Data Security: A Practical Handbook For Your Business


In today’s world, data security is one of the most prominent challenges organisations of all sizes face. Companies must take the necessary steps to protect their valuable data assets due to the increasing reliance on technology and the internet. This guide will outline an example step-by-step approach to creating a comprehensive data security improvement plan and provide practical implementation advice.

Step 1: Assess Your Current Security Controls

The first step in creating a data security plan is assessing the current security controls. This involves going into the nuts and bolts of your environment and reviewing existing policies, procedures, and technologies to determine strengths and weaknesses. During this review, don’t forget to evaluate your employees’ understanding of security policies and processes. People can be the weakest link.

Practical Advice:

  1. Conduct a thorough review of security policies, procedures, and technologies. This can be done using a framework (e.g. Essential 8, NIST, ISO, CPS234) or creating a checklist of your current security controls. This review should comprehensively evaluate your firewalls, intrusion detection systems, email filters, encryption, and access controls. Assess each item to determine if it is up-to-date and fit for purpose.

    We understand conducting policy and security reviews can be time-consuming and confusing. If you’re looking for a partner to assist, our specialists have extensive experience drafting, auditing and implementing IT and Cyber Security policies. Learn more at

  2. Evaluate the effectiveness of existing security controls and identify any areas for improvement. This is typically done by conducting a security audit of your network and systems to identify any vulnerabilities or potential threats. Consider allocating a budget to procuring a vulnerability scanning tool or a penetration test to help you understand your environment’s weaknesses.

    Cybra has spent the last four years assisting organisations in identifying weaknesses in their people, processes and technology. Our vast penetration testing portfolio covers all corporate and enterprise-grade systems, networks and applications. We hold globally recognised certifications, so you can have peace of mind our tailored services meet your specific security requirements. Learn more at

  3. Ensure staff members know your security policies and procedures through surveys, training programs, or testing. Conduct a security awareness training program or send out a survey to gauge employees’ knowledge about internal security policies and procedures. Consider including a test component to measure the effectiveness of your training and onboarding.

    Cybra has developed a comprehensive presentation pack that will provide your staff members with an understanding of the current threat landscape, how to identify attacks, and what steps they can take to remain safe at home and work. This material will be tailored to the organisation’s template/style guide and include examples from your environment. This presentation pack will be delivered to you as part of the project. Learn more at

Step 2: Identify Your Key Data Assets

Once you clearly understand your current security controls, you can move on to identifying the critical data assets you need to protect. This should include technology that processes all data vital to your business operations, including financial, customer, and confidential business information.

Practical Implementation Advice:

  1. Conduct a comprehensive inventory of all data assets and classify them according to their level of sensitivity. This can be done by creating a spreadsheet or database of all your data assets, including the data type, location, and sensitivity level.

    There are commercial offerings that can assist in generating an asset inventory, making this task less time-consuming. Some trusted platforms are:

    • RunZero –
    • Tenable –

  2. Identify the key data assets critical to your business’s success and prioritise their protection. Reviewing the data assets inventory lets you determine what systems, controls and processes are essential to your business’s success. Prioritise the assets you identify based on their sensitivity and criticality to your business.

    Cybra performs Business Impact Assessments based on a structured framework with an adaptable methodology involving a combination of site inspections, facilitation of consultative interviews and workshops. We use quantitative risk tools in conjunction with documentation reviews to help you identify your business-critical assets and infrastructure. Learn more at
  3. Lastly, determine who is responsible for managing and protecting each data asset. Assign specific individuals or teams to manage and protect who has access to the data/asset, who is responsible for securing the data, ensuring availability and who backs up the data and what team is called upon in the event of an outage/emergency.

Step 3: Identify Risks and Threats

The third step is identifying the risks and threats to your key data assets. This includes internal and external threats, such as hacking, ransomware, phishing attacks, and insider threats. Understanding these risks and threats allows you to prioritise your security efforts and allocate resources effectively.

Practical Implementation Advice:

  1. Conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify the risks and threats to your critical data assets. This can be achieved by creating a risk matrix tailored to your business objectives and outlining the risks/threats to each data asset with the likelihood and impact of each risk.

    Typically this step can be quite complicated and requires an in-depth knowledge of current and potential risks. We have helped clients create a risk matrix utilising results generated from risk assessments and penetration tests. Learn more at and

  2. Consider internal and external threats. We know every week, a new threat emerges from the digital beyond. For this step, you want to consider all avenues and should include (but not limited to) hacking, social engineering, physical security breaches, phishing attacks, and insider threats. Generally, everyone has their “go-to” source. At a minimum, we recommend reviewing industry reports and staying up-to-date on security threats and trends.

    Some free and useful resources to stay on top of emerging threats are and

    Ultimately, this step aims to equip you with the knowledge and gaps in your environment to provide a clear path for prioritising your security efforts. This can help allocate budgets and resources to address the most critical risks and threats. Depending on your organisation’s size and maturity, we recommend using a framework approach such as ISO27001 and NIST to provide a structured way of understanding and prioritising risk.

Step 4: Develop a Security Policy

The next step is to develop or audit security policies and procedures that outline the controls you will take to protect your critical data assets. This policy should include guidelines for protecting sensitive data, establishing access controls, and responding to security incidents.

Practical Implementation Advice:

  1. Develop a security policy outlining your organisation’s controls to protect your key data assets. It involves creating a comprehensive framework that outlines the controls and measures that will be put in place to safeguard sensitive information. The security policy should establish guidelines for protecting sensitive data, such as what data should be encrypted, what type of access controls need to be in place, and annual reviews to monitor its effectiveness. This can be achieved by leaning on industry standards, best practices and incorporating the results of your risk assessment.

    If you don’t know where to start, Cybra can assist in providing you with all the relevant information and guidance you need to evaluate what level of security, what framework might be suitable and what controls should be considered for organisational policies. Learn more at and

  2. Develop procedures for protecting sensitive data. This should include encryption, access controls, and backup and recovery. Create a set of step-by-step procedures for each security measure and implementation guidelines. This can ensure current and future staff members know your benchmark and what is important to organisational success.

    Whilst we understand solutions in this space can be quite expensive, for mature organisations with the budget, we recommend using data classification and protection tools. These will make managing and monitoring your sensitive data significantly easier and more efficient. Ask your MSP or IT provider what platforms or tools they have available.

    If you use Microsoft Sharepoint and M365, a great resource is:

    Here are some additional tools suggested by Gartner:

  3. Develop a security incident response plan outlining the steps your organisation will take in the event of a security breach. Create a set of procedures for responding to security incidents and guidelines for implementing these procedures. This can include asset-specific crisis management/incident response plans and holistic policies in case of a significant disruption or breach.

    There are several resources that you can use to develop these procedures and policies:

    • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – NIST provides guidelines, standards, and best practices for securing sensitive data.

    • Center for Internet Security (CIS) – CIS provides best practices, tools, and services to help organisations prioritise actions to improve their cybersecurity posture.

    • International Organization for Standardization (ISO) – The ISO/IEC 27001 standard provides a framework for developing an information security management system (ISMS) that includes procedures for protecting data of all types.

    Cybra can assist in providing you with a gap assessment to understand your current position against a framework or become hands-on and create these policies for you. Learn more at and

Step 5: Implement and Communicate Your Security Controls

Once you have developed your security policy and procedures, you can implement your security controls and communicate them to your employees and stakeholders.

Practical Implementation Advice:

  1. After implementing or reviewing your security controls, it is important to communicate them to your employees and stakeholders. This can be done by working with your IT team or partner to implement or improve security controls and training employees to understand their role in protecting sensitive data.

  2. Create an annual security awareness program, including training sessions, communications, and knowledge-based testing.

    Cybra has developed a comprehensive presentation pack that will provide your staff members with an understanding of the current threat landscape, how to identify attacks, and what steps they can take to remain safe at home and work. This material will be tailored to the organisation’s template/style guide and include examples from your environment. This presentation pack will be delivered to you as part of the project. Learn more at

  3. Keep your employees and stakeholders regularly informed about security control updates and protecting sensitive data. This can be as simple as issuing newsletters, email updates, and security alerts.

Step 6: Monitor and Review

Once your data security improvement plan has been implemented, monitoring and reviewing your progress is essential. This will help you identify any areas for improvement and ensure that your security controls remain effective.

Practical Implementation Advice:

  1. To ensure your business is protected from cyber threats, it’s crucial to establish regular monitoring and review processes to assess the effectiveness of your security controls. This involves conducting regular security testing/audits, reviewing security reports, and using intrusion detection systems to identify potential threats.

    If you’re looking to create or improve upon your annual cybersecurity program, Cybra provides a “build it yourself” tailored program that focuses on alleviating the stress of dealing with security compliance cost-effectively. Learn more at


Creating a data security improvement plan is crucial to protecting your organisation’s valuable data assets. Following the steps outlined in this guide, you can ensure that your security controls are adequate, up-to-date, and aligned with your business goals and objectives. Regular monitoring and review will help you identify areas for improvement and keep your security posture up-to-date. By working with your employees and stakeholders, you can create a security culture essential for protecting sensitive data. Additionally, it’s crucial to stay informed about the latest security threats and trends and to evaluate and update your security controls as needed. Remember, data security is an ongoing process that requires commitment and resources to be effective.


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