Thursday, November 8, 2018

Top-N List "Frameworks" and Why They Will Fail You

Lately, I’ve noticed a trend of prioritizing security program activities using Top-N security issue lists under the guise of using them as ‘a framework’. While possibly a useful input to decision making, Top-N lists amount to someone else’s risk assessment, one that doesn’t necessarily address your business objectives, operating model, technical environment, and industry specific issues. They are also rarely the type of all-encompassing catalog or taxonomy of considerations that are denoted by “framework.”

I see the overuse of generalized external risk assessments (Top-N “frameworks”) as the result of two issues. First, the entirely poor state of basic cybersecurity hygiene which is a result of cybersecurity and information technology technical debt, the kind of debt which now requires a defensible approach for being only partially paid down. Second, the failure to use risk assessment in the context of business decision making supported communicating technical risks in business risk terms. Not coincidentally, the second issue is the root of the first.