Not long ago, I was working on a speech and found myself trying to come up with a phrase that encapsulates the difference between organizations that really make cybersecurity a part of their culture and those that merely pay it lip service and do the bare minimum (think ‘15 pieces of flair‘). When the phrase “security maturity” came to mind, I thought for sure I’d conceived of an original idea and catchy phrase.
It turns out this is already a thing. And a really notable thing at that. The graphic below, produced last year by the Enterprise Strategy Group, does a nice job of explaining why some companies just don’t get it when it comes to taking effective measures to manage cyber risks and threats.
Very often, experience is the best teacher here: Data breaches have a funny way of forcing organizations — kicking and screaming — from one vertical column to another in the Security Maturity matrix. Much depends on whether the security professionals in the breached organization have a plan (ideally, in advance of the breach) and the clout for capitalizing on the brief post-breach executive attention on security to ask for changes and resources that can assist the organization in learning from its mistakes and growing.
But the Security Maturity matrix doesn’t just show how things are broken: It also provides a basic roadmap for organizations that wish to change that culture. Perhaps unsurprisingly, entities that are able to manage that transition typically have a leadership that is invested in and interested in making security a core priority. The real trick is engineering ways to influence the leadership, with or without the fleeting momentum offered by a breach.
At last week’s RSA Security Conference in San Francisco, I had a chance to meet up with Demetrios “Laz” Lazarikos, the former chief information security officer at Sears. Now founder of the security consultancy blue-lava.net, Laz spends a great deal of time trying to impress upon his clients the need to take the security maturity model seriously. Here’s his sliding scale, which measures maturity in terms of preparedness and expectations.
I like Laz’s models because they’re customized to every organization, breaking down each business unit into its own security maturity score. The abbreviations in the graphic below — SDLC and PMO — stand for “security development life cycle” and “project management office,” respectively. Dark red boxes (marked with a “1”) indicate areas where the organization’s business unit needs the most work.
Laz’s security maturity hierarchy includes five levels:
- Level 1 – Information Security processes are unorganized, and may be unstructured. Success is likely to depend on individual efforts and is not considered to be repeatable or scalable. This is because processes would not be sufficiently defined and documented to allow them to be replicated.
- Level 2 – Information Security efforts are at a repeatable level where basic project management techniques are established and successes can be repeated. This is due to processes being established, defined, and documented.
- Level 3 – Information Security efforts have greater attention to documentation, standardization, and maintenance support.
- Level 4 – At this level, an organization monitors and controls its own Information Security processes through data collection and analysis.
- Level 5 – This is an optimizing level where Information Security processes are constantly being improved through monitoring feedback from existing processes and introducing new processes to better serve the organization’s particular needs.
Where does your organization fit in these models? Are they a useful way for getting a handle on security and increasing maturity within your organization? Has your employer recently moved from one security maturity level to another? If so, tell us what you think prompted that shift? Sound off on these or any other thoughts on this subject in the comments below, please.