor and covers:

  • the scope of the security assessment
  • the system’s strengths and weaknesses
  • security risks associated with the operation of the system
  • the effectiveness of the implementation of security controls
  • any recommended remediation actions.

Plan of action and milestones

At the conclusion of a security assessment for a system, and after the production of a security assessment report by the assessor, a plan of action and milestones should be produced by the system owner. This will assist with tracking any of the system’s identified weaknesses and recommended remediation actions identified during the security assessment.

Security Control: 1564; Revision: 0; Updated: May-20; Applicability: All
At the conclusion of a security assessment for a system, a plan of action and milestones is produced by the system owner.

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