Organizational security plans and protocols

  • Objective(s): To facilitate a process for women to develop a security plan and corresponding protocols that they can use to implement digital security measures in their own organization.
  • Length: 90 minutes
  • Format: Session
  • Skill level: Intermediate
  • Required knowledge:
  • Related sessions/exercises:
  • Needed materials:
    • Risk model from Gender-Based Risk Model exercise
    • Printed security protocol templates (see example template below)
  • Recommendations: This session is best suited for participant groups who come from the same organization or collective, as the activities below are focused on developing an organizational level security plan – the process of designing this together will help support women’s ongoing practice and implementation of it. it is crucial to follow-up with participants on the implementation of the plan they create – if possible, connect with them every two or three weeks to check on progress (apart from answering any questions they might send in the interim). be careful not to pressure participants about using specific tools or implementations of them when follow up with them – simply support them and be present with them, responding to any questions or concerns they have and providing recommendations when requested. if participants feel pressured, they may not be forthcoming about whether they’ve addressed a specific issue and won’t feel comfortable sharing actual difficulties when they arise.

Leading the session

Part 1 – Return of the Risk Model

  1. Begin the session by highlighting the importance of building a risk model before drafting a plan and any protocols. Remind participants that digital security is first and foremost a personal process - if their goal is to draft and implement a digital security plan at an organizational level, explain that it will be a process of:

    • Mapping threats collectively - this can be done over the course of a couple training sessions with the entire team present, however remind the group that remaining aware of and updated on the threats they face will be an ongoing process.

    • Learning the difference between strong habits and unsafe habits of digital security, and remaining up to date on new tools or updates to existing ones.

    • Making implementation decisions together as a team, but also identifying areas where individuals can create and practice their own processes as they see fit.

    • Consistently monitoring the implementation of their organizational digital security plan, ensuring that corresponding protocols are well understood before they are practiced, and troubleshooting any emerging difficulties throughout.

Part 2 – Plans vs. Protocols

  1. Explain to participants the difference between a digital security plan and a digital security protocol. The main idea to communicate is that:

    • A plan is an outline of key changes that an organization or collective has identified as requirements for increasing their digital security. Plans are a defined process, with a beginning and an end.

    • A protocol is a set of measures or actions related to digital security that are each connected to a specific activity or process within an organization or collective. Protocols are ongoing practices that remain in effect even when a digital security plan has been fully implemented, and will evolve over time in response to changes in risk and threat environments.

    Provide examples of plans and protocols to participants – for instance, activities such as travel or participation in public protests would each have their own digital security protocol; items found in a digital security plan might include an organization having their website audited, verifying that every computer has antivirus installed, and introducing the use of GPG to encrypt emails.

Part 3 – Creating an Organizational Plan and Protocol

  1. This session is best suited for participant groups who come from the same organization or collective, as they can take advantage of this opportunity to collaborative develop their plan and protocols as a team. However, if this is the case for only some participants, those who are not part of any organization or group can still participate in the session by working on their own personal plans and protocols.

  2. Ask participants to refer to their risk model from the Gender-Based Risk Model exercise, as well as their notes from the Who Do You Trust? exercise. Have them begin making a draft of their security plan - the following format may be useful. Explain to participants each of the sections (a new row should be started for each risk or threat identified):

Threats and Risks Which threats and risks do we currently face? Which could we potentially face in the future?
Identified Vulnerabilities Which of our practices as individuals, or circumstances as an organization, could expose us to harm?
Strengths and Capacities What strengths do we have as organization that give us an advantage in responding to identified threats and risks?
Mitigating Actions What kind of measures do we need to take in order to mitigate the risks? To be better prepared for identified threats?
Resources Needed What resources (economic, human, etc.) would we need to implement these actions?
Who Needs to be Involved? Which areas or people within our organization need to be involved in implementation? Will any sign-off or other permissions be required?
  1. Remind participants that although the focus of this training is on digital security, we must always remember to take holistic measures into account. Ask participants to consider which actions need to be taken in terms of physical security and self-care as they draft their security plans and protocols.

  2. Then, after participants have finished their first draft of the plan template, ask them to then build a list of their organization’s activities or processes that they feel will require individual protocols.

  3. Once participants have finished both their draft plan template and their list of activities requiring security protocols, it will be useful to pause so that everyone can share their plans. This presents a valuable opportunity for participants to learn from the approaches of others; however, remember that some may not feel comfortable sharing their organizational or personal vulnerabilities as a matter of trust. To address this proactively, you may want to ask the group to share only the key items for their plan (the 4th column of the template table, “Mitigating Actions”) while keeping other information like “Threats and Risks” and “Identified Vulnerabilities” private.

Part 4 – What’s Next?

  1. Discuss follow-up steps with participants - they will need to have a focused gathering within their organizations to share insights and key takeaways from this session, as well as the Gender-Based Risk Model exercise and the Who Do You Trust? exercise – of special importance from this session will be the list of activities and processes requiring security protocols. This plan will need to be discussed and agreed upon as a team, with realistic dates set for its implementation – while considering these, participants also need to remember that there may be others in their organizations who will require training on digital security practices and/or specific tools for full implementation to be possible.