Introducing Two New Security Standards for Risk Analysis—Part I – Risk Taxonomy Technical Standard 2.0

By Jim Hietala, VP Security, The Open Group

At the The Open Group London 2013 Conference, The Open Group® announced three new initiatives related to the Security Forum’s work around Risk Management. The first of these was the establishment of a new certification program for Risk Analysts working within the security profession, the Open FAIR Certification Program.  Aimed at providing a professional certification for Risk Analysts, the program will bring a much-needed level of assuredness to companies looking to hire Risk Analysts, certifying that analysts who have completed the Open FAIR program understand the fundamentals of risk analysis and are qualified to perform that analysis.

Forming the basis of the Open FAIR certification program are two new Open Group standards, version 2.0 of the Risk Taxonomy (O-RT) standard originally introduced by the Security Forum in 2009, and a new Risk Analysis (O-RA) Standard, both of which were also announced at the London conference. These standards are the result of ongoing work around risk analysis that the Security Forum has been conducting for a number of years now in order to help organizations better understand and identify their exposure to risk, particularly when it comes to information security risk.

The Risk Taxonomy and Risk Analysis standards not only form the basis and body of knowledge for the Open FAIR certification, but provide practical advice for security practitioners who need to evaluate and counter the potential threats their organization may face.

Today’s blog will look at the first standard, the Risk Taxonomy Technical Standard, version 2.0. Next week, we’ll look at the other standard for Risk Analysis.

Risk Taxonomy (O-RT) Technical Standard 2.0

Originally, published in January 2009, the O-RT is intended to provide a common language and references for security and business professionals who need to understand or analyze risk conditions, providing a common language for them to use when discussing those risks. Version 2.0 of the standard contains a number of updates based both on feedback provided by professionals that have been using the standard and as a result of research conducted by Security Forum member CXOWARE.

The majority of the changes to Version 2.0 are refinements in terminology, including changes in language that better reflect what each term encompasses. For example, the term “Control Strength” in the original standard has now been changed to “Resistance Strength” to reflect that controls used in that part of the taxonomy must be resistive in nature.

More substantive changes were made to the portion of the taxonomy that discusses how Loss Magnitude is evaluated.

Why create a taxonomy for risk?  For two reasons. First, the taxonomy provides a foundation from which risk analysis can be performed and talked about. Second, a tightly defined taxonomy reduces the inability to effectively measure or estimate risk scenarios, leading to better decision making, as illustrated by the following “risk management stack.”

Effective Management


↑

Well-informed Decisions

Effective Comparisons


↑

Meaningful Measurements

Accurate Risk Model

The complete Risk Taxonomy is comprised of two branches: Loss Event Frequency (LEF) and Loss Magnitude (LM), illustrated here:

Risk1

Focusing solely on pure risk (which only results in loss) rather than speculative risk (which might result in either loss or profit), the O-RT is meant to help estimate the probable frequency and magnitude of future loss.

Traditionally LM has been far more difficult to determine than LEF, in part because organizations don’t always perform analyses on their losses or they just stick to evaluating “low hanging fruit” variables rather than delve into determining more complex risk factors. The new taxonomy takes a deep dive into the Loss Magnitude branch of the risk analysis taxonomy providing guidance that will allow Risk Analysts to better tackle the difficult task of determining LM. It includes terminology outlining six specific forms of loss an organization can experience (productivity, response, replacement, fines and judgments, competitive advantage, reputation) as well as how to determine Loss Flow, a new concept in this standard.

The Loss Flow analysis helps identify how a loss may affect both primary (owners, employees, etc.) and secondary (customers, stockholders, regulators, etc.) stakeholders as a result of a threat agent’s action on an asset. The new standard provides a thorough overview on how to assess Loss Flow and identify the loss factors of any given threat.

Finally, the standard also includes a practical, real-world scenario to help analysts understand how to put the taxonomy to use in within their organizations. O-RT provides a common linguistic foundation that will allow security professionals to then perform the risk analyses as outlined in the O-RA Standard.

For more on the Risk Taxonomy Standard or to download it, visit: https://www2.opengroup.org/ogsys/catalog/C13K.

Jim Hietala, CISSP, GSEC, is the Vice President, Security for The Open Group, where he manages all IT security and risk management programs and standards activities. He participates in the SANS Analyst/Expert program and has also published numerous articles on information security, risk management, and compliance topics in publications including The ISSA Journal, Bank Accounting & Finance, Risk Factor, SC Magazine, and others.

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