Use A Data-Driven Security Program to Transform Organization Security

Data-Driven Security

How to Target, Focus and Prioritize
The Security Program

  by Caroline Ramsey-Hamilton

Management has to have Metrics

Management of a security program is no different than management of cash flow, employee productiveness, profitability, or any other set of metrics that organizations use to measure how well something is being done, and how it could be improved. Historically, however, security has been run by a few unique professionals, perhaps with a military or law enforcement background and the security program has existed in a vacuum, with few ways to measure it’s effectiveness and value to the organization, except to list what hasn’t happened!

Security officers may complain that management is not listening to their complaints, including not making enough money available to implement new technology, or to fix a loophole that has the potential to create havoc in the organization. Many security conferences feature sessions with titles like “How to Sell Security to Management” and try to address this disconnect between senior management and their security programs.

Peter Drucker, the world famous management consultant, said “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Very recent improvements in security technology, camera technology and its integration with computer networks and information security has allowed a massive amount of data to be collected.  Everything from digital images, to incident reporting and tracking, and even internet-based reporting of technical vulnerabilities, allow management metrics to be applied to the management of the security program to target the program to be maximally effective, to focus the available dollars in the areas which would provide the most protection for the least amount of money, and to prioritize the controls that need to be improved or implemented, based on their return on investment.

Security has never been more important to the organization. Many court cases recently have been decided on the basis of whether the organization was using ‘due care’ and utilizing every ‘reasonable’ security precaution. Existence of adequate security has become very important in premises liability cases and will likely become equally important in future litigation.

Risk assessments are the foundation of a data-driven security program. Through the process of risk assessment, managers can measure the effectiveness of the organization’s total security program, including analyzing the value of the organizational assets, the threat level (based on the mission of the organization), the existing vulnerabilities, and the effectiveness of existing controls. Basing the risk assessment on the concept of data-driven security means that real numbers are used in the following areas:

1. Determining the value of the assets of the organization, including the facilities, the personnel, products, production facilities, raw materials, transportation, vehicles, information technology equipment, data and information. In additional to quantifying present day replacement value, the sensitivity of various information assets and a determination of their criticality to the main mission of the organization must be determined.

2. Analyzing the Threat Level affecting the organization, including analyzing of incident report logs which would indicate how many potential intrusions have been attempted, as well as an analysis of physical intrusion indicators, such as missing badges, any security incidents, and any indications of industrial espionage which have been reported, either at the facility under review, or at any of the organization’s other facilities. Industry data on intrusions in similar companies or analogous agencies is also very helpful in determining threat level.

Many companies now use reports which quantify threat data, including statistics on criminal activity by exact location, by zip code (such as the Uniform Crime Index) as well as many information sources of weather data, such as NOAA (U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, various international associations and government agencies.

3. Identifying vulnerabilities in the organization, including surveying individuals at every level of the organization, from the receptionist to the CEO.  To ascertain the weaknesses in the way the employees comply with security, there are new electronic survey tools,( like Risk Watch®)  which measures security compliance against published standards such as FEMA 426, (How to Protect Buildings Against Terrorist Attacks). control standards.  New regulations, like Joint Commission, Behavioral Health and Workplace Violence (OSHA 3148) require such compliance-based
baseline assessment surveys.

4. Identifying potential categories of loss, which would include components like direct losses (damage/destruction), injury or death to either staff or patients/customers/vendors; theft of property or product,  theft of data/information,  and loss of an organization’s reputation. These loss categories are used to quantify the effect of threats on the organization because you can estimate the loss impact on various functions of the organization.

5. Safeguards (Controls) include all the possible controls that could protect an organization either by reducing the likely of a threat occurring, or reducing the amount of damage that the organization sustains from a threat that materializes. Controls are quantified by:

a. Life Cycle of the Control – How Long They are Good for.

b. Cost to Implement the Control to 100% in the organization

c. Indication of the percentage that the control is already implemented in the organization

By accumulating data in these 5 categories, it becomes possible to run scenarios that pair the threat and vulnerability, match it to organizational assets, analyze the loss potential, and evaluate the cost effectiveness of a variety of different controls.

Advantages of a Data-Driven Security Program

The primary advantage of a data driven security program is that it provides support for the security function within the organization by being able to illustrate directly how security not only protects the organizational assets, but also, how the security profile changes over time.

In addition, it becomes possible to benchmark the various plants and facilities against themselves, and against both domestic and international standards, including military standards for the Defense Industrial Base. For example, if a multinational company with facilities and networks around the world can analyze their security based on the principle of a data-driven security program, then they can instantly identify the areas or facilities that have problems and address them much more quickly and effectively than they could if they were depending on a fuzzy, quantitative assessment method. When an organization makes the decision to adopted a more disciplined approach to analyzing security risk, they must also use all the other typical management functions such as planning, development of a budget and incorporation of the plan into the organization’s overall planning.

After the initial baseline risk assessment, and using the input from the analysis, the organization can began to develop implementation strategies to address the vulnerabilities identified in the assessment. As each vulnerability is addressed, cost-effective mitigation strategies can be put in place.

At the same time,  the security plans and policies can be measured so that policy changes can be made, if necessary, or training and awareness programs can focus in the areas that need reinforcement with the organization.

The Security director, using his already established budget and implementation timelines for each safeguard, can then manage the improvements, using either internal staff or he can make the decision to outsource the additional controls (or their implementation).

These improvements can be tracked themselves, to establish how effective they are in their individual tasks, and also can be periodically re-assessed to see how the organization’s total security profile has improved.

The first benefits from a data driven security program emerge during this implementation phase because not only can you measure how much more effective the new security configurations are, but there is an additional value-added component of
re-acquainting the employees with the security program and increasing awareness across the organization.

To ensure continued value in the program, collection mechanisms such as automated incident response, threat reporting and vulnerability reviews must be automated. There are new security software programs that evaluate and analyze these types of data and can dramatically increase the effectiveness of a data-driven security program.

This type of data-driven security program creates a security program that becomes a baseline for management to quickly assess the security profile of the entire organization.  It makes it easier to provide a safe, and secure workplace for both management and employees, and may decrease the possibility of a workplace violence incident, theft or domestic or international terrorist attack.

This data-based concept of risk management creates a bridge between executive management and the security professionals in the organization who now have an avenue for open communication, discussion and consideration of the role of security throughout the organization.


About the Author

Caroline Ramsey-Hamilton is the founder of Risk Watch International, and a leading security risk assessment expert.  She was a Charter member of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Risk Management Model Builders Workshop from 1988 to 1995.  From 1996-1998, she served on the working group to create a Defensive Information Warfare Risk Management Model,  (DIWRM2) under the auspices of the Office of the Secretary of Defense.  She was also a member of the National Security Agency’s Risk Rating Workshop and the IBM Data Governance Working Group to create a Data Governance model for the nation’s largest banks.

She has developed specialized risk assessment programs for HIPAA, Information Security, FFIEC, GLBA, Sarbanes Oxley, and corporate security programs including working with The Clearinghouse, large investment banks, the Federal Reserve and a variety of other Federal agencies on Risk Assessment guidelines.   In addition, she is a member of the ASIS Physical Security Council, SARMA( the Security Risk Management Association) based inWashington, D.C.  Ms. Ramsey-Hamilton is certified in Homeland Security and Anti-Terrorism and recently received a lifetime achievement award from the Anti-Terrorism Accreditation Board and the Maritime Security Council.

Hamilton works around the world on critical risk issues including a new set of risk assessment guidelines for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, a risk model for airport security and a risk model for medication error with Philadelphia Children’s Hospital.

She has completed Risk Assessments for over twenty-five U.S. government agencies including the Department of Defense, the Technical Support Working Group, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and many healthcare organizations including Cleveland Clinic, HCA, Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, the University of Miami Medical Center and many more.  She has written several books and articles over twenty-five different publications.




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