Good metrics can help define the fight. Although many professionals might argue that it's better to have as much information on the security of their network as possible, too much information can blind practitioners to what is going on, said Mike Lloyd, chief technology officer for network monitoring and discovery firm RedSeal Networks.
"You don't have to have, nor want, a dashboard like an airplane," he says. "You want a dashboard that's more like a car."
In its own dashboard for clients, RedSeal goes to one extreme: A single overall score for network risk. Drilling down on the score is what reveals the specific metrics that make up the score. A network map and two Top 10 lists round out the dashboard.
Verizon and its managed security practice focuses more on incident metrics. Tracking what goes wrong can help an IT manager figure out where to allocate resources, said Christopher Porter, a principal of Verizon's RISK team.
"The types of incidents that you have in your organization are kind of indicative of the people, process, and technology that you have in place," he said.
Here are five metrics recommended by the companies for staying on top of risks:
1. Your ignorance. From Sun Tzu to Donald Rumsfeld, military generals interested in security are always worried about what they don't know. Security practitioners should take a page from their playbooks, said RedSeal's Lloyd.
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