Oct 27 2009

Clear Policies and Effective Controls

Category: Policies & ControlsDISC @ 2:19 pm

Image via Wikipedia

Writing Information Security Policies

Policy defines law of an organization what is acceptable and less risky way of doing business. Having a law in-place is one thing (a good start for an organization) but how you enforce or change policies over time is a key to successful policy implementation.

To control your environment context is everything, what you want to allow as well as actions that you will take to safeguard your environment to enforce suitable policies. The policies will determine who can access your infrastructure under what circumstances and what conditions and especially what actions needed to be taken when users or devices are in non-compliance.

Over the passage of time you need to re-access policies to determine what new policies need to be added and which one need to be edited or discarded based on current business needs. Policy control should be transparent to user and balance need to be maintained between usability and security. During maintaining this balance policy is more of an art than science. If security control cost more than the benefit attain from business activity, at that point we might need to readdress, how much we want to control the environment which is acceptable to current business needs and does not thwart business activity.

Regularly reassessing policies, education users and enforce current policies to help limit your organization liability. Make sure your practice matches your policies; you may be creating a liability that you believe you have protected yourself against.

You got to try out your new policies to see how well they work in your environment. In this regard you might want to issue policy position statement to receive open feedback from user community before adding into to your company policy. By re-assessing policies on regular basis, and issuing policy statement before enforcing a policy, you can achieve better control over your environment by understanding your user’s requirements and business needs. Deming PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) model apply to the process of building policy, you build this process to perfection over time.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tags: clear policies, effective controls, information security policy, infrastructure control, PDCA, pdca model, position statement, secrity control

Aug 10 2009

Managing Risks and NIST 800-53

Category: Security Risk AssessmentDISC @ 5:48 pm

logo of en:National Institute of Standards and...
Image via Wikipedia

FISMA Certification & Accreditation Handbook

The organizations need to establish security program to manage their day to day risks. Before selecting the controls from standards such as (NIST 800-53 or ISO 27002), organizations need to have complete inventory of the assets involved in the scope. Assets involved in the scope would require a comprehensive risk assessment to determine the sensitivity/criticality of these assets. Depending on the categorization of these assets will determine an appropriate control from standard to mitigate relevant risk. In some cases supplemental controls may be required.

Management of risks involves the risks to the organization with the operation of an information system or information security management system. Risk management is an effective frame work for selecting appropriate security controls for an information system and assist in selecting of appropriate security controls to protect assets.

Both ISO and NIST standards follow the similar path in control selections. NIST 800-53 has 163 high level controls and 154 medium level controls which have around 95% mapping with ISO 27002 which has 133 controls. While NIST SP 800-53 is required for federal (unclassified) information system, NIST encourages its use in commercial space. Commercial organizations can utilize the NIST standard to create their security program, which will provide a road map to their security strategy and assist in making informed decisions for securing their information assets.

The management of day to day risks is a key element in an organization’s information security program and both NIST and ISO provide an effective framework for selecting and managing the appropriate security controls for information system. ISO utilize PDCA (Plan, Do Check, and Act) Deming model for selecting the appropriate security controls and managing its information security management system. NIST on the other hand utilize the similar framework for selecting and managing appropriate controls for information system and is called risk management framework security life cycle. Copy of the NIST risk management framework security life cycle is available to see an eerie resemblance with PDCA model.


Around 80% of critical infrastructure resides in private sectors which required to be protected by various regulations. Both NIST and ISO can be utilized to protect assets, however in some cases one standard might fit better in your environment then the other or perhaps you are able to manage one standard better then the other. Both standards required their information system to be audited or reviewed by authorized organizations to achieve apporpriate certifications.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Tags: iso 27001, iso 27002, NIST 800-53, PDCA, Risk management

Jan 30 2009

ISO 27k and CMMI

Category: Information Security,ISO 27kDISC @ 2:00 am

To become a successful business in today’s market, optimized information security controls may be the panacea for unmet security needs. One way to achieve optimized information security control is to perform ISO assessment and assess the organization security posture based on ISO 27002 code of practice and map each control with Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) to find out the current CMMI level for each control. information The goal is to address the organization security needs as a whole, and assess how different departments and business functions are addressing the current business security requirements. The CMMI has five levels and evaluate security controls based on levels, not on specific objectives. Each level provides the basis for the next level where it is not possible to get to the next level without complying with previous level. ISO 27002 is a comprehensive framework which can be utilized to obtain the baseline upon which to build each level. For each control in ISO 27002, maturity levels are defined using maturity definition found in CMMI. In the assessment report maturity level of each control of ISO 27002 standard can be evaluated. Utilizing the color coded scheme provided by CMMI model, create a one page ISO control summary for executives which will not only help them to understand the current security posture but also can be instrumental for measuring progress and resource allocation.

The scope of the ISO27k standards includes various aspects of IT. The introduction to ISO 27002 states clearly: “Information can exist in many forms. It can be printed or written on paper, stored electronically, transmitted by post of using electronic means, shown on films, or spoken in conversation. Whatever form information takes, or means by which it is shared or stored, it should always be appropriately protected.”

Benefits of ISO 27k framework:
o Framework addresses the security issues for the whole organization and limit data breaches
o Address compliance with various regulations like (SOX, HIPAA, and PCI) without creating silos.
o Reduce total cost of security by decreasing total number of controls required
o Perception of your business that you are serious about information security not just compliance
o Enhance partners and vendors confidence to do business with your organization
o Future deciding factor for national and especially international partners for more business
o Internationally recognized standard which addresses security awareness for the whole organization


Assessment will give an organization a high level view of their current security posture and provide a road map for security strategy in a sense what needs to be addressed first utilizing risk based approach. This is also a good start if your organization is interested in the Information Security Management System (ISMS) or ISO 27001 certification. ISO 27001 is the standard for the certification which includes the set of requirements for ISMS. Justifiable scoping is the key to a quick and successful certification; organization may adjust their scope in a re-certification attempt. Perhaps in the first attempt you may need to include just a web portal in your scope and the entire infrastructure behind supporting that portal. Once the ISMS project scope is determined, here are some steps you can follow to prepare for ISO 27001 auditors.

1. Based on your scope, create an asset list
2. Find out asset threats and vulnerabilities and classify the asset based on CIA scale
3. Come up with risk matrix based on impact and likelihood of the risk
4. Create priorities based on impact and likelihood of the risk
5. Based on priorities, implement appropriate controls for risks which needs to be addressed
6. Do the risk assessment again, PDCA improve ISMS

“ISO27001 is a structured, technology-neutral, vendor-agnostic specification and code of practice for information security management in organizations of all sizes that should be adopted as part of an organization’s overall risk management strategy.”

This should give you a jump start to certification. You have already started the process of certification because most of the documentations in the risk assessment will become part of certification process later and will lead you to 12 steps which are part of PDCA cycle. ISMS certification process utilized Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle methodology which continually improve information security management system and meet the contractual, legal, and regulatory requirements for information security.

ISO assessment is utilized to analyze the current security posture of an organization where each control is defined and can be color coded using the base definition found in CMMI. Therefore ISO assessment is a great first step towards the final ISO 27001 certification audit or for that matter any compliance audit.


ISO 27k framework for today’s security challenges

Three useful titles on ISO 27k by Alan Calder

Tags: Capability Maturity Model Integration, CIA scale, Information Security, Information Security Management System, International Organization for Standardization, isms, iso 27001, iso 27002, ISO/IEC 27001, PCI, PDCA, Risk Assessment, Risk management, Security, SOX HIPAA, vsrisk