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Introduction to CERT Resilience Management Model (RMM):A Maturity Model for Managing Operational Resilience

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The authors of CERT Resilience Management Model (RMM):A Maturity Model for Managing Operational Resilience explain how RMM embodies the process management premise that "the quality of a system or product is highly influenced by the quality of the process used to develop and maintain it."
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The CERT Resilience Management Model (CERT-RMM) is the result of many years of research and development committed to helping organizations meet the challenge of managing operational risk and resilience in a complex world. It embodies the process management premise that "the quality of a system or product is highly influenced by the quality of the process used to develop and maintain it" by defining quality as the extent to which an organization controls its ability to operate in a mission-driven, complex risk environment [CMMI Product Team 2006].

CERT-RMM brings several innovative and advantageous concepts to the management of operational resilience:

  • First, it seeks to holistically improve risk and resilience management through purposeful and practical convergence of the disciplines of security management, business continuity management, and aspects of IT operations management (the convergence advantage).
  • Second, it elevates these disciplines to a process approach, which enables the application of process improvement innovations and provides a useful basis for metrics and measurement. It also provides a practical organizing and integrating framework for the vast array of practices in place in most organizations (the process advantage).
  • Finally, it provides a foundation for process institutionalization and organizational process maturity—concepts that are important for sustaining any process but are absolutely critical for processes that operate in complex environments, typically during times of stress (the maturity advantage).

CERT-RMM v1.1 comprises 26 process areas that cover four areas of operational resilience management: Enterprise Management, Engineering, Operations, and Process Management. The practices contained in these process areas are codified from a management perspective; that is, the practices focus on the activities that an organization performs to actively direct, control, and manage operational resilience in an environment of uncertainty, complexity, and risk. For example, the model does not prescribe specifically how an organization should secure information; instead, it focuses on the equally important processes of identifying high-value information assets, making decisions about the levels needed to protect and sustain these assets, implementing strategies to achieve these levels, and maintaining these levels throughout the life cycle of the assets during stable times and, more important, during times of stress. In essence, the managerial focus supports the specific actions taken to secure information by making them more effective and more efficient.

1.1 The Influence of Process Improvement and Capability Maturity Models

Throughout its history, the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) has directed its research efforts toward helping organizations to develop and maintain quality products and services, primarily in the software and systems engineering and acquisition processes. Proven success in these disciplines has expanded opportunities to extend process improvement knowledge to other areas such as the quality of service delivery (as codified in the CMMI for Services model) and to cyber security and resilience management (CERT-RMM).

The SEI's research in product and service quality reinforces three critical dimensions on which organizations typically focus: people, procedures and methods, and tools and equipment [CMMI Product Team 2006]. However, processes link these dimensions together and provide a conduit for achieving the organization's mission and goals across all organizational levels. Figure 1.1 illustrates these three critical dimensions.

Figure 1.1

Figure 1.1 The Three Critical Dimensions

Traditionally, the disciplines concerned with managing operational risk have taken a technology-centric view of improvement. That is, of the three critical dimensions, organizations often look to technology—in the form of software-based tools and hardware—to fix security problems, to enable continuity, or even to improve IT operations and service delivery. Technology can be very effective in managing risk, but technology cannot always substitute for skilled people and resources, procedures and methods that define and connect tasks and activities, and processes to provide structure and stability toward the achievement of common objectives and goals. In our experience, organizations often ask for the one or two technological advances that will keep their data secure or improve the way they handle incidents, while failing to recognize that the lack of defined processes and process management diminishes their overall capability for managing operational resilience. Most organizations are already technology-savvy when it comes to security and continuity, but the way they manage these disciplines is immature. In fact, incidents such as security breaches often can be traced back to poorly designed and managed processes at the enterprise and operational levels, not technology failures. Consider the following: Your organization probably has numerous firewall devices deployed across its networks. But what kinds of traffic are these firewalls filtering? What rulesets are being used? Do these rulesets reflect management's resilience objectives and the needs for protecting and sustaining the assets with firewalls? Who sets and manages the rulesets? Under whose direction? All of these questions typify the need to augment technology with process so that the technology supports and enforces strategic objectives.

In addition to being technology-focused, many organizations are practice-focused. They look for a representative set of practices to solve their unique operational resilience management challenges and end up with a complex array of practices sourced from many different bodies of knowledge. The effectiveness of these practices is measured by whether they are used or "sanctioned" by an industry or satisfy a compliance requirement instead of by how effective they are in helping the organization reduce exposure or improve predictability in managing impact. The practices are not the problem; organizations go wrong in assuming that practices alone will bring about a sustainable capability for managing resilience in a complex environment.

Further damage is done by practice-based assessments or evaluations. Simply verifying the existence of a practice sourced from a body of knowledge does not provide for an adequate characterization of the organization's ability to sustain that practice over the long term, particularly when the risk environment changes or when disruption occurs. This can be done only by examining the degree to which the organization embeds the practice in its culture, is able and committed to performing the practice, can control the practice and ensure that the practice is effective through measurement and analysis, and can prove the practice is performed according to established procedures and processes. In short, practices are made better by the degree to which they have been institutionalized through processes.

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