Open FAIR Blog Series – An Introduction to Risk Analysis and the Open FAIR Body of Knowledge

By Jim Hietala, VP, Security and Andrew Josey, Director of Standards, The Open Group

This is the first in a four-part series of blogs introducing the Open FAIR Body of Knowledge. In this first blog. we look at what the Open FAIR Body of Knowledge provides, and why a taxonomy is needed for Risk Analysis.

An Introduction to Risk Analysis and the Open FAIR Body of Knowledge

The Open FAIR Body of Knowledge provides a taxonomy and method for understanding, analyzing and measuring information risk. It allows organizations to:

  • Speak in one language concerning their risk using the standard taxonomy and terminology, and communicate risk effectively to senior management
  • Consistently study and apply risk analysis principles to any object or asset
  • View organizational risk in total
  • Challenge and defend risk decisions
  • Compare risk mitigation options

What does FAIR stand for?

FAIR is an acronym for Factor Analysis of Information Risk.

Risk Analysis: The Need for an Accurate Model and Taxonomy

Organizations seeking to analyze and manage risk encounter some common challenges. Put simply, it is difficult to make sense of risk without having a common understanding of both the factors that (taken together) contribute to risk, and the relationships between those factors. The Open FAIR Body of Knowledge provides such a taxonomy.

Here’s an example that will help to illustrate why a standard taxonomy is important. Let’s assume that you are an information security risk analyst tasked with determining how much risk your company is exposed to from a “lost or stolen laptop” scenario. The degree of risk that the organization experiences in such a scenario will vary widely depending on a number of key factors. To even start to approach an analysis of the risk posed by this scenario to your organization, you will need to answer a number of questions, such as:

  • Whose laptop is this?
  • What data resides on this laptop?
  • How and where did the laptop get lost or stolen?
  • What security measures were in place to protect the data on the laptop?
  • How strong were the security controls?

The level of risk to your organization will vary widely based upon the answers to these questions. The degree of overall organizational risk posed by lost laptops must also include an estimation of the frequency of occurrence of lost or stolen laptops across the organization.

In one extreme, suppose the laptop belonged to your CTO, who had IP stored on it in the form of engineering plans for a revolutionary product in a significant new market. If the laptop was unprotected in terms of security controls, and it was stolen while he was on a business trip to a country known for state-sponsored hacking and IP theft, then there is likely to be significant risk to your organization. On the other extreme, suppose the laptop belonged to a junior salesperson a few days into their job, it contained no customer or prospect lists, and it was lost at a security checkpoint at an airport. In this scenario, there’s likely to be much less risk. Or consider a laptop which is used by the head of sales for the organization, who has downloaded Personally Identifiable Information (PII) on customers from the CRM system in order to do sales analysis, and has his or her laptop stolen. In this case, there could be Primary Loss to the organization, and there might also be Secondary Losses associated with reactions by the individuals whose data is compromised.

The Open FAIR Body of Knowledge is designed to help you to ask the right questions to determine the asset at risk (is it the laptop itself, or the data?), the magnitude of loss, the skill level and motivations of the attacker, the resistance strength of any security controls in place, the frequency of occurrence of the threat and of an actual loss event, and other factors that contribute to the overall level of risk for any specific risk scenario.

In our next blog in this series, we will consider 5 reasons why you should use The Open FAIR Body of Knowledge for Risk Analysis.

The Open FAIR Body of Knowledge consists of the following Open Group standards:

  • Risk Taxonomy (O-RT), Version 2.0 (C13K, October 2013) defines a taxonomy for the factors that drive information security risk – Factor Analysis of Information Risk (FAIR).
  • Risk Analysis (O-RA) (C13G, October 2013) describes process aspects associated with performing effective risk analysis.

These can be downloaded from The Open Group publications catalog at http://www.opengroup.org/bookstore/catalog.

Our other publications include a Pocket Guide and a Certification Study Guide.

62940-hietalaJim Hietala, CISSP, GSEC, is the Vice President, Security for The Open Group, where he manages all IT Security, Risk Management and Healthcare 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.

 

andrew-small1Andrew Josey is Director of Standards within The Open Group. He is currently managing the standards process for The Open Group, and has recently led the standards development projects for TOGAF® 9.1, ArchiMate® 2.0, IEEE Std 1003.1-2008 (POSIX), and the core specifications of the Single UNIX® Specification, Version 4. Previously, he has led the development and operation of many of The Open Group certification development projects, including industry-wide certification programs for the UNIX system, the Linux Standard Base, TOGAF, and IEEE POSIX. He is a member of the IEEE, USENIX, UKUUG, and the Association of Enterprise Architects.

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