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8 May 2013

Security metric #56: embarrassment factor

Security Metric of the Week #56: embarrassment factor

This naive metric involves counting the privacy breaches and other information security incidents that become public knowledge and so embarrasses management and/or the organization.  The time period corresponds to the reporting frequency - for example it might be calculated and reported as a rolling count every 3-12 months, depending on the normal rate of embarrassing incidents.  

In bureaucratic or highly formalized organizations, it would be a challenge even to define what constitutes 'embarrassing', although most of us can figure it out for ourselves without getting too anal about it.

The metric's purpose, of course, is to reduce the number of embarrassing breaches/incidents that occur, which may involve reducing the rate of breaches/incidents and/or reducing the extent to which they are embarrassing.    With that end in mind, the precise definition of 'embarrassing' doesn't actually matter much, just so long as the audience appreciates that the metric fairly indicates the underlying trend.  Annotating the graph to remind viewers about specific incidents should have the desired effect.

In PRAGMATIC terms, ACME management rated this metric at 54%, in other words it would be unlikely to make the cut in their Information Security Measurement System or Executive Security Dashboard.  However, this is such a simple, easy and cheap metric to generate that the CISO might like to keep an informal tally of embarrassing incidents for his/her own purposes.  So long as the trend remains positive, the metric has little impact.  On the other hand, if ACME experiences a rash of embarrassing incidents, mentioning the metric's adverse trend could be an opportunity for the CISO to raise the matter with senior management.  

Sometimes, getting things on the agenda is half the battle.

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