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:
|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.|
Of 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.