What’s in a name? We frequently hear people use (or misuse) the names “policy”, “standard”, and “guideline” to refer to documents that fall within the policy infrastructure. So that those who participate in this process can communicate effectively, we’ll use the following definitions.
A policy is typically a document that outlines specific requirements or rules that must be met. In the information/network security realm, policies are usually point-specific, covering a single area. For example, an “Acceptable Use” policy would cover the rules and regulations for appropriate use of the computing facilities.
A standard is typically a collection of system-specific or procedural-specific requirements that must be met by everyone. For example, you might have a standard that describes how to harden a Windows 8.1 workstation for placement on an external (DMZ) network. People must follow this standard exactly if they wish to install a Windows 8.1 workstation on an external network segment. In addition, a standard can be a technology selection, e.g. Company Name uses Tenable SecurityCenter for continuous monitoring, and supporting policies and procedures define how it is used.
A guideline is typically a collection of system specific or procedural specific “suggestions” for best practice. They are not requirements to be met, but are strongly recommended. Effective security policies make frequent references to standards and guidelines that exist within an organization.
The ultimate goal of the project is to offer everything you need for rapid development and implementation of information security policies. You’ll find a great set of resources posted here already, including policy templates for twenty-seven important security requirements.