Tag Archives: Risk management

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How to secure your data when firing employees

 

What kind of risk are you creating when you fire the IT security officer?

When a company decides to fire a big piece of it’s work force – it’s to reduce costs in anticipation of reduced revenues. Risk management and IT governance runs a distant second and third when it’s a question of survival. The IT department is often in the line of fire, since they’re a service organization. The IT security staff may be the first to get cut since  companies view information security as a luxury, not as a must to run the business.

There is nothing in the information security policy of any organization that I have seen that talks about how to manage risk when 300 employees are being fired in a short period of time in a business unit.

What is your risk appetite?

A key part of formulating and establishing information security   policies for your organization is in deciding how much risk is   acceptable and how to minimize unacceptable risk.

This process initially involves undertaking a formal risk assessment which is a  critical part of any ISMS.  However – it’s a mistake to assume that risk assessment is a static process when the business is a dynamic process.  Risk assessment must be dynamic and continuous, moving at the front line of the business not as an after though or not at all.

The ISO 27000 standards provide some guidance on how this  risk assessment process is to be undertaken.  This guidance is   summarized and annotated below:

  • Use systematic approach to estimate magnitude of risks (risk  analysis)
  • Compare estimated risks against risk criteria to measure the  significance of the risk (risk evaluation)
  • Define the scope of the risk assessment process to improve  effectiveness (risk assessment)
  • Undertake risk assessments periodically to address changes in  assets, risk profiles, threats, safeguards, vulnerabilities and risk  appetite (risk management)
  • Risk measurement should be undertaken in a methodical manner to  produce verifiable results (risk measurement)

The stumbling block to doing continuous risk assessment is both world view (“hire a consultant once every 2 years to check us out”) and technical (“the cost of said consultant”).  We have a great  free ISO 27001 risk assessment software that can automate the process, save you money and help you respond fast to changes in the business. The software is based on the popular PTA (practical threat analysis) Professional risk assessment tool.

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3 things a medical device vendor must do for security incident response

You are VP R&D or CEO or regulatory and compliance officer at a medical device company.

Your medical devices measure something (blood sugar, urine analysis, facial anomalies, you name it…). The medical device interfaces to a mobile app that provides a User Interface and transfers patient data to a cloud application using RESTful services over HTTPS.

Sound familiar?

The Medical device-Mobile app-Cloud storage triad is a common architecture today for many diagnostic, personal well-being and remote patient monitoring indications.

We have numerous clients with the Medical device-Mobile app-Cloud storage system architecture and we help them address 4 key security issue –

  1. How to ensure that personal data and user authentication data is not stolen from the mobile medical app,
  2. How to ensure that the mobile medical app is not used as an attack pivot to attack other medical device users and cloud servers,
  3. How to comply with the HIPAA Security Rule and ensure that health data transferred to the cloud is not breached by attackers who are more than interested in trafficking in your users’ personal health data,
  4. How to execute effective security incident response and remediation – its a HIPAA standard but above all – a basic tenet for information security management.

How effective is your security incident response?

The recent SANS Survey on Security Incident Response covers the challenges faced by incident response teams today—the types of attacks they detect, what security countermeasures they’ve deployed, and their perceived effectiveness and obstacles to incident handling.

Perceived effectiveness is a good way of putting it – because the SANS Survey on Security Incident Response report has some weaknesses.

First – the survey that is dominated by large companies: over 50% of the respondents work for companies with more than 5,000 employees and fully 26% work for companies with more than 20,000 employees.    Small companies with less than 100 employees – which cover almost all medical device companies are underrepresented in the data.

Second – the SANS survey attempts, unsuccessfully, to reconcile reports by the companies they interviewed that they respond and remediate  incidents within 24 hours(!) with reports by the PCI (Payment Card Industry) DSS (Data security standard) Association that retail merchants take over 6 months to respond.       This gap is difficult to understand – although it suggests considerable variance in the way companies define incident response and perhaps a good deal of wishful thinking, back-patting and CYA.

Since most medical device companies have less than 100 employees – it is unclear if the SANS findings (which are skewed to large IT security and compliance organizations) are in fact relevant at all to a medical device industry that is moving rapidly to the medical device-App-Cloud paradigm.

3 things a medical device vendor must have for effective incident response

  1. Establish an IRT.  (Contact us and we will be happy to help you set up an IRT and train them on effective procedure and tools).  Make sure that the IRT trains and conducts simulations every 3-6 months and above all make sure that someone is home to answer the call when it comes.
  2. Lead from the front. Ensure that the head of IRT reports to the CEO.   In security incident response, management needs to up front and not lead from behind.
  3. Detect in real time. Our key concern is cloud server security.    Our recommendation is to install OSSEC on your cloud servers. OSSEC sends alerts to a central server where analysis and notification can occur even if the medical device cloud server goes down or is compromised.
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Bridging the security IT gap with BI

How to use BI to improve healthcare IT security


Information technology
management is about executing predictable business processes.

Information Security Management is about reducing the impact of unpredictable attacks to  your  healthcare provider organization.

Once we put it this way – it’s clear that IT and security and compliance professionals, as dedicated as they are to their particular missions – do not have common business objectives and key results. This is why we have so many software security issues – we have software that is developed and implemented with disregard to best practice security.

In order to bridge the gap – healthcare provider IT and security professionals need to adopt a common goal and a common language – a language  of customer-centric threat modelling

Typically, when a healthcare provider ( whether a hospital, HMO or primary care provider) needs  software application,  an IT consultant will do a system analysis starting with business requirements and then proceed to propose a solution to buy or build an application and deploy it.

Similarly, when the information security group needs an anti-virus or firewall, security consultants  make requirements based on the current risk profile of the healthcare provider, test products, and proceed to buy and deploy or subscribe and deploy the new anti-virus or firewall solution.

The problem is that the two activities never work together – as result, we get islands of software applications that are not integrated with the company information security and compliance portfolio and we get information security technologies that are unaware of the applications and in a worst case scenario – get in the way of business productivity.

Michael Koploy of Software Advice explains well on how BI (business intelligence, once the domain of IT expert consultants) is now highly accessible technology in his article 4 Steps to Creating Effective BI Teams.

Business intelligence–the use of sophisticated software to analyze complex data–is no longer the domain of a centralized group of IT staff or advanced data analysts. Today, powerful and Web-based BI tools are accessible to a wide range of business users.

BI is everywhere, and it’s everyone’s job. But with this proliferation comes new challenges. Teams of BI users today often lack the structure, guidance and leadership to effectively mine data. In this article, I’ll share four steps to establish guidelines, organize teams, delegate data management and allow the success of the BI team to permeate and drive innovation throughout the business.

I agree with Michael.

By using BI – we can explore vulnerabilities in business processes and bring the information back to healthcare IT and security management in a constructive way and start building that common language between healthcare IT  and healthcare security management that is so essential to protecting patient health records.

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The best cybersecurity strategy may be counter-terror

Danny Lieberman  suggests that a demand-side strategy with peer-review may work best  for cyber-security.

A conventional military paradigm does not work for cyber-security

Government cyber  security policy, molded by the military; traditionally frames cyber-security in the context of a defensive strategy based on intelligence gathering, threat analysis,  modeling and  monitoring  with  deployment of defensive network security technologies such as  firewalls, DDOS protection, intrusion prevention and honey-pots.

The problem with a defensive cyber-security strategy is that it does not address the root cause of threats.

 Combating cyber-terror  with offensive strategies by using anti-terror techniques to dismantle terrorist infrastructures and social fabrics is a highly effective alternative to a defensive strategy.

Attacking social networks of hackers

Although there are offensive alternatives such as mounting systematic DDos attacks on the attackers or developing targeted spyware such as Stuxnet, even more intriguing is the notion of using a demand-side strategy to reduce the social value of being a hacker. We can learn from the counter terror success of the Italians in the late 60s with dismantling the Brigatisti. The Italian government infiltrated the Red Brigades – bred mistrust and quickly rolled up the organization.

Attacking the social networks of people who develop and distribute malware would involve infiltrating the hacker underground, arresting hackers for criminal activity and cutting deals in return for actionable intelligence.

Since cyber attacks on Israel is a form of terrorism – I believe that this strategy could be effective since it goes directly to the source and potentially denies a key hacker benefit – the social gratification.

While an interesting idea – the key barrier to this strategy is deploying it where hackers operate and obtaining the cooperation of local law enforcement.

It’s clear that cooperation with other countries and a variety of partners inside and outside the Israeli government is a critical success factor for an offensive cyber-security strategy.

Getting more eyeballs on the problem

A cyber-security strategy that is not reviewed by outside people cannot correctly evaluate the economic effectiveness of cyber-security measures since political considerations will always override common sense.

 Representatives from the newly formed Israeli Cyber Command need to work closely with private industry and share information about threats and vulnerabilities – since in most cases – privately held technology security developers and analysts have better and more up-to-date knowledge than government agencies who may have better intelligence.

The effort to defend Israel in cyberspace will only succeed if it is coordinated across the government, with allies, and with partners in the commercial sector combining high-quality intelligence with deep understanding of evolving threats and peer review of the security measures.

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The valley of death between IT and information security

IT is about executing predictable business processes.

Security is about reducing the impact of unpredictable attacks to a your organization.

In order ot bridge the chasm – IT and security need to adopt a common goal and a common language – a language  of customer-centric threat modelling

Typically, when a company ( business unit, department or manager) needs a line of business software application, IT staffers will do a system analysis starting with business requirements and then proceed to buy or build an application and deploy it.

Similarly, when the information security group needs an anti-virus or firewall, security staffers will make some requirements, test products, and proceed to buy and deploy or subscribe and deploy the new anti-virus or firewall solution.

Things have changed – both in the IT world and in the security world.

Web 2.0 SaaS (software as a service) offerings (or  Web applications in PHP that the CEO’s niece can whip together in a week…) often replace those old structured systems development methodologies. There are of course,  good things about not having to develop a design (like not coming down with an advanced case of analysis paralysis) and iterating quickly to a better product, but the downside of not developing software according to a structured systems design methodology is buggy software.

Buggy software is insecure software. The response to buggy, insecure software is generally doing nothing or installing a product that is a security countermeasure for the vulnerability  (for example, buying a database security solution) instead of fixing the SQL injection vulnerability in the code itself.   Then there is lip-service to so called security development methodologies which despite their intrinsic value, are often too detailed for practioners to follow), that are not a replacement for a serious look at business requirements followed by a structured process of implementation.

There is a fundamental divide, a metaphorical valley of death of  mentality and skill sets between IT and security professionals.

  • IT is about executing predictable business processes.
  • Security is about reducing the impact of unpredictable attacks.

IT’s “best practice” security in 2011 is  firewall/IPS/AV.  Faced with unconventional threats  (for example a combination of trusted contractors exploiting defective software applications, hacktivists or competitors mounting APT attacks behind the lines), IT management  tend to seek a vendor-proposed, one-size-fits-all “solution” instead of performing a first principles threat analysis and discovering  that the problem has nothing to do with malware on the network and everything to do with software defects that may kill customers.

Threat modeling and analysis is the antithesis of installing a firewall, anti-virus or IPS.

Analyzing the impact of attacks requires hard work, hard data collection and hard analysis.  It’s not a sexy, fun to use, feel-good application like Windows Media Player.   Risk analysis  may yield results that are not career enhancing, and as  the threats  get deeper and wider  with  bigger and more complex systems – so the IT security valley of death deepens and gets more untraversable.

There is a joke about systems programmers – they have heard that there are real users out there, actually running applications on their systems – but they know it’s only an urban legend. Like any joke, it has a grain of truth. IT and security are primarily systems and procedures-oriented instead of  customer-safety oriented.

Truly – the essence of security is protecting the people who use a company’s products and services. What utility is there in running 24×7 systems that leak 4 million credit cards or developing embedded medical devices that may kill patients?

Clearly – the challenge of running a profitable company that values customer protection must be shouldered by IT and security teams alike.

Around this common challenge, I  propose that IT and security adopt a common goal and a common language – a language  of customer-centric threat modelling – threats, vulnerabilities, attackers, entry points, assets and security countermeasures.  This may be the best or even only way for IT and security  to traverse the valley of death successfully.

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Ten steps to protecting your organization’s data

Here are 10 steps  to protecting your organization’s privacy data and intellectual property.

As a preface, begin with the understanding that you already have all the resources you need.

Discussions with colleagues in a large forensics accounting firm that specialize in anti-fraud investigations, money laundering and anti-terror funding (ATF), confirm what I’ve suspected for a long time. Armies of junior analysts working for the large accounting firms who have never seen or experienced a fraudulent event and are unfamiliar with the your business operation are not a reasonable replacement for careful risk analysis by the business done by people who are familiar with the business.

Step # 1- Do not do an expensive business process mapping project.

Many consultants tell organizations that they must perform a detailed business process analysis and build data flow diagrams of data and users who process data. This is an expensive task to execute and extremely difficult to maintain that can require large quantity of billable hours. That’s why they tell you to map data flows. The added value of knowing data flows inside your organization between people doing their job is arguable. There are much better ways to protect your data without writing out a 7 digit check. Here is the first one you should try out. Select the 10 most valuable data assets that your company owns. For example – proprietary mechanical designs of machines, detailed financials of a private company being acquired, and details of competitive contracts with large accounts. In a few interviews with finance, operations, IT, sales and engineering, you can nail down those key assets. After you’ve done that, schedule a 1 hour meeting with the CFO and ask her how much each asset is worth in dollars. In general, the value of a digital, reputational, physical or operational asset to a business can be established fairly quickly by the CFO in dollar terms – in terms of replacement cost, impact on sales and operational costs.

Step #2 – Do not develop a regulatory compliance grid.

There is no point in taking a non-value-added process and spend money making it more effective.

My maternal grandmother, who spoke fluent Yiddish would yell at us – ” grosse augen” when we would pile too much food on our plates. ” Grosse augen” ( or as my folks put it); is having eyes that are bigger than your capacity. Yes, US publicly traded companies are subject to multiple regulations – if the company sells to customers and stores and processes PII (personally identifiable data) they will have to deal with PCI DSS 1.1, California State Privacy Law, Sarbanes-Oxley PCI DSS 1.1 protects one asset – payment card numer and magnetic stripe, while Sarbanes-Oxley is about accounting records. Yes, there are a few commercial software products that map business processes, databases and data elements to multiple regulations; their goal is to help streamline the work involved in multiple regulatory compliance projects – eliminating redundancy where possibility using commonality.
Looking at all the corporate governance and compliance violations; cases such as Hannaford supermarkets and AOL – it’s clear government regulation has not made America more competitive nor better managed.

Step #3 – Identify the top 5 data assets in your business and valuate them

I saw an article recently that linked regulatory compliance mandate and asset cost. Definitely not true – the value of an asset for a company is whatever operational management/CFO say it is. Asset value has nothing to do with compliance but it has everything to do with a cost effective risk control plan. For example – a company might think that whole disk encryption on all company notebook computers is a good idea – but if only 20 people have sensitive data – why spend 1 million dollars on mobile device data encryption when you can solve the problem for less than 5k?

Step #4 – Do not store PII

The absolutely worst thing you can do is a project to analyse data retention and protection regulations that govern each of the sensitive data elements that need protecting, and working with legal and compliance consultants who know the relevant regulations. VISA has it right. Don’t store credit cards and magnetic strip data. It will not help the marketing guys sell more anyway – and you can give the money you save on some fancy database encryption software to the earthquake victims in Myanmar and China.

Step #5 – Monitor your outsourcing vendors

Despite the hype on trusted insiders, most data loss is from business partners. You can write a non-disclosure agreement with an outsourcing vendor and trust them, but you must verify their compliance and prevent unauthorized data leaks.

The best story I had in years was in a meeting with the VP internal audit at a medium sized bank in Israel. He took a sales call with me and I pitched our extrusion prevention technology from Fidelis Security Systems as a way to protect their customer data. He said – look Danny, we don’t need technology – we’ve outsourced everything to a very large bank and their data center security is world-class. Two weeks later, the big bank had a serious data breach event (a high school student hacked into the internal network of the bank from a public Windows-based kiosk and helped himself to some customer lists. Two months later, the small bank was reported to be looking to get out of their outsourcing contract. Don’t rely on contracts alone – use people and DLP technology to detect data leakage.

Step #6 – Do annual security awareness training but keep it short and sweet

Awareness is great but like Andy Grove said – “A little fear in the workplace is not necassarily a bad thing”. Have everyone read, understand and sign a 1 page procedure for information security. Forget interview projects and expensive self-assessment systems – what salesman in his right mind will take time to fill out one of those forms – if he doesn’t update his accounts on salesforce.com? Install an extrusion detection system at the network perimeter. Prosecute violators in real time. Do random spot checks on the read-and-understand procedure. Give demerits to the supervisors and managers if their employees don’t pass the spot check.

Step #7 – Calculate valuate at risk of your top 5 data assets

ISO 27001 and PCI DSS 1.1 checklists are great starting points but they focus on whether a particular technology, policy or control has been implemented, and not whether these controls are cost-effective security countermeasures against internal and external attackers. Use Practical Threat Analysis with a PTA risk library for ISO 27001 or PCI DSS 1.1 and you will be able to build a cost-effective risk mitigation plan based on asset values, threat probabilities and estimated damage levels.

Step #8 – Ask your vendors and colleagues difficult questions

After you’ve done a practical threat analysis of your risk exposure to attacks on sensitive customer data and IP you will be in better position than ever to know what policies, procedures and technologies are the most effective security controlss. You’ll be in an excellent position to ask difficult questions and negotiate terms with your favorite vendor. While the attitude of many companies is to hold data protection protections close to their chests, it is valuable to talk to your colleagues at other companies in the same market and get a sense of what they have done and how well the controls perform.

Step #9 – Resist the temptation to do a customer data integration (CDI) project.

Customer data is often stored in many applications and locations in a large organization. The knee-jerk reaction of IT is to do a big data integration project and get all the digital assets under one roof. There are three reasons why this is a terrible idea. (a) Most of these projects fail, overrun and never deliver promised value (b) If you do suceed in getting all the data in one place, it’s like waving a huge red flag to attackers – heah , come over here – we have a lot of sensitive data that is nicely documented and easily accessible. Companies with enterprise software systems such as SAP and Oracle Applications are three times more likely to be attacked. (c) Ask yourself – would Google have succeeded if with global data integration strategy?

Step #10 – Prepare a business care for data loss prevention before evaluating products

Despite claims that protecting data assets is strategic to an enterprise, and IT governance talk about busines alignment and adding value – my experience is that most organizations will not do anything until they’ve had a fraud or data security event. The first step to protecting customer data and IP in any sized business from a individual proprietership to a 10,000 person global enterprise is laying the case at the door of the company’s management. This is where executives need to take a leadership position – starting with a clear position on which data assets are important and how much they’re worth to the company.

Practical threat analysis is a great way to identify and assess threats to your business and evaluate the potential business impact in dollars and cents to your operation using best-practice risk models provided by the PTA Professional threat modeling tool.

In summary

Software Associates specializes in helping medical device and healthcare software vendors achieve HIPAA compliance and protect customer assets and provides a full range of risk management services, from stopping fraud to ensuring regulatory compliance and enhancing your ability to serve your customers.

There are resources that help you turn information into insight such as   Risk Management from LexisNexis, Identity Fraud TrueID solutions from LexisNexis that help significantly reduce fraud losses and Background Checks from LexisNexis that deliver valuable insights that lead to smarter, more informed decisions and greater security for consumers, businesses and government agencies.For consumers, its an easy way to verify personal data, screen potential renters, nannies, doctors and other professionals, and discover any negative background information that could impact your employment eligibility. For businesses and government agencies, it is the foundation of due diligence. It provides the insight you need to reduce risk and improve profitability by helping you safeguard transactions, identify trustworthy customers and partners, hire qualified employees, or locate individuals for debt collections, law enforcement or other needs.

 

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Security and the theory of constraints

Security management is tricky.  It’s not only about technical controls and good software development practice. It’s also about management responsibility.

If you remember TOC ( Theory of Constraints, invented by Dr. Eli Goldratt about 40 years ago) there is only 1 key constraint that limits system (or company) performance to achieve it’s goal.

So – what is that 1 key constraint for achieving FDA Premarket Notification (510k) and/or HIPAA compliance success for your medical device on a tight schedule and budget.

That’s right boys and girls – it’s the Business unit manager

Consider 3 cases of companies who are developing medical devices and need to achieve FDA Premarket Notification (510k) and/or HIPAA compliance for their product.   We will see that there are 3 generic “scenarios” that threaten the project.

A key developer leaves and the management waits until the last minute

In this scenario, the person responsible for the software security and compliance quits. The business unit manager waits until the last minute to replace him and in the end realizes that they need a contractor. External consultants (like us) start wading through reams of documentation, interviewing people and reconstructing an understanding of the systems and scope before we even start our first piece of threat analysis and write our first piece of code.

The mushroom theory of management

In this scenario, there are gobs of unknowns because the executive staff did not, could not or would not reveal all their cards in a particularly risky and complex development project that is not reaching a critical milestone.  The business unit manager calls in an outsider to evaluate and/or take over. After 6 weeks – you may sort of think you have most of the cards on the table. But – then again, maybe not. You might get lucky and achieve great progress because the engineers are ignoring the product manager and doing a great job. Miracles sometimes happen but don’t bet on it.

We’re in transition

In scenario 3, a new CEO is brought in after a putsch in the board and things come to a standstill as the executive staff started getting used to the new boss and the line staff start getting used to new directives and the programmers stop wondering if they will still have a job.

Truth be told – only the first scenario is really avoidable.  If your executive staff runs things by the mushroom theory of management or you get into management transition mode – basically, anything can happen.  And that’s why consultants like us are busy.

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The Tao of GRC

I have heard of military operations that were clumsy but swift, but I have never seen one that was skillful and lasted a long time. Master Sun (Chapter 2 – Doing Battle, the Art of War).

The GRC (governance, risk and compliance) market is driven by three factors: government regulation such as Sarbanes-Oxley, industry compliance such as PCI DSS 1.2 and growing numbers of data security breaches and Internet acceptable usage violations in the workplace. $14BN a year is spent in the US alone on corporate-governance-related IT spending .

It’s a space that’s hard to ignore.

Are large internally-focused GRC systems the solution for improving risk and compliance? Or should we go outside the organization to look for risks we’ve never thought about and discover new links and interdependencies .

This article introduces a practical approach that will help the CISOs/CSOs in any sized business unit successfully improve compliance and reduce information value at risk. We call this approach “GRC 2.0” and base it on 3 principles.

1.    Adopt a standard language of GRC
2.    Learn to speak the language fluently
3.    Go green – recycle your risk and compliance

GRC 1.0

GRC (Governance, Risk and Compliance) was first coined by Michael Rasmussen.  GRC products like Oracle GRC Suite and Sword Achiever, cost in the high six figures and enable large enterprises to automate the workflow and documentation management associated with costly and complex GRC activities.

GRC – an opportunity to improve business process

GRC regulation comes in 3 flavors: government legislation, industry regulation and vendor-neutral security standards.  Government legislation such as SOX, GLBA, HIPAA and EU Privacy laws were enacted to protect the consumer by requiring better governance and a top-down risk analysis process. PCI DSS 2.0; a prominent example of Industry regulation, was written to protect the card associations by requiring merchants and processors to use a set of security controls for the credit card number with no risk analysis.  The vendor-neutral standard, ISO27001 helps protect information assets using a comprehensive set of people, process and technical controls with an audit focus.

The COSO view is that GRC is an opportunity to improve the operation:

“If the internal control system is implemented only to prevent fraud and comply with laws and regulations, then an important opportunity is missed…the same internal controls can also be used to systematically improve businesses, particularly in regard to effectiveness and efficiency.”

GRC 2.0

The COSO position makes sense, but in practice it’s difficult to attain process improvement through enterprise GRC management.

Unlike ERP, GRC lacks generally accepted principles and metrics. Where finance managers routinely use VaR (value at risk) calculations, information security managers are uncomfortable with assessing risk in financial measures. The finance department has quarterly close but information security staffers fight a battle that ebbs and flows and never ends. This creates silos – IT governance for the IT staff and consultants and a fraud committee for the finance staff and auditors.

GRC 1.0 assumes a fixed structure of systems and controls.  The problem is that, in reducing the organization to passive executives of defense rules in their procedures and firewalls, we ignore the extreme ways in which attack patterns change over time. Any control policy that is presumed optimal today is likely to be obsolete tomorrow. Learning about changes must be at the heart of day-to-day GRC management.

A fixed control model of GRC is flawed because it disregards a key feature of security and fraud attacks – namely that both attackers and defenders have imperfect knowledge in making their decisions. Recognizing that our knowledge is imperfect is the key to solving this problem. The goal of the CSO/CISO should be to develop a more insightful approach to GRC management.

The first step is to get everyone speaking the same language.

Adopt a standard language of GRC – the threat analysis base class

We formalize this language using a threat analysis base class which (like any other class), has attributes and methods. Attributes have two sub-types – threat entities and people entities.

Threat entities

Assets have value, fixed or variable in Dollar, Euro, and Rupee etc.  Examples of assets are employees and intellectual property contained in an office.

Vulnerabilities are weaknesses or a lacking in the business. For example – a wood office building with a weak foundation built in an earthquake zone.

Threats exploit vulnerabilities to cause damage to assets. For example – an earthquake is a threat to the employees and intellectual property stored on servers in the building.

Countermeasures have a cost, fixed are variable and mitigate the vulnerability. For example – relocating the building and using a private cloud service to store the IP.

People entities

Business decision makers encounter vulnerabilities and threats that damage company assets in their business unit. In a process of continuous interaction and discovery, risk is part of the cost of doing business.

Attackers create threats and exploit vulnerabilities to damage the business unit. Some do it for the notoriety, some for the money and some do it for the sales channel.

Consultants assess risk and recommend countermeasures. It’s all about the billable hours.

Vendors provide security countermeasures. The effectiveness of vendor technologies is poorly understood and often masked with marketing rhetoric and pseudo-science.

Methods

The threat analysis base class prescribes 4 methods:

  • SetThreatProbability -estimated annual rate of occurrence of the threat
  • SetThreatDamageToAsset – estimated damage to asset value in a percentage
  • SetCountermeasureEffectiveness – estimated effectiveness of the countermeasure in a percentage.
  • GetValueAtRisk

Speak the language fluently

A language with 8 words is not hard to learn, it’s easily accepted by CFO, CIO and CISO since these are familiar business terms.

The application of our 8 word language is also straightforward.

Instances of the threat analysis base class are “threat models” – and can be used in the entire gamut of GRC activities:  Sarbanes-Oxley, which requires a top down risk analysis of controls, ISO27001 – controls are countermeasures that map nicely to vulnerabilities and threats (you bring the assets) and PCI DSS 1.2 – the PAN is an asset, the threats are criminals who collude with employees to steal cards and the countermeasures are specified by the standard.

You can document the threat models in your GRC system (if you have one and it supports the 8 attributes). If you don’t have a GRC system, there is an excellent free piece of software to do threat modeling – available at http://www.ptatechnologies.com

Go green – recycle your threat models

Leading up to the Al Qaida attack on the US in 9/11, the FBI investigated, the CIA analyzed but no one bothered to discuss the impact of Saudis learning to fly but not land airplanes.

This sort of GRC disconnect in organizations is easily resolved between silos, by the common, politically neutral language of the threat analysis base class.

Summary

Effective GRC management requires neither better mathematical models nor complex enterprise software.  It does require us to explore new threat models and go outside the organization to look for risks we’ve never thought about and discover new links and interdependencies that may threaten our business.  If you follow the Tao of GRC 2.0 – it will be more than a fulfillment exercise.

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SOX IT Compliance

A customer case study – SOX IT Compliance

We performed a Sarbanes-Oxley IT top down security assessment for a NASDAQ-traded advanced technology company. The objectives for the study were to evaluate the internal and external threats that impact the company’s information assets. Using the Business threat modeling (BTM) methodology, a practical threat analysis PTA threat model was constructed and a number of threat scenarios were analyzed. Data was collected using structured interviews and network surveillance (with a Fidelis XPS appliance). Assets were valuated by the CFO and the IT security operations and technologies were valuated by the CIO. The output of the study was a cost-effective, prioritized program of security controls.This program was presented and approved by the management board of the company- leading to an immediate cost savings of over $120,000/year in the information security budget.

The detailed threat model was provided to the client and is currently used to perform what-if analysis and track the data security implementation. 

Download the data security case study and download the data security report to the management.

Conclusions

  1. The bulk of the security budget is currently spent on sustaining network perimeter security and system availability. Not surprisingly, these countermeasures are not particularly effective in mitigating insider threats such as lost or stolen hardware and information leakage, which now dominate the company’s risk profile.

  2. In corporate IT Security operations: The two major data security systems that were purchased in 2007, Imperva and Fidelis XPS Extrusion Prevention System have not yet been fully implemented and do not provide the expected benefit. To be specific, Imperva needs to be able to produce real-time alerts on violations based on logical combinations of OS user, DB application and DB user. Fidelis needs to be deployed in the subsidiaries. Monitoring from both systems needs to become a daily operational tool for the security officer.

  3. In the Asia Pacific region: Loss of notebooks to the tune of 2-3 / quarter is a major vulnerability although content abuse of the corporate network is assessed as negligible due to cultural factors.

  4. In general: Publicly facing FTP servers must be monitored carefully for violations of the company acceptable usage policy. In the course of the risk assessment, we discovered strategic plans and proprietary source codes that were stored on publicly accessible FTP servers.

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