IT Security Metrics
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activities and integrate them with Minitab statistical software so that a metrics team can conduct exploratory, analytical, or experimental projects to help improve their operational activities At this point, the director was content with the simple reduction of some of the uncertainties regarding the company s patch-management process
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Beyond the immediate finding by the project team that the patch management process had no single owner, the data that emerged from the mapping exercise was instructive in helping the director understand why the process was inefficient With duties split among several people, none of whom were assigned patching as a primary job responsibility, the coordination that took place among them was not enough to overcome the fact that patching was understaffed The patching virtual team shared monitoring and evaluation duties, communicating primarily via e-mail Security advisories were picked up pretty quickly, but evaluation of the advisories and their impact on the company could take days as the team researched and communicated back and forth In some cases, no patch was available and alternative processes for ensuring security were kicked off until a patch was released Once a patch was obtained, it required testing before rollout, and at this stage of the process, the most significant delays were introduced Patch testing required dedicated lab time and the virtual team members were often too busy with other activities or projects to begin the tests immediately Altogether, the amount of time dedicated by the company to this task was one full-time equivalent employee across the five members of the virtual team The resulting delays as the team members found time to test the patches in queue could result in delays of two weeks or more before a decision could be made on rolling out the patch to production systems When a patch failed testing, this delay could increase even more as the team had to research alternatives and look for other mechanisms of securing affected systems Once testing was complete, the delays diminished as the members of the team were able to work with system owners to implement the patches as part of their normal duties Rollout was usually completed within a week, giving system owners sufficient time to identify any issues resulting from the patch One major discrepancy identified by the mapping exercise concerned the documentation of the patching efforts and the updating of appropriate configuration standards This activity was required by the company s security policy, but the project team found that in most cases the required updates to the standards were not completed within months of the rollout, and in some cases they had never been documented This oversight could be attributed to the staff members involved in patching quickly moving back to their normal duties after patching was complete every patching team member described feeling that patching was about getting the critical tasks off the plate and moving on quickly to other priorities Using the insights from the business process analysis pilot, the director began making more informed decisions about how to improve the process He changed the job descriptions within the security team to assign one individual full-time patching responsibilities and put that person in charge of coordinating the virtual team
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IT Security Metrics
He also used the project data as a justification for more headcount, showing the CIO that the inefficiencies in the security processes were not the result of poor operations but of a lack of sufficient resources that was putting the company at risk of a major virus outbreak or an attack on vulnerable systems Most certainly, the measurements conducted during this project led into subsequent measurement projects One follow-on project was to design an experiment around the assignment of the single point of responsibility for the patching process After implementing the change, process data was be reevaluated periodically to determine whether reductions resulted in the calendar durations of any activities Should such reductions be achieved, analysis could be conducted to determine whether those reductions were the result of the changes to the process or of random chance This is another area where the features of Quality Companion and similar process analysis tools can be put to use