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Policy, Personnel, and Equipment as Security Enablers

  • Sample Chapter is provided courtesy of Cisco Press.
  • Date: Apr 1, 2005.

Chapter Description

Policy plays an integral role in security effectiveness. Educating users on their responsibility to enhance security can have a twofold effect: It ensures that deployed equipment can perform tasks with greater effectiveness, and it creates an environment that encourages and supports individual responsibility.

Surveying IT Management

Making the business case for network security requires that a multitude of soft factors be garnered from both the technical and human elements within an organization. While technical elements are relatively straightforward to ascertain, determining human elements can be more challenging, because personal opinion can vary markedly across an organization's senior management team.

To begin the process of determining an organization's tolerance for risk, a series of questions were developed for this book. The questions, presented in the Infosec Management (IM) survey, were created to address a fundamental requirement of most organizations—a company must first acknowledge its aversion to risk before it can begin the process of effectively securing itself. This section discusses the need for determining a consensus on risk and then presents the IM survey.

The discussion centers on the following topics:

  • The need for determining a consensus on risk

  • Infosec Management survey

  • Infosec Management quotient

The Need for Determining a Consensus on Risk

Successful companies typically follow similar paths: A senior-level consensus on goals is established, and then managers work diligently to achieve the stated goals. While individual drive and entrepreneurial spirit are essential factors in every company's success, a firm's senior management team must first reach consensus on the organization's goals and strategies; consensus is simply the surest way to underwrite success. Developing an effective security plan is no different; it requires an organization's senior management team to first reach consensus on its aversion to risk.

It is important to acknowledge that achieving consensus on risk is not a straightforward task. Risk is relative. Every senior manager, unwittingly or not, brings to bear on the organization his or her own personal tolerance level for risk. To achieve effective risk management, every significant senior manager needs his or her opinion to be considered. The IM survey, which is discussed in the next section, was developed to ensure that organizations can achieve consensus for the establishment of their security postures.

Infosec Management Survey

The Infosec Management (IM) survey in this chapter and its sister Infosec Operational (IO) survey, which is presented in Chapter 7, "Engaging the Corporation: Management and Employees," were created for this book to help organizations determine their overall aversion to risk. The IM survey is designed to be completed by IT managers, CIOs, CSOs, and CISOs. The IO survey is designed to be completed by senior managers from every significant department. Material for the surveys reflects issues that are discussed in this book, ranging from policies, processes, and business requirements to equipment and personnel issues. While the survey questions are designed to be applicable to most organizational situations, the manager responsible for disseminating the survey should feel free to change the questions to best reflect his organization's requirements.

The IM survey focuses on policy and the human aspect of risk management; the results can help calculate an IM quotient. The IM quotient is the mean score of all those who participate in the survey. The IO survey in Chapter 7 focuses on technology, equipment loss, and communication; the results can help calculate an IO quotient—the mean score of all those who participate in the survey in Chapter 7. The IM quotient and IO quotient are part of the risk-aversion discussions in Chapter 8, "Risk Aversion and Security Topologies."

Through careful consideration of the results to answers in both surveys, managers can determine whether their current policy does the following things:

  • Reflects their immediate needs

  • Is flexible enough to adapt to a fluid business environment and a changing security posture

  • Reflects the workflow but doesn't attempt to control it

  • Has input from every corner of the organization

  • Has support of corporate management

  • Has an automatic review and readjustment process

  • Acts as a business enabler

In addition to establishing an IM quotient and an IO quotient, the surveys aid organizations in highlighting stress points, revealing vulnerabilities that should be addressed in both policy and actions.

Organizations are encouraged to benchmark their results against industry standards, in particular ISO 17799, "Code of Practice for Information Security Management," an auditable standard first published in 2000 by the International Standards Organization (ISO). The ISO (http://www.iso.org/iso/en/ISOOnline.frontpage) is synonymous with quality benchmarking, and its work in the security field addresses similar concerns. It provides a process that deploys security standards that organizations can follow and, ultimately, audit.

The rating scale in Table 5-1 should be used to respond to the Infosec Management (IM) survey questions.

Table 5-1 IM Survey Rating Scale

Rating Scale

Rating Explanation


Not applicable, firm does not engage in process


Meets some requirements


Meets most requirements


Meets all requirements


Overachieves requirements


Exceptionally forward-thinking, exceeds all requirements

The survey, shown in Table 5-2, should be distributed to all appropriate IT managers: CIO, CSO, CISO, and so on. It is best to include as many senior IT managers as possible to ensure that consensus can be effectively achieved.

Table 5-2Å@IM Survey

Question or Situation to Be Considered

Rating Schedule

Does the organization have a comprehensive security policy that encompasses all departments, remote offices, and personnel?


Aside from denying access to finance and HR, does individual network access differ markedly by job category?


For recently departed employees, is IT notified, as dictated by policy, either before or within minutes of departure?


For intracompany employee transfers, is IT notified, as dictated by policy, either before or within minutes of transfer?


Are users prevented from reusing passwords?


Are users denied the ability to use either their first or last name as a password?


Are passwords changed, at a minimum, every 30 days?


Are visitors and noncompany personnel accompanied at all times?


Are branch or remote office employees denied the ability to install software on their computers and equipment?


If users are not allowed to load any type of software, is this mandate enforced by policy and practice?


Does IT have the sole responsibility for all software installations on all equipment, regardless of how innocuous the loading might appear?


Are discarded hard drives sanitized, a process that overwrites each block of a disk drive and fills it with 0s?


Are comprehensive system logs recorded?


Question or Situation to Be Considered

Rating Schedule

Are comprehensive system logs regularly monitored for abnormal behavior?


Does the organization use encryption when forwarding all confidential files and documents?


Does the organization use digital signatures?


Does IT prioritize the patching of pertinent equipment when notified by a patch information service or the vendor?


Does IT apply patches within hours of the patch being released?


Does a backup person exist to monitor and immediately install patches if the appointed person is unexpectedly absent?


Does the organization regularly (at least once per year) survey all departments and remote offices for mandatory equipment logging and tagging?


Do all users unequivocally understand the company's Internet and e-mail policies?


Are the company's e-mail and Internet policies enforced?


Does the organization have a body, or group, that is independent of IT to oversee system security?


Does every process, equipment, and policy have an unequivocal owner?


Does the organization have a policy requiring remote users and travelers to effectively secure their equipment when out of the office?


Does the organization have a formal and continuous security education program that highlights user responsibility?


Does the organization have consistent communication with employees about known security incidents/ breaches—particularly how to prevent recurrences?




Question or Situation to Be Considered

Rating Schedule

Does the organization have a formal process that comprehensively vets (confirms work history, education, and so on) all employees, including contract workers and temporary staff?


Does the company have a business continuity plan in the event of a crisis?


Is the business continuity plan tested and deployed in a mock trial at least annually?


Does the organization have a process to regularly review security policies and adjust them to reflect any change in equipment, processes, or business requirements?


Is the formal security review process performed by a company-wide group that consists of business and IT managers?


Does the company fully explain its security rationale to employees so that individuals can become active proponents?


Infosec Management Quotient

The Infosec Management (IM) quotient is derived by averaging the scores of those managers who participated in the survey. Extensive IT management participation can help ensure an IM quotient that is truly reflective of the organization's aversion to risk.

The IM quotient (and IO quotient, which is determined in Chapter 7) can be married to a hard-number formulation process that helps quantify security decisions. These formulations are explored in Chapter 8 and form the foundation of the return on prevention (ROP) model.

To establish the IM quotient, determine the average score and convert it to a percentage, as follows:

IM quotient _ Average of survey results * (100 _ Total possible points)

where Total possible points _ 5 * Number of questions

If you use all 33 questions from the survey in this chapter, the formula would be as follows:

IM quotient _ Average of survey results * (100_165)

Reserve the result for use in Chapter 8 to aid in determining the organization's risk and risk aversion and to determine the appropriate topologies to avert that risk.

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