The information security policy unpacked: a critical study of the content of university policies

Neil F. Doherty, Leonidas Anastasakis, Heather Fulford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ensuring the security of corporate information, that is increasingly stored, processed and disseminated using information and communications technologies [ICTs], has become an extremely complex and challenging activity. This is a particularly important concern for knowledge-intensive organisations, such as universities, as the effective conduct of their core teaching and research activities is becoming ever more reliant on the availability, integrity and accuracy of computer-based information resources. One increasingly important mechanism for reducing the occurrence of security breaches, and in so doing, protecting corporate information, is through the formulation and application of a formal information security policy (InSPy). Whilst a great deal has now been written about the importance and role of the information security policy, and approaches to its formulation and dissemination, there is relatively little empirical material that explicitly addresses the structure or content of security policies. The broad aim of the study, reported in this paper, is to fill this gap in the literature by critically examining the structure and content of authentic information security policies, rather than simply making general prescriptions about what they ought to contain. Having established the structure and key features of the reviewed policies, the paper critically explores the underlying conceptualisation of information security embedded in the policies. There are two important conclusions to be drawn from this study: (1) the wide diversity of disparate policies and standards in use is unlikely to foster a coherent approach to security management; and (2) the range of specific issues explicitly covered in university policies is surprisingly low, and reflects a highly techno-centric view of information security management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449–457
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Information Management
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2009


  • information security policies
  • security breaches
  • policy content
  • higher education sector


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