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The fatal flaw in IT Risk management

Posted by antonaylward

Is interviewing is a much better method that self-certifications and a checklist, if time and resources allow.
Two points:

In the ISO-27001 forum, my friend and colleague Gary Hinson has repeatedly pointed out, and I fully support him in this, that downloading check-lists from the 'Net and adopting question lists from there is using a solution to someone else's
problem. If that.

Each business has both generic problems (governments, sunspots, meteor strikes, floods & other apocalyptic threats and Acts of God) and ones specific to it way of working and configuration. Acts of God are best covered by prayer and insurance.

Gary recommends "open ended questions" during the interview rather than ones that require a yes/no answer. That's good, but I see problems with that. I prefer to ask "Tell me about your job" rather than "Tell me how your job ... can be made more efficient".

My second point is that risk management will *ALWAYS* fail if the risk analysis is inadequate. How much of the RA should be done by interviewing people like the sysadmins I don't know, but I have my doubts. I look to the Challenger Disaster. I started in the aviation business and we refines FMEA - failure Mode Effect Analysis. Some people think of this in terms of "impact", but really its more than that, its also causal analysis. As Les Bell, a friend who is also a pilot and interested in aviation matters has pointed out to me, "Root Cause Analysis" no longer is adequate, failure comes about because of a number of circumstances, and it may not even be a single failure - the 'tree' fans both ways!

Yes, FMEA can't be dome blindly, but failure modes that pertain to the business - which is what really counts -- and the fan-in/out trees can be worked out even without the technical details. Rating the "risk": is what requires the drill-down.

Which gets back to Donn Parker's point in a number of his books, though he never states it this way. The FMEA tree can be heavily pruned using diligence as he says: standards, compliance, contracts, audits, good practices, available products. The only thing he leaves out are Policy and Training. Policy gives direction and is essential to any purpose, the choice of standards and products, and identifying what training is needed.

All in all, the article at https://blog.anitian.com/flawed-it-risk-management/ takes a lot of words to say a few simple concepts.


The Truth About Best Practices

Posted by Anton Aylward

An article on Linked entitled 'The Truth about Practices" started a discussion thread with some of my colleagues.

The most pertinent comment came from Alan Rocker:

I'm not sure whether to quote "Up the Organisation", ("If you must have a
policy manual, reprint the Ten Commandments"),  or "Catch-22" (about the
nice "tidy bomb pattern" that unfortunately failed to hit the target), in
support of the article.

Industry-wide metrics can nevertheless be useful, though it's fatal to
confuse a speedometer and a motor.

However not everyone in the group agreed with our skepticism and the observations of the author of the article.
One asked

And Anton aren't the controls you advocate so passionately best practices? >

NOT. Make that *N*O*T*!*!*!  Even allowing for the lowercase!

"Best practices" is an advertising line of self-aggrandization invented by the Big Name Accounting Firms when operating in Consulting Mode.Information Security SWOT Analysis

Does ISO 27001 compliance need a data leakage prevention policy?

Posted by Anton Aylward

On one of the ISO-27000 lists I subscribe to I commented that one should have a policy to determine the need for and the criteria for choosing a Data Loss Prevention mechanism.

The DLP Logo

I get criticised occasionally for long and detailed posts that some readers complain treat them like beginners, but sadly if I don't I get comments such as this in reply

  Data Loss is something you prevent; you enforce controls to prevent data
  leakage, DLP can be a programme, but , I find very difficult to support
  with a policy.

Does one have visions of chasing escaping data over the net with a three-ring binder labelled "Policy"?

Let me try again.

Fly Away

Policy comes first.
Without policy giving direction, purpose and justification, supplying the basis for measurement, quality and applicability (never mind issues such as configuration) then you are working on an ad-hoc basis.

Why Info Sec Positions Go Unfilled

Posted by Anton Aylward


There are many holes in this, but I think they miss some important points.

First is setting IT HR to look for Infosec.
That is because many people think InfoSec is a IT function as opposed to an organizational function. This goes in cycles: 20 years ago there was the debate: "Should Infosec report to IT?" The overall decision was no;. Infosec might need to 'pull the plug' on IT to protect the organization.Risk management sub processes

Second there is the vast amount of technology claiming to do InfoSec.
It is all network (and hence IT) as opposed to business fulfilment. This has now spread to "Governance". You can buy governance software. What does this do for the ethical outlook of the executive, the board and management? How is Governance tied to risk management and accountability and visibility by this software?

Technology won't solve your problems when technology *is* your problem.

InfoSec is about protecting the organization's information assets: those assets can be people, processes or information.  Yes technology may support that just as technology puts a roof over your head (physical security) and somewhere to store the information.  Once this was typewriters, and hand-cranked calculators and filing cabinets, and copying was with carbon paper.  The technology may have changed but most of the fundamental principles have not.  In particular the ones to do with attitudes and people are the same now as they were 50 or 100 years ago.



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.

About ISO 27001 Risk Statement and Controls

Posted by Anton Aylward

On the ISO27000 Forum list, someone asked:

I'm looking for Risk statement for each ISO 27k control; meaning
"what is the risk of not implementing a control".

That's a very ingenious way of looking at it!

One way of formulating the risk statement is from the control
objective mentioned in the standard.
Is there any other way out ?

Ingenious aside, I'd be very careful with an approach like this.

Risks and controlsare not, should not, be 1:1.

His Bipolar made him do it

Posted by antonaylward


An accused hedge fund fraudster’s mother is showing support, by claiming her son is not to blame for defrauding investors out of over $2.3 million, its his bipolar’s fault.

Well, its better than "The Dog Ate My Homework".

Keep taking the tablets, Mr Klatch!


What drives the RA? Need or Fashion?

Posted by Anton Aylward

A colleague in InfoSec made the following observation:

My point - RA is a nice to have, but it is superfluous. It looks nice
but does NOTHING without the bases being covered. what we need
is a baseline that everyone accepts as necessary (call it the house
odds if you like...)

Most of us in the profession have met the case where a Risk Analysis would be nice to have but is superfluous because the baseline controls that were needed were obvious and 'generally accepted', which makes me wonder why any of us support the fallacy or RA.

It gets back to the thing about the Hollywood effect that is Pen Testing. Quite apart from the many downsides it has from a business POV it is non-logical in the same way that RA is non-logical.

Open source and commercial support

Posted by antonaylward

In a discussion of Open Source vs Closed Source/Commercial ...

Voice 1: Maybe because they're not customers? (in the paying for a service sense)
Voice 2: Well, I don't understand that model. I expect to pay for code that someone writes because otherwise I cannot expect someone to stand by the stuff when it doesn't work.

Ironically I've never found that to be the case.

The stuff I pay for, cable service, hosting; and the stuff I use that someone else pays for (i.e the people I work for), commercial hardware, software and service; are the other way round to what you might think.

The support sucks!


Posted by Anton Aylward


Its one of those bootstrap problems - the new CISSPs who need to read the information can't get at the FAQ on how to sign up for the CISSPForum because they need to be members of the forum in order to read the instructions.

Yes, I know the information is at the (ISC)2 web site, but that's an incredibly difficult site to navigate.

Because of this, Gary Hinson and myself, each quite independently, took the CISSP Forum FAQ and converted it to a web page, adding hyperlinks etc. The two pages are at:

Both sites are very rich, but very different in nature. Gary makes use of custom mind-maps to assisit in navigation, whereas the Wiki allows for registered members - CISSPs - to contribute.

The CISSP Forum at YahooGroups is very active. It is not a purely technical group, but an active support group for CISSPs. It handles well over 1,000 messages a month and is the kind of "social network" that some vendors would pay millions of dollars to own - if it wasn't a closed group that spurns advertising.

The astounding thing is that so few CISSPs know about it. (ISC)2 seems to make no effort to publicise it to people as they gain their certification.
If you are a CISSP, visit either of those two pages, or better still go directly to the (ISC)2 web page for registration - https://www.isc2.org/cgi/cissp_forum.cgi - and sign up.

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