Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Perimeter

9/4/2011
09:19 AM
Commentary
Commentary
Commentary
50%
50%

The Criticality Of Risk Assessments: FISMA, HIPAA, And Other Regs

Risk assessments are a critical part of regulatory compliance, but many organizations don't implement them well

One of the most important components in any security program is the risk assessment process. Regulations like FISMA, HIPAA, Red Flag Rules, and state privacy regulations require organizations to methodically assess risk and select security controls based on that assessment. The problem is that many organizations do not understand what it means to assess risk through a formal method. Worse yet, many IT people have a hard time understanding the practicality of formal assessments.

What is a formal risk assessment?

Formal risk assessments are processes that consider the value of the assets that are at risk, the business and technical threats to the assets, and the effectiveness of the business and technical controls that are designed to protect the asset. In the end, a risk assessment gives the organization an objective measure of the risk to an asset. The process forces the organization to acknowledge and accept the risk, eliminate the risk by terminating a business practice (e.g., stop offering access to the asset via the Web), transfer the risk by outsourcing or insurance, or, more often than not, select additional more effective business or technical controls to reduce the risk.

Benefits Of Formal Risk Assessments
Conducting formal assessments within a risk management program offers a number of benefits:

    1. requires business and technical representatives to reason about risk in an objective, repeatable, way 2. requires consistent terminology and metrics to discuss and measure risk 3. justifies funding for needed controls 4. identifies controls that can be eliminated 5. provides documentation of threats that were considered and risks that were identified 6. requires business and IT to acknowledge the responsibility for ownership of risk 7. requires organizations to track risks and reassess them over time and as conditions change

There is a good reason for so many regulations to include a requirement for risk assessment. It is only sensible that a regulatory body cannot dictate the controls that are necessary in every environment. What might be appropriate for a large company with a significant Web presence could be overkill for small organization with a few customers. If the threats are different and the environment is different, then it stands to reason that the controls might be different.

It is interesting to note that even the most prescriptive standards (e.g., PCI DSS) require risk assessments to determine the need for and effectiveness of controls. On the less prescriptive side of the regulatory spectrum, HIPAA and FISMA have very few required controls but expect the entire program to be risk-based. This approach makes sense when one standard needs to apply to everyone.

Choosing A Risk Management Framework
If your organization needs to comply with FISMA, then your risk management approach should be based on NIST Special Publication 800-39. This document provides an overall description of the risk management life cycle. Risk assessment, which is one part of the risk management program, is described in NIST Special Publication 800-30 (which is being revised). SP 800-30 provides a stepwise method for assessing risk that can be customized for a given organization.

Another good source of risk management documentation is provided by the OCTAVE project developed at Carnegie Mellon University. Both NIST and OCTAVE provide excellent sources for building a risk management program that helps organizations meet their security and regulatory requirements.

Richard Mackey is vice president of consulting at SystemExperts Corp.

 

Recommended Reading:

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 8/3/2020
'BootHole' Vulnerability Exposes Secure Boot Devices to Attack
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  7/29/2020
Out-of-Date and Unsupported Cloud Workloads Continue as a Common Weakness
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  7/28/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Current Issue
Special Report: Computing's New Normal, a Dark Reading Perspective
This special report examines how IT security organizations have adapted to the "new normal" of computing and what the long-term effects will be. Read it and get a unique set of perspectives on issues ranging from new threats & vulnerabilities as a result of remote working to how enterprise security strategy will be affected long term.
Flash Poll
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
The Threat from the Internetand What Your Organization Can Do About It
This report describes some of the latest attacks and threats emanating from the Internet, as well as advice and tips on how your organization can mitigate those threats before they affect your business. Download it today!
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-16271
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-03
The SRP-6a implementation in Kee Vault KeePassRPC before 1.12.0 generates insufficiently random numbers, which allows remote attackers to read and modify data in the KeePass database via a WebSocket connection.
CVE-2020-16272
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-03
The SRP-6a implementation in Kee Vault KeePassRPC before 1.12.0 is missing validation for a client-provided parameter, which allows remote attackers to read and modify data in the KeePass database via an A=0 WebSocket connection.
CVE-2020-8574
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-03
Active IQ Unified Manager for Linux versions prior to 9.6 ship with the Java Management Extension Remote Method Invocation (JMX RMI) service enabled allowing unauthorized code execution to local users.
CVE-2020-8575
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-03
Active IQ Unified Manager for VMware vSphere and Windows versions prior to 9.5 are susceptible to a vulnerability which allows administrative users to cause Denial of Service (DoS).
CVE-2020-12739
PUBLISHED: 2020-08-03
A vulnerability in the Fanuc i Series CNC (0i-MD and 0i Mate-MD) could allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker to cause an affected CNC to become inaccessible to other devices. The vulnerability is due to improper design or implementation of the Ethernet communication modules of the CNC. An attack...