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Information classification schemes are overly complex, says ISF

Ian Grant

Chief information officers need to take a leading role in setting up formal information classification schemes to stop them over-engineering them to comply with security regulations, according to a report from the Information Security Forum (ISF).

The ISFsaid that information classification systems were overly complex. "As a result they rarely deliver business benefits and are often simply ignored," it said.

Good information classification prevents over complicating controls, it said. This cuts the costs and resources needed to protect information.

"Information classification can also help to enforce better access control policies and demonstrate compliance with data protection and privacy legislation as well as regulations such as HIPAA and Gramm-Leach Bliley," it said.

The ISF said participation was essential from HR, Legal, IT and Audit, along with board support. "Having senior managers with a shared strategic vision and understanding of information classification and the value it can deliver is critical to overcome budgetary and organisational issues. It is also vital to run a successful pilot project to show a 'quick win' to demonstrate the benefits," said Nick Frost at the ISF who wrote the report.

Frost said information classification requires a consistent process to determine the level of confidentiality of a piece of information, the development of techniques to communicate that classification, and practical measures to protect it.

Frost said, "Information exists in many different forms, from paper documents and verbal communications to the masses of electronic data stored, transmitted and processed. Although introducing an effective enterprise-wide scheme is daunting, organisations can no longer afford to ignore its importance if embarrassing data losses (such as the HM Revenue & Customs incident) are to be avoided."

The ISF recently published an upgraded Standard of Good Practice for Information Security, which is available free to non-members at the ISF Standard website.





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