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Security Metrics: Replacing Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt Paperback – April 5, 2007

ISBN-13: 978-0321349989 ISBN-10: 9780321349989 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (April 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780321349989
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321349989
  • ASIN: 0321349989
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.7 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #128,073 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

Andrew Jaquith is the program manager for Yankee Group’s Enabling Technologies Enterprise group, with expertise in compliance, security, and risk management. Jaquith advises enterprise clients on how to manage security resources in their environments. He also helps security vendors develop strategies for reaching enterprise customers. Jaquith’s research focuses on topics such as security management, risk management, and packaged and custom web-based applications.

 

Jaquith has 15 years of IT experience. Before joining Yankee Group, he cofounded and served as program director at @stake, Inc., a security consulting pioneer, which Symantec Corporation acquired in 2004. Before @stake, Jaquith held project manager and business analyst positions at Cambridge Technology Partners and FedEx Corporation.

 

His application security and metrics research has been featured in CIO, CSO, InformationWeek, IEEE Security and Privacy, and The Economist. In addition, Jaquith contributes to several security-related open-source projects.

 

Jaquith holds a B.A. degree in economics and political science from Yale University.

 

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Preface

Preface

What This Book Is About

This book is about security metrics: how to quantify, classify, and measure information security operations in modern enterprise environments.

How This Book Came to Be

Every consultant worth his or her weight in receipts accumulates a small trove of metaphors, analogies, and witty expressions. These help explain or clarify those rarified things that consultants do and tend to lubricate the consulting process. Oh, and they also tend to be funny. One of my favorite bits—particularly relevant to the topic at hand—is this one:

No good deed goes unpunished.

This simply means that with any worthwhile endeavor comes many unwitting (and often unwanted) consequences. So it is with the world of "security metrics." As you will see in the story I am about to tell you, my steadfast belief that security metrics ought to be a very! serious! field of study! has brought with it its own punishment.

Several years ago, several colleagues and I undertook a series of elaborate empirical studies on the subject of application security. We rigorously gathered and cleansed far-flung source material, aggregated and analyzed the resulting data, built an exotic mathematical model, and wrote a short research paper on the subject, complete with eye-catching charts and graphs. It was well received by customers and media alike. Some time later I was asked to present a condensed version of our findings on an Internet webcast run by an industry trade publication. In this case "webcast" meant a PowerPoint presentation accompanied by previously taped narration. The audience, as pitched to me by the sponsor, was to include "CSOs, technologists, and decision-makers."

That sounded great; I relished the opportunity to impress the bejeezus out of the vast numbers of grand globetrotters promised by the publication. In addition, my Inner Academic had high hopes that many in the audience would send me e-mails and letters marveling at the analytical techniques we used, the breadth of the data, and the many keen insights contained in the narrative and text. How wrong I was. Instead of measured praise from academe, I received several e-mails that went something like this:

"Great presentation, but I was hoping to see more 'return on investment' numbers. You see, I really need to convince my boss to help me buy widget ______ (fill in the blank)."

And then there were the slightly more disturbing comments, like this one:

"We have no money for our security program! Oh, woe is me! What I really need is more ROI! Help me!"

I confess to embroidering the truth a tiny bit here; the second e-mail I received was not nearly so plaintive. But the theme was clear: viewers assumed that because the webcast was about "security metrics," it must be about ROI. Our marvelous metrics were the good deed; their unfulfilled expectations were the punishment.

Goals of This Book

Mercifully, the "security ROI" fad has gone the way of the Macarena. But to be absolutely sure that your expectations are managed (more consultantspeak for you), here is what this book is about, and what it is not about.

The primary objective of this book is to quantitatively analyze digital security activities. The chapters suggest ways of using numbers to illuminate an organization's security activities:

  • Measuring security: Putting numbers around activities that have traditionally been considered difficult to measure
  • Analyzing data: What kinds of sources of security data exist, and how you can put them to work for you
  • Telling a story: Techniques you can use to marshal empirical evidence into a coherent set of messages

The need for a book like this seems plain to me. Security is one of the few areas of management that does not possess a well-understood canon of techniques for measurement. In logistics, for example, metrics such as "freight cost per mile" and "inventory warehouse turns" help operators understand how efficiently trucking fleets and warehouses run. In finance, "value at risk" techniques calculate the amount of money a firm could lose on a given day based on historical pricing volatilities. By contrast, security has . . . exactly nothing. No consensus on key indicators for security exists.

The lack of consensus on security metrics is, in part, due to the fact that the culture surrounding security is largely one of shame. Firms that get hacked tend not to talk about security incidents in public. Likewise, firms that are doing the right things tend not to talk either, lest giant red bull's-eyes appear on their firewalls' flanks. When they do talk, it is typically under NDA, or at small gatherings of like-minded people. Therefore, this book, as a secondary objective, documents effective practices of firms that take the responsibility of measuring their security activities seriously.

Non-goals of This Book

This book is first and foremost about quantifying security activities. It identifies ways to measure security processes that many enterprises consider important. The metrics and analysis techniques I document here are partly of my own devising but are drawn primarily from examples collected over the course of consulting in the software, aerospace, and financial services industries. I have met and exchanged notes with many people who have started their own metrics programs and are passionate about security metrics. At a minimum, I hope you will regard this book as a useful synthesis of current security measurement practices.

The word "practices" in that last sentence is important. I chose it carefully because of the implicit contrast with an opposing word: theory. In this book you will find plenty of anecdotes, lists of metrics, and ways of measuring security activities. But I have devoted only a small part of the text to modeling security risks—that is, figuring out which threats and risks are the right ones to worry about. Risk assessment is a broad field with many schools of thought. Smart people have spent many megawatts of brainpower modeling threats, modeling the effectiveness of security countermeasures, and simulating perimeter defenses.

The first non-goal of this book, therefore, is enterprise risk modeling and assessment. This is an important endeavor that every enterprise must undertake, but specific techniques are beyond the scope of this book. Risk assessment is an organization-specific activity, and I did not want to spend half of my pages disclaiming things because "it depends on what risks your organization feels are the most important." Moreover, I did not wish to add to what is already an exceptionally rich canon of works devoted to the subject of risk modeling and assessment.

To this rather significant and somber-sounding non-goal I would like to add three more. The dearth of generally accepted security metrics often means that unscrupulous vendors manufacture blood-curdling statistics in a vacuum, devoid of context and designed to scare. Middle managers with agendas promptly recycle these metrics for their own purposes. Therefore, this book also is not about the following:

  • Budget justification: How to convince your boss to spend money on security. If your company has not yet figured out that it needs to spend money on security, it likely has deeper problems than just a lack of statistics.
  • Fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD): How to abuse or misrepresent data for the purpose of manufacturing security scare stories. I derive no pleasure from this, and it makes me feel cheap and dirty.
  • Funny money: Any and all topics relating to "return on security investment." In addition to its dubious merit as a measure of security effectiveness, ROSI (as it is sometimes called) is a needless distraction from empirical security measurement.

Of course, because no good deed goes unpunished, it is entirely likely that this book will be used for those purposes regardless. But that, as a student of security analysis might say, is a risk worth taking.

Audience

I wrote this book for two distinct audiences: security practitioners and the bosses they report to. Practitioners need to know how, what, and when to measure. Their bosses need to know what to expect. Not for nothing has the security domain resisted measurement. As the bedraggled security manager of a household-name financial services firm recently told me, "My boss doesn't understand what I do every day. All he understands are numbers." Bridging the yawning gap between practitioners and management is what this book aims to achieve.

Overview of Contents

This book is divided into eight chapters:

  • Chapter 1, "Introduction: Escaping the Hamster Wheel of Pain": The state of security metrics today eerily resembles a hamster wheel that spins continuously around an axis of vulnerability discovery and elimination. Thinking about security as a circular, zero-sum game cripples our ability to think clearly. This introductory chapter advocates replacing the hamster wheel with key indicators—metrics—that measure the efficiency of key security activities.
  • Chapter 2, "Defining Security Metrics": This chapter describes the philosophy behind metrics, describes business pressures driving their adoption, suggests criteria for evaluating "good metrics," and warns against red herrings and other "bad metrics."
  • Chapter 3, "Diagnosing Problems and Measuring Technical Security": Leading firms measure security activities differently, depending on need and context. This chapter catalogs the types of measureme...

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Customer Reviews

I wrote some kind of pithy quote for this excellent book that ended up on the front cover.
Gary McGraw
Security metrics, if done right, can help transform a company from a nebulous perspective on security to an effective one based on formal security risk metrics.
Ben Rothke
I had to read the Tufte books in college and have to admit that I got more out of chapter 6 (visualization) than I feel I learned that whole semester of class.
Chris Gates

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

39 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Richard Bejtlich on August 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
I read Security Metrics right after finishing Managing Cybersecurity Resources, a book by economists arguing that security decisions should be made using cost-benefit analysis. On the face of it, cost-benefit analysis makes perfect sense, especially given the authors' analysis. However, Security Metrics author Andy Jaquith quickly demolishes that approach (confirming the problem I had with the MCR plan). While attacking the implementation (but not the idea) of Annual Loss Expectancy for security events, Jaquith writes on p 33 "[P]ractitioners of ALE suffer from a near-complete inability to reliably estimate probabilities [of occurrence] or losses." Bingo, game over for ALE and cost-benefit analysis. It turns out the reason security managers "herd" (as mentioned in MCR) is that they have no clue what else to do; they seek safety in numbers by emulating peers and then claim that as a defense when they are breached.

Fortunately, Security Metrics offers another solution. The book gives readers three sets of information: theory, metrics, and tools (concepts, not programs). The theory chapters (1 and 2) were so concise yet insightful I was tempted to underline every sentence. (I am not kidding.) Even the Preface made me glad to be reading the book when it associated "security ROI" with "the Macarena" and called it a "needless distraction." I laughed in agreement when I saw Andy call "security enablement" the "Abominable Snowman: it is rarely spotted, but legions of people swear it exists. After all, as my friend Dan geer puts it, 'You don't usually see airlines advertising how their planes fall out of the sky less often than their competitors.'" Why is that? My answer is simple: security is assumed and expected. Advertising anything else has no effect or makes people suspicious.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Wendy Nather on April 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
It's difficult to imbue a book on metrics with something other than academic theories, but Jaquith offers the working security professional a tangible lifeline. Nearly all of his suggested metrics are within easy reach, thanks to a commonsense approach and a tie-in to the instrumentation you're most likely to have in your data center.

Don't be scared off by the term "metrics," either; it's an easy read, chock full of amusing stories and turns of phrase (I thought my 80-year-old father was the only one who said "'pert near"). Jaquith focuses on the practical, from What Not to Draw (a graphics primer for charts and tables) to a Balanced Scorecard Makeover that actually looks achievable from outside the C-suite.

If your boss likes metrics, and your budget request is in jeopardy, you can't do better than this guide to making your case. Now, if only we had a practical, lightweight risk analysis methodology to go along with it ...
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Ben Rothke on May 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
The goal of security metrics is to replace fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) with a more formalized and meaningful system of measurement. The FUD factor is the very foundation upon which much of information security is built, and the outcome is decades of meaningless statistics and racks of snake oil products. Let's hope that Andrew Jaquith succeeds, but in doing so, he is getting in the way of many security hardware and software vendors whose revenue streams are built on FUD.

One could write a book on how FUD sells security products. One of the most memorable incidents was in 1992 when John McAfee created widespread panic about the impending Michelangelo virus. The media was all over him as he was selling solutions for the five million PCs worldwide he said would be affected. The end result is that the Michelangelo virus was a non-event. Nonetheless, it was far from the last time that FUD was used to sell security.

The allure of FUD is that companies can spend huge amounts of money fighting nebulous digital adversaries and feel good about it. They can then put all of that fancy hardware in dedicated racks in their data center, impressing the auditors with the flashing lights giving off an aroma of security and compliance.

And that is the chaos that security metrics comes to solve. Security metrics, if done right, can help transform a company from a nebulous perspective on security to an effective one based on formal security risk metrics.

Security Metrics is a fabulous book that should be in the hands of every security professional.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Russell C. Thomas on May 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
I'd really like to give this "3 ½" stars, but I rounded up to 4 stars. There is, currently, no book that is the "last word" on security metrics. The field is just not mature enough for that. However, this is certainly a very good and useful book for most people.

This book is for you if you are a practicing information security professional and you want to know the latest ideas about how to define, deploy, and use security metrics to improve security management. Written in an informal, personal style, Andrew's book reads like "letters from the front lines" (by analogy) than a treatise on military strategy.
The informal style makes the reading, at times, both fun and funny.

He's up front about his preferences and biases, so you know where he's coming from. But he's not bombastic. If you disagree with him on some points (as I do), so be it. His writing invites open debate on the important issues. He's also generous in quoting and crediting various members of the security metrics communities that he participates in.

Andrew falls into the "bag-o-metrics" school of thought, as contrasted from the "risk modeling" school. (This is currently a raging debate within the community.) Basically, Andrew is pessimistic about the possibility of defining any models that integrate security metrics into an overall assessment of business risk. He's especially caustic in his comments about "asset valuation" and other related approaches. Given their current state of development, I don't blame him.

Given this philosophy, Andrew proposes a long list of operational security metrics, each of which measure something very specific (and quantitative), but don't necessarily aggregate. With enough of these "point metrics", some correlations may emerge, he reasons.
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