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Jan 3, 2014

SMotW #86: info asset inventory integrity

Security Metric of the Week #86: integrity of the information asset inventory

As a general rule, if you are supposed to be securing or protecting something, it's quite useful to know at least roughly what that 'something' is ...

Compiling a decent list, inventory or database of information assets turns out to be quite a lot harder than one might think.  Most organizations made a stab at this for Y2K, but enormous though it was, that effort was very much focused on IT systems and, to some extent, computer data, while other forms of information (such as "knowledge") were largely ignored. 

Did your organization even maintain its Y2k database?  Hardly any did.

If we were able to assess, measure and report the completeness, accuracy and currency of the information asset inventory, we could provide some assurance that the inventory was being well managed and maintained - or at least that the figures are headed the right way.  


How would one actually generate the measurements? One way would be to validate a sample of records in the inventory against the corresponding assets, or vice versa (perhaps both).  A cunning plan to validate, say, the next 10% of the entries in the inventory every month would mean that the entire data set would be validated every year or so (allowing for changes during the year, including perhaps the introduction of additional categories of information asset that were not originally included). 

P
R
A
G
M
A
T
I
C
Score
82
66
83
78
80
43
50
66
70
69%

ACME management were quite interested in this metric, if a little concerned at the Accuracy, Timeliness and Integrity of the metric (ironic really!).  Having calculated the metric's PRAGMATIC score, they decided to put this one on the pending pile to revisit later.

The CISO was more confident than his peers that his people would compile the metric properly, and he toyed with the idea of either using the metric for his own purposes, or perhaps proposing a compromise: Internal Audit might be commissioned to sample and test the inventory on a totally independent basis, comparing their findings against those from Information Security to prove whether Information Security could be trusted to report this and indeed other security metrics.