Secure Digital Solutions, LLC
22 Aug 2017

Cybersecurity Maturity is Growing Up

originally featured on CSO Online

August 23rd, 2017
Ed Snodgrass, CISO

 

Maturity is an interesting word. We’ve heard it throughout our lives and it’s had different meanings in different contexts.  As a child, we heard it from our parents regarding “growing up” or “being more mature”.  We may not have entirely understood it then, but our parents knew that developing maturity would be important for friends, colleagues and peers to take us seriously.

As we grew older, we began to understand the concept of maturity and that it could be compared closely to wisdom.  We began using what we learned through experience and started applying that knowledge to our decision-making process.

Today we hear the word maturity frequently in the workplace.  We see it used in processes, methodologies, rating scales, etc., and from a technology and process standpoint, maturity can be applied to cybersecurity as well, although its applicability and benefit isn’t always readily apparent.

Case in point.  Recently, over lunch, I was attempting to explain the purpose and benefit of cybersecurity maturity to a business colleague.  Based on his skeptical expression, it was clear to me that I wasn’t succeeding.  He fully understood compliance and the implications of non-compliance, but wasn’t grasping the value of maturity and how it was relevant in the security space.

I thought about what was personally important for me to secure, and the answer was easy – my family.  I then thought about an area where compliance comes into play and how it is typically used to determine effectiveness – home fire safety.  Using that as an example, I asked him to rate his family’s level of home fire safety on a scale of 1-5.  “4-5,” was his response. “I have the best smoke alarms money can buy.  I have one on each floor and in each bedroom, as I’m required to by code.  In addition, I have a fire extinguisher in the house and one in the garage.”

From a compliance standpoint, we both agreed that his score of 4-5 was likely accurate, and one could say that he had gone above and beyond the minimum standard.  I then challenged him to look at it from a maturity perspective, using a series of ad-hoc questions as a baseline:

  • Do you test your smoke alarms?
  • Do you have a regular schedule for replacing the batteries or do you replace them only when the alarm tells you to?
  • Do you have a family communication and logistics plan that you can put into action if an alarm sounds in the middle of the night?
  • Do you practice the plan?
  • Does everyone in your family know where the fire extinguishers are?
  • Does everyone in your family know how to use the fire extinguishers?
  • Is there a pre-determined family assembly area outside?

As he considered each question, I then asked, now that he’d added a maturity measurement to compliance, what would he rate his family’s level of fire safety?  “Probably a 1-2,” was his concerned reply.

While this may be a simple example, it begs a question.  Traditional compliance and operational data is important, but does it provide adequate context to truly evaluate capability?  Using the fire safety example above, it doesn’t appear to.  My colleague had all the required detection mechanisms in place, including some additional preventative measures, but any significant capability for his family to respond effectively to a fire simply wasn’t there.

The same question can be asked of a cybersecurity organization, and a growing number of security leaders are adopting maturity as a metric to analyze and determine their team’s strategic capabilities because the hundreds of individual controls, while critical, only represent a point in time.

Cybersecurity maturity, used as a performance metric, offers additional insight into how the security organization is operating.  It can be used to analyze compliance and operational data at the process or function level.  Trends can be discovered, monitored and adjusted for.  An enterprise security training program may have all the right features in place, for instance, but the open rate of phishing emails by employees isn’t decreasing over time.  Do the components of the training program need to be adjusted or does the content?  Or, does the challenge lie within another function or process outside of the training program?   The use of maturity to analyze the capabilities of those processes can likely answer those questions.

In today’s evolving threat landscape, effective metrics are critical to security success.  Controls and operational data are required to run the organization today.  Strategic KPIs, such as maturity, are also required to measure, profile and plan the security organization’s capabilities for both today and tomorrow.  Performing a cybersecurity maturity assessment on the security organization will likely yield valuable insights.  There are excellent sources available that show where to begin and how to demonstrate the value of measuring cybersecurity capabilities and effectiveness.  (An example can be found here).

Ultimately, the best smoke alarms money can buy are powerful tools in the event of a fire, but only if everyone has the capability and maturity to respond effectively.

Interested in learning more about security program performance and leveraging the value of cybersecurity maturity? Download the white paper titled “Roadmap to Success

11 Apr 2017

Quest for Excellence in Cybersecurity Management

April 10th, 2017
Adam Stone, Principal, Secure Digital Solutions

Baldrige’s recently-published framework raises the bar for information security leaders by tying cybersecurity program management to performance excellence.

The Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, the venerable organization behind the national award for Performance Excellence® and quality for U.S. firms, released the final version of the Baldrige Cybersecurity Excellence Builder v1.0 (BCEB) self-assessment tool following their annual summit last week in Baltimore. Initiated in response to Executive Order 13636, the BCEB blends two NIST products (the Cybersecurity Framework and the Baldrige Excellence Framework) into a single assessment methodology. The goal of the BCEB is to help security leaders assess the effectiveness of their approach to cybersecurity, as determined by the unique needs, goals, and capabilities of their firm. Organized by seven categories (leadership, strategy, customers, measurement, operations, customers, and results), the BCEB uses process maturity as the key metric for communicating the strengths and weaknesses of an organization’s cybersecurity program.

Process Maturity: The New Standard for Cybersecurity Performance Excellence

The maturity-focused cybersecurity management approach is a paradigm shift that threatens the deeply-entrenched risk- and compliance-focused assessments familiar to most in the industry. We have observed disagreement among security professionals about the what the word maturity actually represents. Some use the word to describe the effectiveness of security controls, while others use maturity to understand their firms’ ability to minimize cyber risk. Authoritative bodies, such as the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC), appear to be adding to the confusion by blending the notion of process maturity with risk preparedness in the Cybersecurity Assessment Tool. In the end however, the FFIEC approach, along with similar assessment tools, still focus on more traditional controls-based risk management instead of performance excellence and quality.

What is often missed in traditional risk and compliance assessments is a clear understanding of the value that cybersecurity provides to the business. When security leaders communicate in the language of compliance or risk (two inherently negative topics), they miss the opportunity to demonstrate to executives the ways in which mature cybersecurity processes can help enable business growth and sustainability. An emphasis on business enablement – expressed as a function of performance excellence and quality – is what sets the BCEB apart from the traditional cybersecurity assessment tools.

Cybersecurity risk traditionalists will be pleased to know that we do not suggest that process maturity metrics replace established risk formulations. Quite the opposite! We need to understand risk in order to set clear goals and effectively respond to the ever-changing threat landscape for their firms. When communicating the value of cybersecurity to executives however, security leaders will likely find that the BCEB tool kit provides a better picture of the organization’s capacity to identify opportunities and leverage the benefits of effective cybersecurity management.

For Secure Digital Solutions (SDS), the emergence of the Baldrige Cybersecurity Excellence Builder validates the power of the cybersecurity assessment methodology embedded in our TrustMAPP® platform. Both the BCEB and TrustMAPP use process maturity to express the degree to which an organization achieves consistent quality and performance excellence. With clear alignment to the firm’s mission, values and objectives, TrustMAPP helps security leaders bridge the gap between security operations (risk focused) and process maturity (business focused).

To learn more on how cloud-based TrustMAPP® can help you maximize the benefits of the Baldrige Cybersecurity Excellence Builder, ask for your free trial today.

TrustMAPP® is a registered trademark of Secure Digital Solutions, LLC. All rights reserved.

BALDRIGE EXCELLENCE FRAMEWORK™ is a trademark, and BALDRIGE PERFORMANCE EXCELLENCE PROGRAM and Design®, MALCOLM BALDRIGE NATIONAL QUALITY AWARD®, and PERFORMANCE EXCELLENCE® are federally registered trademarks, of the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Institute of Standards and Technology.

20 Mar 2017

Cyber Risk is a Key Focus for Corporate Boards

March 20th, 2017
By Adam Stone, Principal

For organizations across industry sectors, digital commerce is the dominant vehicle to transact business and improve efficiency. Groundbreaking innovations in computing potential accelerate the speed of change for business, and the risks that naturally follow. A key risk that is often highlighted is cyber risk. Cyber risk is a key focus for corporate boards. According to the Institute of Risk Management cyber risk is defined as “any risk of financial loss, disruption or damage to the reputation of an organisation from some sort of failure of its information technology systems.”

Board members of the digital economy need the knowledge to ask the right questions of corporate executives. Without a reasonable degree of technical fluency, board members lack important tools to ensure a professional standard of care for the organizations they serve. Board members face a business imperative: adapt, today, to the disruptive changes of digital commerce by adopting a new dialect based in cyber risk.

Recently, the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD) published the 2017 Cyber Risk Oversight Handbook. The message of the Handbook is clear: to assert meaningful oversight in the digital economy, board members must treat cyber-risk as an issue of strategic import and operational significance for the organization. Cyber-risk ought not be written off as an “IT issue,” since this sort of thinking creates a hazardous blind spot for professionals charged with corporate governance responsibilities. To prepare board members for discussions about cyber risk, NACD recommends the following:

  • Understand the legal ramifications for the company, as well as the board itself.
  • Ensure directors have sufficient agenda time and access to expert information in order to have well-informed discussions with management.
  • Integrate cyber risk discussions with those about the company’s overall tolerance for risk.

These recommendations emphasize the need for proactive (rather than reactive) identification and analysis of cyber risks, as well as clear direction on cyber-risk management strategies. Importantly, the board’s treatment of cyber-risk ought to reflect the firm’s culture and capacity for change.

In support of an effective cyber risk strategy for the board, the Handbook outlines five cyber risk oversight principles fundamental to an effective risk management program.

Information security leaders play a crucial role in cyber risk governance. Board members depend on current, meaningful data to support the effectiveness of the firm’s information security controls and processes. For over a decade, Secure Digital Solutions (SDS) has provided solutions to elevate the language of information security by focusing on process maturity mapped to risk categories. Our award-winning TrustMAPP® platform leverages the powerful MAPP™ (Maturity Assessment, Profile, and Plan) methodology to quickly identify, measure and understand the performance of the business processes that support a security program and inform risk decisions.

Using process maturity as the key performance indicator for program effectiveness, TrustMAPP provides security leaders with readily available tools to effectively communicate the business value of cybersecurity and cyber risk. Executives and board members reap the benefits of TrustMAPP analytics via improved clarity in the organization’s information security posture and its impact on cyber risk strategies.

Want to learn more? Visit TrustMAPP.com for information about TrustMAPP®, powered by the MAPP™ methodology.

16 Feb 2017

Investors’ Top Five Cyber Security Questions

February 16th, 2017

In the wake of numerous high profile cyber attacks against global businesses, including Sony, Target, and eBay, investors and boards alike are realizing that data breaches are an ever-present threat. Investors expect that company boards will assume a leadership role in addressing risks and controlling damage from these cyber incidents. Information security leaders should also understand what boards and investors expect from them in translating the business value of security
An article from the Council of Institutional Investors called “Prioritizing Cybersecurity” explores investors top five cyber security questions they are asking company boards, and how the board can effectively respond.

 

 

  1. How are the company’s cyber risks communicated to the board, by whom, and with what frequency?

With this question, investors want to learn how well informed the directors are regarding the company’s cyber risk profile. Investors are best reassured when the board is updated frequently about information security risks.

  1. Has the board evaluated and approved the company’s cybersecurity strategy?

Investors expect the board to have a full understanding of the company’s strategy for minimizing the financial and material impact of a cyber incident. A good strategy includes protecting the most critical data and assets from operational, financial, reputational, and legal harm. It should include preventative, detective, and corrective measures. The board must also be familiar with management’s incident response procedures, including simulation drills and a strong communications plan.

  1. How does the board ensure that the company is organized appropriately to address cybersecurity risks? Does management have the skill sets it needs?

Cyber security often requires a multi-disciplinary approach across multiple management levels. Board members are responsible for reviewing the backgrounds and qualifications of everyone accountable for cybersecurity. Investors look for an organizational structure with clearly delineated responsibilities and sufficient management oversight.

  1. How does the board evaluate the effectiveness of the company’s cybersecurity efforts?

The board has the authority to establish standard performance metrics based on the company’s size, industry, and risk profile. An additional benchmark is to compare performance to that of similar companies. Investors want to know how the company’s security efforts perform according to the company’s own metrics, as well as how they compare to other companies.

  1. When did the board last discuss whether the company’s disclosure of cyber risk and cyber incidents is consistent with SEC guidance?

Investors want the board to fairly and accurately report on the company’s cyber risk profile and security performance. The SEC asks that companies disclose cyber incidents, but provides few guidelines regarding when such a disclosure is required. The board can proactively communicate the process used to assess damage from cyber incidents on the company’s data and assets. Transparency about this process reassures investors of the company’s cyber health.

Boards and investors can develop a more productive partnership through better communication. Board members should seek to understand the investors’ concerns, and the investors should make equal effort to understand the board’s decisions and actions.

Secure Digital Solutions offers TrustMAPP®, a platform that facilitates this type of communication and information sharing with boards by information security leaders. Contact our team to learn more about TrustMAPP® solution.

19 Oct 2016

Cyber Security Services Catalog Enables Strategy

October 19th, 2016
Mike Edlund, Solutions Manager

Cyber Security Service Catalog Enables Strategy

Creating a Security Services Catalog for a larger security team begins to drive value across the business. A security service catalog enables strategy by clearly articulating to the business customer the type of services the security team provides and the level of service and responsible parties for each area identified.

Customer Request

A customer requested Secure Digital Solutions (SDS) to develop security plans and procedures to consistently manage their information security program. SDS collaborated with the security team to document and improve the current and desired security activities and plans. Our security consulting client had two challenges:

  • Procedures and plans to deliver the security program activities were not formally documented, leading to poorly-defined program actions and responsibilities.
  • Roles and responsibilities defined in newly minted procedures and plans were not aligned with the team set up to do these activities.

The customer engaged SDS to conduct in a collaborative environment development of cyber security plans and procedures for the cyber security program and supporting team members. Along the way, SDS discovered a gap in roles and responsibilities that led to a further surprise benefit to assist the security program.

SDS Solution

Over a period of months, SDS partnered with customer security leadership to define desired security program procedures and plans. The documents included a number of areas such as threat and vulnerability management, training and awareness, risk management as well as policy and standards management.

servicescatalogSDS began creating a number of documents that laid out areas within the security program. Plans to define how these areas would be strategically delivered were designed and offered for further feedback, input and iteration from the security team and leadership to reach a final draft status. The SDS team developed the content leveraging both industry best practice and
actual approach by the customer’s security team.

Plans and procedures included sections to define roles and responsibilities as to who is responsible to deliver the security program processes and related service levels. SDS also noted that missing formal responsibilities for the security team were leading to more firefighting and less strategic, planned activities. This conversation and discovery identified the need to coalesce security team processes into a centralized service catalog.

Consulting with customer’s security team lead to the creation of a services catalog that defined the required activities and assigned team personnel requirements to these activities.  As a result not only did the security team have a clear understanding of priorities and responsibilities, the business customers also understood the scope of the internal security services team.  Business teams now understand how to engage and who to speak with regarding various projects and customer engagements.

Impact on the Client’s Business

Along the way, leadership of the security team changed. The security catalog took on a whole new meaning with a surprising additional benefit. With the catalog’s estimates for FTEs required for duties to properly cover the entire security program, the new security leadership leveraged the security service catalog as the means to forecast and request additional resources to executive stakeholders.

With the change in security program leadership, the plans and procedures also offered insights and a standard approach from which the new leadership could understand how the program is managed.

17 Aug 2016

How Measuring Process Maturity Exceeds a Binary Compliance Approach

August 17th, 2016
By Corey Tower, CISM, PMP

If you have ever been in charge of implementing an inaugural security program or have been asked to formally organize information security, you know that compliance requirements are at the forefront of the conversation. Yet if you’ve been building and managing a security program for years you already know a compliance-based approach is not robust to handle modern threats or comprehensive to manage risk across the entire business. As a measurement tool, compliance assessments are blunt instruments that focus primarily on the existence of controls. These assessments tend to yield binary results – either the organization is compliant, or not.  Let’s explore how measuring your process maturity exceeds a binary compliance approach.

Implementing security effectively from the results of a compliance assessment is challenging, since gaps in compliance suggest the need for security investments that may be disproportionate to the problem the organization is trying to solve.

How Maturity Prioritizes Investment

Focusing on your maturity will allow you to view your program in both dark and bright lights. If you are serious about the effectiveness of your security program, you must be honest about the current state. For example, if you have in-house software development and you complete the compliance section of securing source code, you have two choices:

  1. Compliance Approach: Check the box that says “We do it – done.”
  2. Maturity Approach: Deep dive into process-level maturity. (I.e. “How do we protect source code? How well defined are the standards to protect source code? What goal have we defined for source code protection? Is the security of our source code library adequate?”) Each scored on a maturity scale of 0 through 5 such as those defined by COBIT.

Once you’ve completed a maturity assessment of all processes that make up information security program, you can begin a more efficient plan for resource allocation and budget management. For example, perhaps 250 hours of project resource time can be shifted from your very mature patch management process to help your struggling security and event management effort. A maturity-based assessment helps to identify the performance level of key process areas and the output compliments and enhances a risk assessment.  Looking at processes through the lens of maturity provides greater dimension to team and security program performance and conveys how to allocate resources once maturity goals are achieved.

Automate Maturity Assessments
Secure Digital Solutions’ TrustMAPP™ platform, powered by the MAPP™ (Maturity Assessment, Profile, and Plan) methodology, offers security leaders the ability to:

  • Identify how much security is “enough” by establishing process-level performance goals
  • Measure the effectiveness of your security programs and the capacity to accomplish outcomes
  • Link information security metrics and measurement back to business value and strategy
  • Use analytics and estimated level of effort to tell a compelling story to business executives and the board

TrustMAPP reports security posture by maturity levels, including trending analysis, planning, budgeting, and built-in support for multiple security frameworks and regulations. As a cloud solution, TrustMAPP enables clients to begin assessing their information security program in weeks instead of months. TrustMAPP helps security leaders create and communicate a strategic roadmap, build budgets and resource plans to guide their organizations’ security activities.

09 Jun 2016

Breaking Down Barriers to Effective Information Security

June 9, 2016
Mike-Edlund-Large
By Mike Edlund, CISM

A recent survey* was conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and asked 9600 C-level leaders about obstacles to effective cybersecurity. The barriers identified in PwC’s study include:

  • Insufficient funding for capital expenditures
  • Lack of or ineffective CEO leadership
  • Absence or shortage of in-house technical expertise
  • Insufficient funding for operating expenditures
  • Lack of an effective information security strategy
  • Lack of an actionable cybersecurity vision or understanding
  • Lack of or ineffective CIO leadership
  • Poorly integrated or overly complex information/IT systems
  • Lack of or ineffective Security Chief (CISO or others) leadership

PwC found that sometimes different C-levels have diverging views on how strong a barrier is. For example, one item, Absence or shortage of in-house technical expertise, was viewed more strongly as an obstacle by CEOs and CIOs, but the CFO did not view as strongly.

Let’s look at breaking down these barriers – we’ll group some to address collectively.

  • Lack of an effective information security strategy
  • Lack of an actionable cybersecurity vision or understanding

We’ve found that having a common language to discuss and create strategy and vision for cybersecurity or information security at the company’s executive levels breaks down these barriers. For all C-level and senior leadership, conduct strategy sessions that revolve around the information security processes and use the process lens just like the rest of the business looks at its operations. Looking at how well processes are running (as-is) and how they can be improved (to-be) will let all parties assist with and provide input on good strategy and goal setting, just like the rest of the business. Looking at information security processes from this perspective lets information security become and be understood as a business enabler, not the classic department of “No!” from the past.

  • Lack of or ineffective CEO leadership
  • Lack of or ineffective CIO leadership
  • Lack of or ineffective Security Chief (CISO or others) leadership

Using the above common language approach (viewing cybersecurity through the process lens) should provide all three leaders with language and understanding that can help them have an equal understanding. When each has common understanding about and a language through which to view information security and its strategy, leadership easily begins speaking the same language and addressing the most important decisions collectively.

  • Insufficient funding for capital expenditures
  • Insufficient funding for operating expenditures

Conducting a risk assessment, compliance assessment and capability assessment by competent internal or external parties helps to provide this supporting information for investments. Regardless of whether results and gaps are viewed through a risk, compliance or capability lens, gaps or findings with priorities for improvements should include funding for new technology, new staff efforts or ongoing efforts appropriately captured assists C-level leadership understand needs for information security investments. A strong review during an assessment, whether conducted internally or by a third-party, should include findings that include costs for addressing information security program gaps.

  • TrustMAPP-ExecutivePlanningAbsence or shortage of in-house technical expertise

A solid team capability assessment will review cybersecurity team member responsibilities and roles for any of the assessments mentioned previously (risk, compliance or process-based). Findings will lead to leadership understanding where there are gaps in addressing the cybersecurity program’s needs through its people. As mentioned above, solid assessment results should provide funding estimates for additional training or personnel to meet developing or ongoing requirements of the security program. As mentioned above, review of cybersecurity expertise, whether conducted internally or by a third-party, should include findings that include costs for addressing cybersecurity program personnel gaps.

  • Poorly integrated or overly complex information/IT systems

This one may require review from various perspectives to reduce complexity or improve integration. Integration may be improved through the above approach using process as a common language between cybersecurity and the C-level. Understanding what is needed between information security and the business should improve through this common language approach. Further review through risk, compliance or process-based assessment should tease out issues around this barrier. Risk may find that poorly integrate systems show frequent downtime or failures, increasing risks due to unavailability of systems. Compliance may find that poor sharing of compliance-specific information between systems or high costs related to complying with a regulation due to system complexity show where improvements will be needed.

To break down these barriers for your information security program, look at what SDS’ Maturity Assessment, Profile, and Plan (MAPP) approach can provide for you.

*Survey: http://www.pwc.com/us/en/view/issue-15/cybersecurity-business-priority.html

16 May 2016

How much information security is enough?

By Chad Boeckmann & Adam Stone
May 16th, 2016

Let’s talk about benchmarking. It’s a question our team receives from clients both large and small. When discussing our information security-focused MAPP methodology and our TrustMAPP (formerly, Accliviti) platform, our clients (and their board members) want to know how they stack up, maturity-wise, to their peers. The common belief among this audience is that benchmarking data will help answer the question “how much information security is enough?”

This approach makes sense at a certain level; knowing how mature your organization’s security program is relative to your peers seems, on its face, to suggest that you are meeting (or not meeting) the standard defined by your industry. Like many statistics however, context plays an important role in deciphering benchmarking data. And it probably wouldn’t surprise the reader that without the benefit of context, the value of benchmark data diminishes. This is especially true for a topic such as information security program maturity.iStock_000019293901_Small

How much information security is enough? When do we find confidence that the organization has invested the right amount of time and resources to reasonably safeguard our information assets? Fair questions. Based on our experience over the last ten years, knowing your maturity benchmark provides an incomplete answer. The reason is simple: each organization is different. The diversity of organizational cultures and risk appetites within a given industry – even in highly-regulated sectors – virtually guarantees that the results of a maturity assessment will yield an interpretation unique to the organization under review.

Looking at this from a practical view, consider Bank A and Bank B (organization size doesn’t matter in this case). Let’s say that Bank A conducted an assessment that yielded an average information security program maturity score of 3 (out of a scale of 1 Low – 5 High). Bank B underwent a similar assessment that returned a score of 3.75. Benchmarking one against the other, it appears that Bank B is more mature than Bank A. Does this mean that Bank A needs to invest into security more to catch up to Bank B?

Not necessarily. Though these two scores provide some information about the effectiveness of each organization’s information security program, the scores provide little insight into the culture and capacity that drives process maturity. This leads us to the core question: does knowing the maturity of your peers provide meaningful, actionable information with which a security leader can leverage? Our answer is a resounding “maybe.”

We recommend that companies look inward versus outward. Instead of focusing on the comparison of your security maturity to your peers, consider a more introspective approach. What is your company’s security program maturity goals? What drives these goals? How does our organization’s culture impact our ability to achieve these goals? What does it mean to score a maturity level of 3 versus 4 or 2?

Since many organizations have yet to conduct an information security program maturity assessment, we suggest that you use the results of your first assessment to set a baseline for your organization. Communicate the baseline to your executives and board members. Ask this audience to draw a line in the sand based on, of course, an understanding of organizational culture and capacity. Work to improve information security program maturity based on the goals defined by these key stakeholders. Doing so, security leaders will find that, despite the constantly shifting business priorities, focusing on your own maturity goals will produce far greater dividends than worrying about your peer’s security maturity.

To learn more about information security program maturity, you can request a copy of our popular white paper on MAPP (Maturity Assessment, Profile and Plan).

 

02 May 2016

Process Maturity Assessments for Information Security

Adam Stone, CISSP, CIPP, HCISPP, CHPS
May 2, 2016

Over the past few weeks, SDS received lots of positive feedback from a recent post, Elevate Cybersecurity Communication to Improve Executive Understanding. What we took away from responses to this and a related post is that there is great interest in unifying and elevating the security discussion by shifting the focus to business processes. It is important to note that process maturity assessments for information security are unique in outcome and value. Not surprisingly, there is still confusion about the differences between an information security process maturity assessment and the other types of security assessments traditionally employed (namely, risk-, controls- and compliance-focused assessments). We can empathize. Measuring and communicating process maturity is a relatively new approach that is picking up steam across business sectors. It will take some time to see the industry understand, adopt and operationalize. That said, business leaders should understand that each information security assessment type has its own unique objectives, goals and benefits. The simple table below to highlight these differences:

 

Assessment Type Objectives Goals Benefits
Audit Comply with prevailing reporting requirements. Seek evidence that an organization implements and adheres to its internal policies and controls. Provide assurances by aligning business practices with internal policies and controls requirements.
Compliance Assessment Comply with prevailing legal and regulatory obligations. Seek evidence that an organization implements and adheres to its legal and regulatory obligations. Reduce exposure by aligning business practices with compliance requirements.
Risk Assessment Manage risk to an acceptable level. Identify and prioritize risks based on an analysis of threats, vulnerabilities and mitigating controls factored against the likelihood that a threat actor will exploit a given vulnerability. Enable organizations to predict and prepare security defenses for future loss events.
Maturity Assessment Manage organizational culture to improve effectiveness. Measure the capacity to effectively and efficiently manage an information security program. Enable organizations to improve security-related business processes by motivating a culture of security throughout.

 

assessment_relationshipOf these four assessment approaches, only the process maturity approach explicitly aims to elevate the language of information security by recognizing that organizational culture (enabled by people, processes and tools) plays a significant role in the lasting success of an information security program. Through the lens of culture, the maturity assessment identifies, quantifies and recommends strategies to raise the organization’s capacity to “get security done” in a manner that emphasizes process efficiency and effectiveness. Unlike the other assessment types (which sometimes view security in a vacuum), the maturity assessment emphasizes the fact that security is a critical business function that exists to help companies grow revenue and minimize costs.

Now before you risk and compliance assessment purists pick up your pitchforks, let’s be clear: we are not suggesting that maturity assessments replace commonly-employed information security assessments. In fact, we believe that the results of maturity assessments complement and inform audits, compliance and risk assessments…and vice versa. At the end of the day, the assessment approach you use depends on the folks who will consume the results and recommendations. If you anticipate that this audience will be senior executives and the board, using the language of process maturity will improve the force and clarity of your message.

Secure Digital Solutions’ TrustMAPP™ platform, powered by our MAPP™ methodology, uses a process maturity assessments for information security approach to enable organizations with clear understanding of security posture. This security posture is based on maturity levels, including trending analysis, planning (resources hours) and budgeting (capital costs), with built-in support for multiple security frameworks and regulations. With Accliviti’s SaaS delivery model, scoring, tracking improvements and communicating performance of a cybersecurity program happens in weeks, instead of months, using built-in analytics. Accliviti helps security leaders create and communicate a strategic roadmap to guide the organization’s security activities.

By leveraging the best-practice MAPP model (Maturity Assessment, Profile, and Plan) using an automated tool like TrustMAPP, security leaders can now focus more time and interactions towards security strategy and advisor roles for the business.

11 Apr 2016

Elevate Cybersecurity Communication to Improve Executive Understanding

By Adam Stone, Secure Digital Solutions
April 11, 2016

A few weeks ago, my colleague, Tennelle Anderson, argued the need for a common language that explains cybersecurity issues in a clear, consistent manner. The thrust of Anderson’s post is that business leaders hear different narratives about the state of cybersecurity depending on who is delivering the message. Ask an auditor about security and the response often focuses on controls. A corporate lawyer may communicate security in terms of compliance. Invite a security professional’s view about the state of security and the answer is often couched in risk mitigation. It is time we begin to Elevate Cybersecurity Communication to Improve Executive Understanding.

Not surprisingly, top managers are confused. According to a recent CNBC report, “more than 90 percent of corporate executives said they cannot read a cybersecurity report” and as a result, “are not prepared to handle a major attack.” Ouch.

As we can see, the real problem facing today’s cybersecurity leaders is less about blocking and tackling security threats and more about successfully communicating program effectiveness (without overselling) to the folks that matter. Without a clear understanding of the value security brings to the business, the natural reaction of executives and board members is to gloss over the issue or worse, underinvest in the security function.

There are new methodologies and solutions rising to the cybersecurity communications challenge. Of these, measuring and communicating cybersecurity issues in terms of process maturity is gaining the most traction. Distinct from the outputs of audits, compliance reviews and risk assessments, focusing on process maturity provides a new narrative; describing in measurable terms an organization’s capacity to effectively and efficiently manage the myriad business processes that comprise a cybersecurity program. Process maturity tablet-2-FPOenables organizations to think strategically about cybersecurity challenges by elevating the discussion beyond controls-based management

Secure Digital Solutions’ Accliviti™ tool, powered by our MAPP™ methodology, empowers organizations with a clear picture of security posture based on ma
turity levels, including trending analysis, planning and budgeting, and built-in support for multiple security frameworks and regulations. With Accliviti’s SaaS delivery model, scoring, tracking improvements and communicating performance of a cybersecurity program happens in weeks, instead of months, using built-in analytics. Accliviti helps security leaders create and communicate a strategic roadmap to guide the organization’s security activities.

By leveraging the best-practice MAPP model (Maturity Assessment, Profile, and Plan) using an automated tool like Accliviti, security leaders can now focus more time and interactions towards security strategy and advisor roles for the business.