The discussion concerns the disarmingly simple phrase "information asset", used in some but no longer defined in any of the ISO27k standards. Among other things, we've discussed whether people/workers can be classed as information assets, hence information risks associated with people potentially fall within scope of an ISO27k ISMS.
"Knowledge is generally broken down into three different types - explicit, implicit, and tacit. When we are talking about classing employees as an asset or simply treating the information that they know as an asset, I think maybe this can be broken down further using these different knowledge types.
Explicit knowledge is knowledge that is easily transferable, can be recorded and stored. Things like standard work instructions, guides, procedures, policies. Due to the nature of this information, it seems obvious to class the information itself as the asset here - you can mitigate the risk of information loss simply by recording the information.
Implicit knowledge is the practical application of explicit knowledge. This can include knowing your way around a particular security product, or a particular piece of equipment. This type of knowledge is difficult to record, however, things like best practices are the best attempt although it's difficult to include the entire background knowledge of the best practice. Due to this, loss of this information is difficult to completely mitigate, and hence, I think the employee here could be classed as the information asset. The best mitigation is to keep the employee.
Tacit knowledge is the practical application of implicit knowledge. Examples of this are knowing not only a particular security product but how and why this product fits into your infrastructure. The small details which make the infrastructure whole - having the history of decisions and incidents which led to this point directly on hand. This type of knowledge is inherently most difficult to record and I think due to this, the employee would again be classed as the information asset. The best mitigation is to keep the employee."
- Communicated/passed on to others ... or withheld from them
- Valued, sufficient for accounting, sales or other purposes
- Disputed or challenged
- Expanded upon
- Protected by intellectual property laws ... or pirated, plagiarized and disclosed inappropriately
- Submerged, hidden, stolen, damaged/modified, garbled, deliberately mis-stated or destroyed in that physical form. It can certainly still be misunderstood or misinterpreted (ask any lawyer about the 'precision' of even formally-worded statutes and contracts!).
“If I send my people on training courses to get better qualified, they’ll leave!” the reluctant manager explained. “Ah but”, said the wise advisor, “what if you don’t train them … and they stay?”
- Their explicit knowledge is already captured, making it available to exploit even without the person ... provided the knowledge capture is sound (accurate and complete - integrity properties) and available when needed;
- Their implicit knowledge may be captured and then exploited so long as the person is there and is cooperating, and so long as someone (possibly the same person) has the inclination, resources and capacity to 'capture' it with integrity - which is far from certain;
- Their tacit knowledge can be exploited but would be difficult or impossible to capture, or at least it would take an extraordinary effort to do so, and the worker must be available, willing to cooperate and able to disclose the knowledge or unable to prevent its disclosure.