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10 Apr 2015

3 more metrics papers

We've just published another three documents on security metrics, written and first released five years ago as part of the management stream in the NoticeBored information security awareness service.

The first paper was concerned with measuring integrity.  Despite being one of the three central pillars of information security, integrity is largely overshadowed by availability and, especially, confidentiality ... and yet, if you interpret 'integrity' liberally, it includes some extremely important information security issues. The 'completeness and correctness' angle is pretty obvious, while 'up to date-ness' and 'appropriateness' are less well appreciated.  Add in the character and trustworthiness of people, and integrity takes on a rather different slant (Bradley Manning, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden springing instantly to mind as integrity failures).  An 'honesty metric' is an innovative idea.

The integrity metrics paper also suggests measuring the integrity of the organization's security metrics program or system of measurements, on the basis that metrics ought to be accurate, complete, up-to-date and relevant. The metrics integrity issue is obvious when you think about it. Managing with poor quality information is less than ideal.  However, in our experience, information security metrics are mostly taken at face value: we usually focus on what the numbers are telling us without even considering that they might perhaps be wrong, misleading, incomplete or inconsequential. Worse still, we get so distracted by the fancy "infographics" that the information content is almost irrelevant.  That's hardly a scientific approach!  We have raised this issue before in relation to treating published security surveys as gospel, blythely ignoring the fact that most are statistically dubious if not patently biased marketing copy. Remember this the next time you search the web for pie charts to illustrate your security investment proposals, or the next time someone tries to persuade you to loosen the purse strings! 

A short, humdrum paper on IT audit metrics suggests a few ways to measure the IT audit function, such as "IT audit program coverage" as well as conventional management metrics.  

The third paper on malware metrics was virtually the same as the version released a year earlier. We made some changes the following year, partly due to the research and thinking that went into writing PRAGMATIC Security Metrics ... but you'll have to wait just a bit longer for the 2009 paper.

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