Click here to close now.


Microservices Expo Authors: PagerDuty Blog, Liz McMillan, Derek Weeks, Elizabeth White, Ian Khan

Related Topics: Cloud Security, Microservices Expo, @CloudExpo

Cloud Security: Article

Information Security from a Business Perspective

It must be designed and implemented as a core ingredient of the business strategy

As enterprises struggle to remain profitable in an ever-changing risk environment, the current economic crisis has elevated the need for effective business risk management. Information security is a key parameter that affects business risk. The academic definition of information security is the "preservation of confidentiality, integrity and availability of information." [1] Confidentiality is the preservation of secrecy of information (e.g., business reports, technical designs or financial projections) by ensuring that viewing is conducted solely by authorized people. Integrity is ensuring that information is accurate and consistent and has not been manipulated. Availability ensures that information is accessible to authorized people when needed.

Historically, information security has been addressed primarily as a technical issue. Preventive controls, such as firewalls, user access control mechanisms, encryption of data and communications, digital signatures, data backup systems, and detective controls, such as intrusion detection systems or security monitoring platforms, have formed the basic components of security architecture. Often, the technical controls are complemented by a set of security policies, procedures and guidelines aimed at controlling the actions of personnel.

This approach, though, has proven to be insufficient. Security incidents continue to rise and security problems remain unsolved while information security experts have been challenged to effectively communicate the value of information security to enterprise management. The root cause of these problems may be the definition of information security itself. There is a lack of consistency as each sector, industry and even enterprise has had to define information security uniquely, based on very specific business needs. This lack of consistency has contributed to a lack of understanding and a lack of appreciation for the value of information security.

Information Security Defined
To define information security in an organisation, one must understand its business objectives, identify stakeholders and link them to information protection attributes. Organisations have to be trusted to achieve customer acquisition and retention, which directly affect their revenue. This trust is a key success factor that is directly related to:

  • Business integrity-Each business decision is conducted as described in its official literature. It is fair to the customer and inspires trust. Information integrity (avoiding data manipulation) is a key information security component related to customer trust.
  • Customer asset protection-Customers need to be confident that their money, credit card numbers and bank account numbers are safe, especially in online transactions, where their funds are essentially electronic. Customers need to trust an organisation to secure their financial assets; confidentiality, integrity and availability are crucial security parameters.
  • Customer privacy-Customers provide their personally identifiable information (PII) to a whole host of ‘trusted' sources. As in customer asset protection, trust in the business is important for making them feel comfortable with sharing such information. Trust is particularly important when dealing with large amounts of money because customers have to feel safe and also that their personal data have been protected.

Providing services to the public also has societal and political facets. Businesses must adhere to a governmental regulatory and legal framework. The provision of secure and fair outlets to citizens is a matter of social responsibility. Moreover, the government is a shareholder of business (directly or indirectly through taxing); thus, business success affects the corresponding governmental revenue.

The aforementioned facts are clarified in relation to information security when the drivers of shareholders' trust are studied in more detail. For example:

  • Each licensed business has to comply with rules and terms of the license, which in turn have general or more detailed information protection requirements. These vary from general statements for fairness, antifraud rules and service availability requirements to more detailed technical controls such as network security rules, operating security policies or certification requirements. Shareholders need to be confident that a business complies with the license obligations and, more generally, the legal and regulatory framework, since this is a main corporate viability factor.
  • In competitive business environments, information security acts as a competitive advantage that, in turn, ensures customer acquisition. Shareholders trust a business if it operates as a competitive corporation, and due to the importance of protecting its information from breaches, information security becomes a competitive parameter.

In relation to the business role of information security, drivers should be:

-Shareholders' trust:

. Corporate viability, which is driven by compliance of license terms

. Competitive advantage, which ensures customer acquisition

. Brand name value preservation, which ensures customer retention

. Legal and regulatory compliance (e.g., the integrity of financial records and PII protection)

- Customers' trust:

. Business integrity

. Service availability

. Protection of the confidentiality of customers' sensitive information

Using this definition of information security for the business sector, a holistic approach is required for addressing the information security requirements of each unique organisation. This requires a detailed business analysis for embedding information security into the specific business processes and also for addressing the human factor and minimizing the uncertainty it introduces.  International security standards provide a solid base for information security from a business perspective.

In 2006, the Security and Risk Management Committee of the World Lottery Association (WLA)2 published the most recent version of its Security Control Standard (SCS). This standard describes a number of information security controls (technical and procedural) tailored to the lottery sector. Indicatively, it includes rules regarding the management of lottery draws and protection of prize money and Internet gaming systems.

The Security Control Standard (SCS) is an extension of the globally recognized information security standard ISO 27001 of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which is related to the establishment of information security management systems (ISMSs). Such systems provide the framework for managing information security from planning to implementation, monitoring and improvement.

ISACA has published a set of information technology (IT) auditing standards and the Risk IT:  Based on COBIT framework, which provides a set of guiding principles for effective management of IT risk. Risk IT complements COBIT, a comprehensive framework developed by ISACA for the governance and control of business-driven, IT-based solutions and services. In 2009, ISACA published An Introduction to the Business Model for Information Security, the first publication  released under the Business Model for Information Security (BMIS), which addresses information security from a business perspective, and in 2010, the full model was published as The Business Model for Information Security.

Other standards include the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), a set of requirements for enhancing payment account data security, and the Special Publications (800 series) of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which are documents of general interest to the computer security community. The aforementioned standards provide an indicative view of the information security standards landscape. Other standardization bodies and associations provide their own guidelines in the field. In addition, technical security best practices of system vendors provide additional guidelines.

The modern business sector has to select the information security standards to use as a basis for its security architecture, and it must customize this selection according to its specific business needs.


Case Example from the World Lottery Association
In this particular example the ‘customer', so defined by the business model, is identified as the ‘player'. In this situation the definition of information security, specific to the lottery model, also becomes altered. ‘Business integrity' becomes ‘game integrity', ‘customer asset protection' becomes ‘player asset protection', and ‘customer privacy' is therefore ‘player privacy'. In terms of security the needs of a customer and player are much the same; however, due to the proactive nature of a ‘player', whose object is to win prizes rather than conduct typical transactions, the model of risk management must be appropriately tailored. Trust is again the key factor. When a member of the public makes the transition from ordinary citizen to ‘player' on a gaming site, it is vital to ensure that they are aware of the official rules of the specific game. Payouts and prizes, and the procedure for claiming them, must fully conform to the official literature set out by the gaming site. There should be no cases of ambiguity as this is a sure-fire way of discrediting a brand and losing player trust and thus, their custom.

To become an online participant in lotteries and other gaming sites an individual must disclose their sensitive details; this is very often the only means by which one can become a ‘player'. Being able to trust a lottery or gaming site with sensitive details should, therefore, be the foremost concern of a player as there is little point in worrying about payout procedure when compromised details could mean a bigger loss than any potential gain.

The WLA's Security Control Standard takes the above factors into consideration- perfectly illustrating how the security of data can be adapted to a unique business situation.

Studying the information security standards horizontally, a number of basic processes/steps that lead to the identification of information security requirements are:

  • Step 1: Business impact analysis-Each business process is recorded and analyzed in terms of business impact from the realization of a possible security threat.

The business must answer a number of questions to calculate the impact of security breaches, including:

- How much would this cost the business in monetary terms?

- What would be the indirect costs (e.g., from reputation loss) if information is sold?

- What would the legal implications be?

Business processes are then prioritized based on an impact scale that identifies the most critical issues.

  • Step 2: Risk analysis-During this process, the possibility for the occurrence of a security incident is calculated, based on a database of security weaknesses. The risk analysis takes into account technical and procedural parameters, such as:

- Are there technical controls in place to safeguard customer data?

- Do procedures exist to complement the technical security controls?

  • Step 3: Risk management-The result of the risk analysis is a prioritization of risk in relation to the impact level (the result of the business impact analysis) and the identification of possible security measures for addressing the risk. The risk management process-the selection of appropriate security measures for addressing the risk or for risk transferring or acceptance-is determined by the management of the organisation.
  • Step 4: ISMS implementation-After the controls have been selected, they should be correlated under a common information security management system (ISMS). This correlation requires deep understanding of the operation of the organisation; consideration of human, cultural, technical, business and external factors; and continuous improvements.

Business Model for Information Security
One of the most recent information security frameworks that addresses information security from a business point of view is ISACA's BMIS.

The following definitions of the BMIS elements (derived from An Introduction to the Business Model for Information Security) are necessary for understanding how BMIS works:

  • Organization design and strategy-An organization is a network of people, assets and processes interacting with each other in defined roles and working toward a common goal.
  • People-The people element represents the human resources and the security issues that surround them. It defines who implements (through design) each part of the strategy. It represents a human collective and must take into account values, behaviors and biases.
  • Process-Process includes formal and informal mechanisms (large and small, simple and complex) to get things done.
  • Technology-The technology element is composed of all of the tools, applications and infrastructure that make processes more efficient.

To understand the operation of BMIS in practice, it is important to study the links connecting organization design and strategy, people, process, and technology.

Information security will be understood, provide added value and effectively contribute to the operation of an organization only if it is designed and implemented as a core ingredient of the business strategy. Stakeholder, shareholder and customer trust are the key ingredients of information security; organizations from all sectors should identify such key ingredients in order to provide a business definition to information security.

More Stories By Christos K. Dimitriadis

Christos K. Dimitriadis, Ph.D., CISA, CISM, is international vice president of ISACA and head of information security at INTRALOT S.A, a Greece-based multinational supplier of integrated gaming and transaction processing systems.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
Hiring the wrong candidate can cost a company hundreds of thousands of dollars, and result in lost profit and productivity during the search for a replacement. In fact, the Harvard Business Review has found that as much as 80 percent of turnover is caused by bad hiring decisions. But when your organization has implemented DevOps, the job is about more than just technical chops. It’s also about core behaviors: how they work with others, how they make decisions, and how those decisions translate t...
In his General Session at DevOps Summit, Asaf Yigal, Co-Founder & VP of Product at, explored the value of Kibana 4 for log analysis and provided a hands-on tutorial on how to set up Kibana 4 and get the most out of Apache log files. He examined three use cases: IT operations, business intelligence, and security and compliance. Asaf Yigal is co-founder and VP of Product at log analytics software company In the past, he was co-founder of social-trading platform Currensee, which...
People want to get going with DevOps or Continuous Delivery, but need a place to start. Others are already on their way, but need some validation of their choices. A few months ago, I published the first volume of DevOps and Continuous Delivery reference architectures which has now been viewed over 50,000 times on SlideShare (it's free to registration required). Three things helped people in the deck: (1) the reference architectures, (2) links to the sources for each architectur...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data...
Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership ab...
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
One of the most important tenets of digital transformation is that it’s customer-driven. In fact, the only reason technology is involved at all is because today’s customers demand technology-based interactions with the companies they do business with. It’s no surprise, therefore, that we at Intellyx agree with Patrick Maes, CTO, ANZ Bank, when he said, “the fundamental element in digital transformation is extreme customer centricity.” So true – but note the insightful twist that Maes adde...
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Su...
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningf...
Using any programming framework to the fullest extent possible first requires an understanding of advanced software architecture concepts. While writing a little client-side JavaScript does not necessarily require as much consideration when designing a scalable software architecture, the evolution of tools like Node.js means that you could be facing large code bases that must be easy to maintain.
Continuous processes around the development and deployment of applications are both impacted by -- and a benefit to -- the Internet of Things trend. To help better understand the relationship between DevOps and a plethora of new end-devices and data please welcome Gary Gruver, consultant, author and a former IT executive who has led many large-scale IT transformation projects, and John Jeremiah, Technology Evangelist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), on Twitter at @j_jeremiah. The discussion...
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true ...
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem"...
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound...
PubNub has announced the release of BLOCKS, a set of customizable microservices that give developers a simple way to add code and deploy features for realtime apps.PubNub BLOCKS executes business logic directly on the data streaming through PubNub’s network without splitting it off to an intermediary server controlled by the customer. This revolutionary approach streamlines app development, reduces endpoint-to-endpoint latency, and allows apps to better leverage the enormous scalability of PubNu...
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, San...
In today's enterprise, digital transformation represents organizational change even more so than technology change, as customer preferences and behavior drive end-to-end transformation across lines of business as well as IT. To capitalize on the ubiquitous disruption driving this transformation, companies must be able to innovate at an increasingly rapid pace. Traditional approaches for driving innovation are now woefully inadequate for keeping up with the breadth of disruption and change facin...
I recently attended and was a speaker at the 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center. I also had the opportunity to attend this event last year and I wrote a blog from that show talking about how the “Enterprise Impact of IoT” was a key theme of last year’s show. I was curious to see if the same theme would still resonate 365 days later and what, if any, changes I would see in the content presented.
You may have heard about the pets vs. cattle discussion – a reference to the way application servers are deployed in the cloud native world. If an application server goes down it can simply be dropped from the mix and a new server added in its place. The practice so far has mostly been applied to application deployments. Management software on the other hand is treated in a very special manner. Dedicated resources are set aside to run the management software components and several alerting syst...
It's been a busy time for tech's ongoing infatuation with containers. Amazon just announced EC2 Container Registry to simply container management. The new Azure container service taps into Microsoft's partnership with Docker and Mesosphere. You know when there's a standard for containers on the table there's money on the table, too. Everyone is talking containers because they reduce a ton of development-related challenges and make it much easier to move across production and testing environm...