Security programs can be dramatically improved by using a metrics-based assessment to focus them on the areas of greatest threat, and to use metrics as a management tool to keep the security program targeted on the areas that need the most attention.

Using a data-driven approach – that is, using real numbers to measure
and quantify security, always results in tangible improvements.

Management of a security program is no different than management of any other department, whether it’s human resources, cash flow, employee productiveness, profitability, or any other set of metrics that organizations use to measure how well something is being done, and how it could be improved.

Security officers may complain that management is not listening to their complaints, including not making enough money available to implement new technology, or to fix a loophole that has the potential to create havoc in the organization.

Most security conferences feature sessions with titles like “How to Sell Security to Management” and try to address this disconnect between senior management and their security programs. Peter Drucker, the world famous management consultant, said “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Fortunately, recent improvements in security technology and in development of wider reporting of threats and vulnerabilities, allow management metrics to be applied to the management of the security program to target the program to be maximally effective, to focus the available dollars in the areas which would provide the most protection for the least amount of money, and to prioritize the controls that need to be implemented,  based on their return on investment.

Risk assessments are the foundation of a data-driven security program. Through the process of risk assessment, managers can measure the effectiveness of the organization’s total security program, including analyzing the value of the organizational assets, the threat level (based on the mission of the organization), the existing vulnerabilities, and the effectiveness of existing controls.

Basing the risk assessment on the concept of data-driven security means that real numbers are used in the following areas:

1.  Determining the value of the assets of the organization, including the facilities, the personnel, the security systems and the current controls.

2.  Analyzing the Threat Level, based on either internal incident reports, or industry data, including the Uniform Crime reports.

3. Identifying vulnerabilities in the organization, including surveying individuals at every level of the organization, from the local facility manager to the CEO to find out how they are implementing security in their workplace.

4. Identifying potential categories of loss, which help focus the security program on the problem areas.

5. Analyzing current Controls that are currently in place, or that could be added to protect an organization.

By gathering data in these 5 categories, it becomes possible to run scenarios that pair the threat and vulnerability, match it to organizational assets, analyze the loss potential, and evaluate the cost effectiveness of a variety of different controls and prioritize security controls by “bang for the buck”.

Using data-based security builds a bridge between executive management and the security professionals in the organization who now have an avenue for open communication and consideration of the role of security throughout the organization.