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Quantitatively Assessing Risk
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Whereas qualitative risk assessment relies on judgment and experience, quantitative risk assessment applies historical information and trends to attempt to predict future performance This type of risk assessment is highly dependent on historical data, and gathering such data can be difficult Quantitative risk assessment can also rely heavily on models that provide decision-making information in the form of quantitative metrics, which attempt to measure risk levels across a common scale It is important to understand that key assumptions underlie any model, and different models will produce different results even when given the same input data Although significant research and development have been invested in improving and refining the various risk analysis models, expert judgment and experience must still be considered an essential part of any risk-assessment process Models can never replace judgment and experience, but they can significantly enhance the decision-making process
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Adding Objectivity to a QualitativeAssessment
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Making a Qualitative assessment more objective can be as simple as assigning numeric values to one of the tables shown in Figures 17-3 through 17-6 For example, the impacts listed in Figure 17-6 can be prioritized from highest to lowest and then weighted, as shown in Table 17-1, with business impact weighted the most and difficulty to fix weighted least Next, values can be assigned to reflect how each risk was assessed Figure 17-6 can thus be made more objective by assigning a value to each color that represents an assessment For example, a red assessment indicates many critical, unresolved issues, and this will be given an assessment value of 3 Green means few issues are unresolved, so it is given a value of 1 Table 17-2 shows values that can be assigned for an assessment using red, yellow, and green
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Table 17-1 Adding Weights and Definitions to the Potential Impacts
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Business impact Probability of attack Cost to fix Difficulty to fix
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If exploited, would this have a material business impact How likely is a potential attacker to try this technique or attack How much will it cost in dollars and resources to correct this vulnerability How hard is this to fix from a technical standpoint
4 3 2 1
CompTIA Security+ All-in-One Exam Guide
Table 17-2 Adding Values to Assessments
Assessment Explanation Value
Red Yellow Green
Many critical, unresolved issues Some critical, unresolved issues Few unresolved issues
3 2 1
The last step is to calculate an overall risk value for each risk area (each row in Figure 17-6) by multiplying the weights depicted in Table 17-1 times the assessed values from Table 17-2 and summing the products: Risk = W * V + W * V + W * V
1 1 2 2 4 4
The risk calculation and final risk value for each risk area listed in Figure 17-6 have been incorporated into Figure 17-7 The assessed areas can then be ordered from highest to lowest based on the calculated risk value to aid management in focusing on the risk areas with the greatest potential impact
A Common Objective Approach
More complex models permit a variety of analyses based on statistical and mathematical models A common method is the calculation of the annualized loss expectancy (ALE)
Figure 17-7 Final quantitative assessment of the findings
17: Risk Management
This calculation begins by calculating a single loss expectancy (SLE) with the following formula: SLE = asset value * exposure factor By example, to calculate the exposure factor, assume the asset value of a small office building and its contents is $2 million Also assume that this building houses the call center for a business, and the complete loss of the center would take away about half of the capability of the company Therefore, the exposure factor is 50 percent The SLE is $2 million * 05 = $1 million The ALE is then calculated simply by multiplying the SLE by the number of times the event is expected to occur in a year, which is called the annualized rate of occurrence (ARO): ALE = SLE * ARO If the event is expected to occur once in 20 years, then the annualized rate of occurrence is 1/20 Typically the ARO is defined by historical data, either from a company s own experience or from industry surveys Continuing our example, assume that a fire at this business s location is expected to occur about once in 20 years Given this information, the ALE is $1 million * 1/20 = $50,000 The ALE determines a threshold for evaluating the cost/benefit ratio of a given countermeasure Therefore, a countermeasure to protect this business adequately should cost no more than the calculated ALE of $50,000 per year EXAM TIP It is always advisable to memorize these fundamental equations for certifications such as Security+ The examples in this chapter have been simplistic, but they demonstrate the concepts of both qualitative and quantitative risk analysis More complex algorithms and software packages are available for accomplishing risk analyses, but these examples suffice for the purposes of this text
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