The InfoSec Blog

Confusion over Physical Assets, Information Assets – Part Two

Posted by Anton Aylward

So I need to compile a list of ALL assets, information or otherwise,

NO!
That leads to tables and chairs and powerbars.

OK so you can't work without those, but that's not what I meant.

InfoAssetsPhysical assets are only relevant in so far as they part of information processing. You should not start from those, you should start from the information and look at how the business processes make use of it.  Don't confuse you DR/BC plan with your core ISMS statements.  ISO Standard 22301 addresses that.

This is, ultimately, about the business processes.

“Paid to be paranoid”

Posted by Anton Aylward

Read the first four paragraphs of this:

http://hollylisle.com/shoes-and-handbags/

Forget the rest, forget that its about 'creative writing', just answer that question.

Bruce Schneier among other, myself included, have asked questions like that. Are you 'paranoid' enough to be in the security business?

Robert Slade

One of my colleagues, Rob Slade  yes *that* Rob Slade when he is teaching in Toronto, usually asks me to come along to talk for an hour to his students about "The CISSP Experience".
The first thing I ask the class is if there are any active or ex-military or law enforcement people present. To date there never have been, and to be honest it leaves me with a bit of a "Bah Humbug!" feeling when the class is really a company stuffing its IT department through the course and exam "for the numbers". Rob has some cynical comments to add but don't forget for him it's a days work and a days pay.

I'm also hit on for a variety of reasons by kids (even postgraduates) who "want to break into" -- yes that's the words they use, ironic isn't it? -- the security business. I suppose because the press makes it look more glamorous than just being a programmer or sysadmin. I keep telling them that its experience that counts, not certifications; too many, especially those from Asia, seem to think that a certification is badge that gets you work. Not so. Mind you, locally the recruiters cant seem to tell what makes InfoSec different from IT.  But that's a subject for another time.

And hence the opening lines to Holly's blog.
No, Holly, you're not alone; many true security professionals, be it Infosec, military or law enforcement, think like that.

  • What is the 'attack surface'?
  • What are the potential threats? How to rate them?
  • How can I position myself to minimise the effect of an attack?
  • What is the 'recovery mode' (aka: line of retreat)?

If you can't do this, then you shouldn't be in "Security".

Information Gathering and Risk Assessment

Posted by Anton Aylward

On the ISO2700 forum one user gave a long description of his information gathering process but expressed frustration over what to do with it all all, the assets, the threats and so forth, and trying to make it into a risk assessment.

It was easy for the more experienced of us to see what he was missing.

He was missing something very important -- a RISK MODEL
The model determines what you look for and how it is relevant.

How much Risk Assessment is needed?

Posted by Anton Aylward

In many of the InfoSec forums I subscribe to people regularly as  the "How long is a piece of string" question:

How extensive a risk assessment is required?

It's a perfectly valid question we all have faced, along with the "where do I begin" class of questions.

The ISO-27001 standard lays down some necessities, such as your asset register, but it doesn't tell you the detail necessary. You can choose to say "desktop PCs" as a class without addressing each one, or even addressing the different model. You can say "data centre" without having to enumerate every single component therein.

At first.

Help on ISO-27000 SoA

Posted by Anton Aylward

This kind of question keeps coming up, many people are unclear about the Statement of Applicability on ISO-27000.
The  SoA should outline the measures to be taken in order to reduce risks such as those mentioned in Annex A of the standard. These are based on 'Controls'.

But if you are using closed-source products such as those from Microsoft, are you giving up control?  Things like validation checks and integrity controls are are 'internal'.

Well, its a bit of a word-play.

  • SoA contains exclusions on controls that are not applicable because the organization doesn't deal with these problems (ie ecommerce)
  •  SoA contains exclusions on controls that pose a threat (and risks arise) but cannot be helped (ie A.12.2 Correct processing in applications) and no measures can be taken to reduce these risks.

With this, a record must be present in risk assessments, stating that the risk (even if it is above minimum accepted risk level) is accepted

IBM CIO Report: Key Findings

The key to the SOA is SCOPE.

Which Risk Framework to Use: FAIR, FRAP, OCTAVE, SABSA …

Posted by Anton Aylward

What framework would you use to provide for quantitative or qualitative risk analysis at both the micro and macro level?  I'm asking about a true risk assessment framework not merely a checklist.


Yes, this is a bit of a META-Question. But then its Sunday, a day for contemplation.

When does something like these stop being a check-list and become a framework?

COBIT is very clearly a framework, but not for risk analysis and even the section on risk analysis fits in to a business model rather than a technology model.

ISO-27K is arguably more technology (or at least InfoSec) focused that COBIT, but again risk analysis is only part of what its about. ISO-27K calls itself a standard[1] but in reality its a framework.

The message that these two frameworks send about risk analysis is

Context is Everything

(You expected me to say that, didn't you?)

I'm not sure any RA method works at layer 8 or above. We all know that managers can read our reports and recommendations and ignore them. Or perhaps not read them, since being aware of the risk makes them liable.

Ah. Good point.
On LinkedIn there was a thread asking why banks seem to ignore risk analysis .. presumably because their doing so has brought us to the international financial crisis we're in (though I don't think its that simple).

The trouble is that RA is a bit of a 'hypothetical' exercise.

He’s not Ian Paisley

Posted by Anton Aylward

Image of Ian Paisley cropped from Image:Ian_Pa...

Image via Wikipedia

I was at a presentation yesterday.
One of the vendor's speakers, I'm sorry to say, was a CISSP.

OK, he wasn't Ian Paisley or any other radical religious zealot.

BUT his was hectoring us and telling us that the Devil is out there gathering sinners (aka botnets) and tempting us (with web sites and spam) and just watch what he says: we must open our hearts to Christ (aka his company's products) and be SAVED by following the One True Faith (only buying his company's products) and repenting for our sins (having is company come in and do all the scans, consulting and so forth).

I was inoculated against the religious hectoring meme at a young age, but its still fascinating to watch. But like with religion, there are always people who are susceptible, and sadly, always groups willing to give such people a platform.

To be fair, that day's event also had some good speakers. It had some straight forward and 'humble' people who explained matters clearly and without drama, stated the issues and the scopes of threats and
vulnerabilities and how and why their product id what it did.  All without the drama, all without the hectoring or intimidation.

Enhanced by Zemanta

IT AUDIT VS Risk Assessment – 2

Posted by Anton Aylward

We were discussing which should be done first and someone said:

The first has to be risk assessment as it is foundation of information
security. You first need to know where is the risk before putting up
any controls to mitigate that risk. Putting up adhoc controls will not
make the controls effective nor will it protect the organizations
against the risk.

While I understand the intent, I think that is very prejudicial language.

Donn Parker makes a very good case that we have the cultural context - read that sophistication and awareness of the baseline risks - to see that there should be a set of baseline controls. IAM, firewall, AV, backups and so forth. We don't need to leave the assets exposed to threats while we we wait around for a Risk Analysis to tell us that these baseline protective controls are needed.

Risk Analysis

You don't need to know the specific risks any more than you need to know the specific risks to have a lock on the front door of your house and close your windows.

I certainly wouldn't call this approach "ad-hoc".

All Threats? All Vulnerabilities? All Assets?

Posted by Anton Aylward

One list I subscribe I saw this outrageous statement:

ISO 27001 requires that you take account of all the relevant threats
(and vulnerabilities) to every asset - that means that you have to
consider whether every threat from your list is related to each of
your assets.

"All"? "Every"?
I certainly hope not!
Unless you have a rule as to where to stop those lists - vectors that you are going to multiply - are going to become indefinitely large if not infinite. Its a problem in set theory to do with enumberability.

See
http://infosecblog.antonaylward.com/2010/05/19/the-classical-risk-equation/
for a more complete discussion of this aspect of 'risk'.

See
http://www.bloginfosec.com/2010/08/23/why-the-risk-threats-x-vulnerabilities-x-impact-formula-is-mathematical-nonsense/
in which Jeff Lowder has a discussion of the "utility value" approach to controls

Because its the controls and their effectiveness that really count.

Significant Impact Calculation in Business Risk

Posted by Anton Aylward

My colleague Gary Hinson made the following observation on the ISO 27001 list in August:

There are numerous assumptions and estimations in the risk
assessment process, so all calculated values have quite wide margins
of error. Worse still, there are almost certainly risks or impacts
that we have failed to recognise or assess, in other words we need to
allow for contingency.

Oh,its worse than that!

The problem is that the potential perpetrators are the ones that determine "the most significant risks" of which you speak, in both frequency (when they decide to strike) and impact (how much damage they will do and what they will do with the results of their attacks), not the person performing the risk analysis.

We are debating how to value an asset, book value, replacement value or the value of the process of using it. Well that doesn't matter; its the value to the perpetrator of the attack at counts. What you value and defend might be of no interest to him (or her). Obtaining the desired asset may result in collateral damage.

So long as you focus on a Risk Analysis model rather than a comprehensive plan of diligence and security stablemen you are going to get caught out by these false assumptions.

Face it: the Risk Analysis approach means you have no idea who and where the potential perpetrators are, rational or irrational; when and how they may strike (with a tank, an army, or with false data entry).

But act and calculate as if you do.

You have no idea of the perpetrator's

  • skills
  • knowledge
  • resources
  • authority
  • motives
  • objectives

but the Risk Analysis approach presumes that you do.

I'm sorry, this doesn't make sense and hence arguing about how to calculate the value of an asset doesn't make sense in this context. Its like arguing over how many angels can dance on a pinhead when there's war and famine going on outside.

Enhanced by Zemanta