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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Collect Security Process Data

After security controls are tested, organizations must ensure that they collect the appropriate security process data. NIST SP 800-137 provides guidelines for developing an information security continuous monitoring (ISCM) program. Security professionals should ensure that security process data that is collected includes account management, management review, key performance and risk indicators, backup verification data, training and awareness, and disaster recovery and business continuity.

NIST SP 800-137

According to NIST SP 800-137, ISCM is defined as maintaining ongoing awareness of information security, vulnerabilities, and threats to support organizational risk management decisions.


Organizations should take the following steps to establish, implement, and maintain ISCM:

  1. Define an ISCM strategy based on risk tolerance that maintains clear visibility into assets, awareness of vulnerabilities, up-to-date threat information, and mission/business impacts.

  2. Establish an ISCM program that includes metrics, status monitoring frequencies, control assessment frequencies, and an ISCM technical architecture.

  3. Implement an ISCM program and collect the security-related information required for metrics, assessments, and reporting. Automate collection, analysis, and reporting of data where possible.

  4. Analyze the data collected, report findings, and determine the appropriate responses. It may be necessary to collect additional information to clarify or supplement existing monitoring data.

  5. Respond to findings with technical, management, and operational mitigating activities or acceptance, transference/sharing, or avoidance/rejection.

  6. Review and update the monitoring program, adjusting the ISCM strategy and maturing measurement capabilities to increase visibility into assets and awareness of vulnerabilities, further enable data-driven control of the security of an organization’s information infrastructure, and increase organizational resilience.

Account Management

Account management is important because it involves the addition and deletion of accounts that are granted access to systems or networks. But account management also involves changing the permissions or privileges granted to those accounts. If account management is not monitored and recorded properly, organizations may discover that accounts have been created for the sole purpose of carrying out fraudulent or malicious activities. Two-person controls should be used with account management, often involving one administrator who creates accounts and another who assigns those accounts the appropriate permissions or privileges.

Escalation and revocation are two terms that are important to security professionals. Account escalation occurs when a user account is granted more permission based on new job duties or a complete job change. Security professionals should fully analyze a user’s needs prior to changing the current permissions or privileges, making sure to grant only permissions or privileges that are needed for the new task and to remove those that are no longer needed. Without such analysis, users may be able to retain permissions that cause possible security issues because separation of duties is no longer retained. For example, suppose a user is hired in the accounts payable department to print out all vendor checks. Later this user receives a promotion to approve payment for the same accounts. If this user’s old permission to print checks is not removed, this single user would be able to both approve the checks and print them, which is a direct violation of separation of duties.

Account revocation occurs when a user account is revoked because a user is no longer with an organization. Security professionals must keep in mind that there will be objects that belong to this user. If the user account is simply deleted, access to the objects owned by the user may be lost. It may be a better plan to disable the account for a certain period. Account revocation policies should also distinguish between revoking an account for a user who resigns from an organization and revoking an account for a user who is terminated.

Management Review and Approval

Management review of security process data should be mandatory. No matter how much data an organization collects on its security processes, the data is useless if it is never reviewed by an administrator. Guidelines and procedures should be established to ensure that management review occurs in a timely manner. Without regular review, even the most minor security issue can be quickly turned into a major security breach.

Management review should include an approval process whereby management reviews any recommendations from security professionals and approves or rejects the recommendations based on the data given. If alternatives are given, management should approve the alternative that best satisfies the organizational needs. Security professionals should ensure that the reports provided to management are as comprehensive as possible so that all the data can be analyzed to ensure the most appropriate solution is selected.

Key Performance and Risk Indicators

By using key performance and risk indicators of security process data, organizations better identify when security risks are likely to occur. Key performance indicators (PKIs) allow organizations to determine whether levels of performance are below or above established norms. Key risk indicators (KRIs) allow organizations to identify whether certain risks are more or less likely to occur.

NIST has released the Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity, also known as the Cybersecurity Framework, which focuses on using business drivers to guide cybersecurity activities and considering cybersecurity risks as part of the organization’s risk management processes. The framework consists of three parts: the Framework Core, the Framework Profiles, and the Framework Implementation Tiers.

The Framework Core is a set of cybersecurity activities, outcomes, and informative references that are common across critical infrastructure sectors, providing the detailed guidance for developing individual organizational profiles. The Framework Core consists of five concurrent and continuous functions—identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover.

After each function is identified, categories and subcategories for each function are recorded. The Framework Profiles are developed based on the business needs of the categories and subcategories. Through use of the Framework Profiles, the framework helps an organization align its cybersecurity activities with its business requirements, risk tolerances, and resources.

The Framework Implementation Tiers provide a mechanism for organizations to view and understand the characteristics of their approach to managing cybersecurity risk. The following tiers are used: Tier 1, partial; Tier 2, risk informed; Tier 3, repeatable; and Tier 4, adaptive.

Organizations will continue to have unique risks—different threats, different vulnerabilities, and different risk tolerances—and how they implement the practices in the framework will vary. Ultimately, the framework is aimed at reducing and better managing cybersecurity risks and is not a one-size-fits-all approach to managing cybersecurity.

Backup Verification Data

Any security process data that is collected should also be backed up. Security professionals should ensure that their organization has the appropriate backup and restore guidelines in place for all security process data. If data is not backed up properly, a failure can result in vital data being lost forever. In addition, personnel should test the restore process on a regular basis to make sure it works as it should. If an organization is unable to restore a backup properly, the organization might as well not have the backup.

Training and Awareness

All personnel must understand any security assessment and testing strategies that an organization employs. Technical personnel may need to be trained in the details about security assessment and testing, including security control testing and collecting security process data. Other personnel, however, only need to be given more awareness training on this subject. Security professionals should help personnel understand what type of assessment and testing occurs, what is captured by this process, and why this is important to the organization. Management must fully support the security assessment and testing strategy and must communicate to all personnel and stakeholders the importance this program.

Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity

Any disaster recovery and business continuity plans that an organization develops must consider security assessment and testing, security control testing, and security process data collection. Often when an organization goes into disaster recovery mode, personnel do not think about these processes. As a matter of fact, ordinary security controls often fall by the wayside at such times. A security professional is responsible for ensuring that this does not happen. Security professionals involved in developing the disaster recovery and business continuity plans must cover all these areas.

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