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Understanding the IT Security Process

As defined earlier in Chapter 2, "Foundations and Principles of Security," designing and implementing a sound IT security architecture and framework requires a thorough analysis and examination of how availability, integrity, and availability (A-I-C Triad) is designed and implemented on the IT infrastructure components and assets in the overall information security plan.

Attacks on an IT infrastructure and assets can disrupt availability of service resulting in the following:

  • Loss of Productivity—Downtime equals lost productivity to organizations. Lost productivity can result in loss in dollars and time.
  • Violation of Service Level Agreements—Service providers or outsourcing service organizations can be in violation of contractual service level agreements (SLAs) that may result in penalties and financial compensation.
  • Financial Loss—Lost productivity and violation of SLAs all result in financial loss. Depending on the criticality of the financial loss, this may change the prioritization of how that organization funds and secures its IT infrastructure components and assets.
  • Loss of Life—System downtime or even loss of data can impact IT infrastructures and systems that are used to maintain, support, and respond to human life issues.

Attacks on an IT infrastructure and assets can disrupt the integrity of information that organizations disseminate:

  • Attack Against the Integrity of a System—A system’s integrity requires sound access control processes and authentication that the user is authorized to access the system. Attacks against the integrity of the system start with access control and include the manipulation of information or data, including destruction of data.
  • Information or Data Can Be Modified, Altered, or Destroyed—A system’s integrity can be compromised if access is granted to a perpetrator and the organization’s information or data is modified, altered, or destroyed.

Unfortunately, implementing a robust IT security architecture and framework and conducting a risk and vulnerability assessment is not something that can be taken lightly by an organization. This is true given that many IT systems and applications were not designed with security in mind; many organizations are struggling to deal with the lack of security in their IT infrastructure components and applications that are currently in production. Security was always an afterthought and now for the first time, information security is in the forefront of system requirements definitions and system designs.

Security as a process would define an entire development life cycle that incorporates security requirements into the system or application design from the very beginning. By designing a system (hardware, software, or multiplatforms) or application (software code) from the ground up that includes security requirements for availability, integrity, and confidentiality, minimization of the risks, threats, and vulnerabilities can be designed into the system or application up front. Security as a process would have security requirements incorporated throughout all the steps of the system or application development and design life cycle. These steps include the following:

  • Risk/Threat/Vulnerability Analysis—Ideally, this is done prior to any system requirements or application requirements being defined and documented. This initial risk, threat, and vulnerability analysis will attempt to identify and mitigate the exposure by incorporating appropriate security countermeasure requirements into the overall system or application design.
  • System Requirements Definition and Design—After a risk, threat, and vulnerability analysis is conducted, the system’s or application’s requirements definition can incorporate the technical requirements along with embedded security and security countermeasures requirements to mitigate the identified and known exposures to that system or application.
  • Functional Design—After the system’s technical requirements definition and security requirements definition are complete, a comprehensive system or application functional design can be documented. The functional design will describe the functionality of the system or application and how security is embedded into the functionality of the system or application.
  • Security Design—After the system requirements definition, technical design, and functional design are completed, the specific security design for the system and application can be conducted based on the security requirements that are identified as being needed. Depending on the criticality and importance of the security design, implementation of security elements into the system or application design will assist the system designers in ensuring the availability, integrity, and confidentiality of the system or application and its data.
  • System/Application Test Plan—Like any new system or application, a thorough system or application test plan must be developed to ensure that all the technical, functional, and security design elements were developed properly and do not contain identifiable bugs, performance issues, or potential exposure to risks, threats, and vulnerabilities.
  • System Design Verification/Validation—A thorough system design verification and validation assessment will come from the results of the system or application test plan. The results of the test plan will uncover whether the system design properly incorporated the technical, functional, and security requirements as defined in the system or application development life cycle.

As shown in Figure 3.3, step 4 in the System Development Life Cycle incorporates security design within the design and development phase of the life cycle. This is an important first step to ensure that the proper security controls, security objectives, and security goals are initiated properly.

Figure 3.3

Figure 3.3  Security in the development life cycle.

This IT security process is what is currently missing from many organizations when it comes to designing and implementing new IT systems and applications throughout the organization. As organizations incorporate security requirements and design into the development life cycle, more IT systems and applications will have the inherent security controls to ensure that the availability, integrity, and confidentiality goals and objectives are achieved.

When conducting a risk and vulnerability assessment on IT systems and applications, examination of the defined security goals and objectives can be done. This examination will include a review of the IT system’s or applications’ security requirements and how they were implemented in production. Understanding this void in the development life cycle will help IT organizations fill the void with proper security requirements and security design steps in the overall development effort. By implementing the proper security controls and requirements into the system and application design up front, minimization of exposure to risks, threats, and vulnerabilities can be achieved, thus eliminating costly security countermeasures and other security controls around the IT system or application that lacks the proper security controls.

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