Rate Your Security Program in 90 Seconds

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Having worked with this tool now for almost eight years, I can tell you that its simplicity hides its power. At every company where we have simply discussed it, security managers couldn’t stop applying it in their thinking, even when we had no formal program in place.

This particular Security Management Maturity Model is based upon the many maturity models 1 that have grown out of the original research performed at Carnegie Mellon University.

Although the original Maturity Model work was done in relation to software development and IT security programs, this model presented here applies to physical, IT, corporate and safety programs.

You can rate your security program overall or any part of it, and even rate companies who are offering you safety and security products and services, according to this model.

How to Use This Model in 90 Seconds

The chart below in Table 1 contains a Security Management Maturity Model. If no one has been assigned overall responsibility for security, that would be Level 0. To rate your organization, program or group, read Level 1 of the chart. If not all of the Level 1 requirements are met, the organization, program or group being rated is at Level 0 (not yet on the chart).

If all of the Level 1 characteristics exist, examine Level 2, and so on.

The rating to assign is the highest level at which your organization matches or exceeds all of its characteristics.

It is rare for an organization’s security program or security department to be at Level 4 or higher if it has not been following a model similar to this one.

Further Study

Studying this model will take much more than 90 seconds, but is well worth the time.

Drilling Down for Implementation

The status of implementing any level (or any one of its elements) can also be assessed according to the following criteria:

  • Unconsidered: The level or element has not yet been given any consideration
  • Identified: The level or element has been identified as a requirement for your organization or department or program.
  • Planned: The related processes and procedures have been developed.
  • Implemented: The processes and procedures are actually in use.
  • Verified: The results of the processes and procedures are audited periodically.
  • Integrated: Circumvention of processes and procedures is insignificant.

Note that the above criteria are useful simply for assessing the status of a level or element and measuring progress as things move along. They are not maturity measurements or part of the model.

What I like about this Security Management Maturity Model is that it is written in plain language and can be used by CEOs, CFOs, and other senior management security stakeholders.

With this tool in hand you can:

  • Determine your organization’s or departments security management maturity
  • Set a maturity target
  • Develop a prioritized outline of what to put in place to get there

It is an excellent tool for a corporate Security Steering Committee or Security Council.

I hope it expands your thinking about security as much as it has ours.

I am also interested in hearing your feedback about this tool either by contact form or email to me.

Best regards,
Ray Bernard

P.S. For a positive message to those who find their security departments or programs are at Level 1 or Level 2, see the Bonus Thought section below the Security Management Maturity Model table.

Table 1. Security Management Maturity Model 3  (Bold text is intended to emphasize the differences between one level and another.)

Level Name Description and Characteristics Results and Objectives
Level 1 Initial Security is not acknowledged as an important aspect of the organization. The absence of incidents is the result of luck or individual efforts. The occurrence of incidents invariably leads to the maximum impact that could be expected.
Level 2 Acknowledged
Also described as:
Intuitive but not documented
Security is acknowledged as an important aspect of the organization. The absence of incidents is the result of luck or some individual or organizational efforts.

  • Expectations, incidents, and assets are sometimes evaluated.
  • Reactive security measures are taken until the security budget is exhausted.
The occurrence of incidents doesn’t always lead to the maximum impact that could be expected.

The results of the organizational security efforts fade with time.

Thus security ROI is deceptive and in the long term turns out to be less than expected.

Level 3 Defined

Also described as:
Documented

Security is acknowledged as an important aspect of the organization. The absence of incidents is the result of luck and continuous organizational efforts.

  • Expectations, incidents and assets are usually evaluated.
  • Proactive security measures are taken until the security budget is exhausted.
  • Organizational security responsibilities are defined.
  • Security policies and procedures exist.
  • A baseline security program is established based uponcommonly accepted security practices.
  • Key security measures are audited.
The occurrence of incidents normally doesn’t lead to the maximum impact that could be expected.

The results of the organizational efforts are permanent.

Security ROI is as expected.

Level 4 Controlled Security is acknowledged as an important aspect of the organization.The absence of incidents is the result of continuous organizational efforts.

  • Expectations, incidents and assets and risks are evaluatedqualitatively.
  • The best security measures are taken considering the budget.
  • Organizational security responsibilities are defined.
  • Security policy describes the high-level objectives and the strategies to achieve them.
  • Security processes, procedures and projects implement the strategies.
  • Security standards are developed for the various security domains, to establish a minimum level of effectiveness and quality for security operations and actions.
  • A risk-based security management system is established and operating.
  • Security measures are audited.
  • Responsibilities are partitioned and supervised.
  • Security metrics are in use.
  • Best practices appropriate to the business sector are applied in the physical, IT and corporate security domains.
  • A “Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plan” exists. This plan considers the organization’s current status, and is properly implemented.
  • Third party agreements define mutual security commitments at the organization’s borders with others.
The occurrence of incidents virtually never leads to the maximum impact that could be expected.

The results of the organizational efforts are permanent and improve over time.

The breadth of security ROI increases over time.

Security is appropriate for the business sector.

Level 5 Optimized
(Continuously Improving)
Security is acknowledged as an important aspect of the organization.The absence of incidents is the result of continuous organizational efforts.

  • Expectations, incidents and assets and risks are evaluated qualitatively or quantitatively as appropriate.
  • The best security measures are taken considering the budget.
  • The budget is developed consistent with security objective and strategies.
  • Organizational security responsibilities are defined.
  • Security policy describes the high-level objectives and the strategies to achieve them.
  • Security processes, procedures and projects implement the strategies.
  • Security standards are developed for the various security domains, to establish a minimum level of effectiveness and quality for security operations and actions.
  • A risk-based security management system that incorporates a continuous process improvement element is established and operating.
  • Security measures are audited.
  • Responsibilities are partitioned and supervised.
  • Security metrics are in use.
  • Best practices appropriate to the business sector and to the specific organization are applied in the physical, IT and corporate security domains.
  • A “Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery plan” exists. This plan considers the organization’s evolution, and is properly implemented.
  • Third party agreements define mutual security commitments at the organization’s borders with others.
  • Quantitative information is collected about incidents or close calls.
  • Security measures are selected using objective criteria.
The occurrence of incidents doesn’t lead to the maximum impact that could be expected.

The results of the organizational efforts are permanent and improve over time.

Security operations become more efficient over time, providing an increasing return for the ongoing security investment.

Security is well-aligned with the business.

Bonus Thought (Back to document reference)
A study at Carnegie Mellon University 4  showed that the more you spend the less difference it makes on your security, as depicted in Figure 1 below 5 . This means the largest security gains per dollar spent on security will be at Security Management Maturity Model Levels 1 and 2.

So if you were disheartened to have a rating that was low on the scale, take heart in the fact that the next security dollars you spend have the potential for providing you the greatest return on security investment!

Figure 1. Early Security Investments Provide the Greatest Return
Mayfields Paradox

 

Footnotes
http://tinyurl.com/sticky-minds-maturity-models
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2 Capability Maturity Model® and CMM® are registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office by Carnegie Mellon University
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http://www.slideshare.net/vaceitunofist/security-maturity-model

For an in-depth look at an Information Security Management Maturity Model along the lines of the table above, download the 98-page standard ISM3 version 2.00 from: http://www.lean.org/FuseTalk/Forum/Attachments/ISM3_v2.00.pdf
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4 Carnegie Mellon University (2000) “The Survivability of Network Systems: An Empirical Analysis”
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5 From a presentation by Vicente Aceituno titled, “Return on Security Investment”, available on SlideShare:
http://www.slideshare.net/vaceituno/aceituno-return-on-security-investment
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