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Cyber Security Metrics

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  • Last Updated : 23 Feb, 2022
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Metrics are tools to facilitate decision-making and improve performance and accountability. A cybersecurity metric contains the number of reported incidents, any fluctuations in these numbers as well as the identification time and cost of an attack. Thus, it provides stats that can be used to ensure the security of the current application. 

Organizations get the overall view of threats in terms of time, severity, and number. It is important today when this data keeps fluctuating. This way the organizations can maximize protection from threats in the future. Cybersecurity metric is the optimal way to monitor applications for cybersecurity.

Use of a Cybersecurity Metric:

A Cybersecurity metric assists the organization in the following ways:

  • It facilitates decision-making and improves overall performance and accountability.
  • It helps in setting quantifiable measures based on objective data in the metric.
  • It helps in making corrections in an efficient way.
  • It brings together all the factors like finance, regulation, and organization to measure security.
  • It maintains the log of every individual system that has been tested over the years.

Some Cybersecurity Metrics:

Here is a list of some important cybersecurity metrics that portray the current threat scenario really well. 

  • A number of systems have vulnerabilities: A very important cybersecurity metric is to know where your assets lag. This helps in determining risks along with the improvements that must be taken. This way the vulnerabilities can be worked upon before anyone exploits them.
  • Mean detection and response time: The sooner a cybersecurity breach is detected and responded to, the lesser will be the loss. It is important to have systems that reduce the mean detection and response time.
  • Data volume over a corporate network: Employees having unrestricted access to the company’s internet may turn out into a disaster. If they use the company’s resources to download anything, it might lead to the invasion of malware.
  • Incorrectly configured SSL certificates: Company’s digital identity can be used to extract critical information if proper authentication measures are not in place. Thus, it is important to keep track of SSL certificates that are not correctly configured.
  • Deactivation time of credentials of a former employee: The employees no longer a part of the organization must not be given access to the company’s resources. Moreover, their previous rights must be immediately terminated otherwise sensitive information might be put at risk.
  • The number of users having higher access levels: There are individuals that have a wider range of data access as compared to others. However, this all must be efficiently monitored by the company. Also, unnecessary access should be minimized.
  • Open communication ports during a time period: Communication occurs both ways. The ports for inbound and outbound traffic must be individually monitored. NetBIOS must be avoided in inbound traffic and SSL should be rightly monitored in outbound traffic. Also, ports that allow protocols for remote sessions must be monitored for a period of time.
  • Access to systems by third parties: Some systems of a company are more critical to others. For the critical ones, proper mapping of third parties using them should be monitored.
  • Review of frequency of third party access: Third parties might have to access the network of a company to complete any project or activity. Thus, monitoring their access is important to identify any suspicious activity that might be undergoing at their end.
  • Partners with effective cybersecurity: A company may have full control over its cybersecurity policies but you never know if the other business partners are as conscious as you. Thus, the higher the number of partners with strict cybersecurity policies, the lesser the chances of cyberattacks.

Why use a Metric?

Here is a list of the main three reasons that validate the advantage of using metrics. 

  • For learning: To figure out different information pertaining to a system, we have to start by asking questions. These questions will lead us to answers and then in turn to information. This becomes easier with the help of a metric and thus the understanding of cybersecurity risks improves.
  • For Decision Making: When we use a metric to gain information about a system, we can extend its use even further by gaining insight into previous decisions. This way, we can better manage the decisions that have to be taken with respect to current cybersecurity risks.
  • For Implementation of Plans: After analyzing the loopholes in the system and making decisions on how to go about rectifying them, it is time to take action. This implementation can be supported further by referring to previous records and assessments in the cybersecurity metric.

Metric: Good or Bad?

A good metric is:

  • Definable
  • Comprehensive
  • Has room for comparison

With that being said, it is also important to not waste time over things that are ever fluctuating or those that never change for that matter. Here are a few examples of a good and a bad metric:

S.No. Good Metric Bad Metric
01. Percentage of AV/EPP events. Frequency of security issues.
02. Cost of event control. Frequency of closed risks.
03. Malware instances. Closed security tickets.
04. Re-returning vulnerabilities. Log management.
05. CIS score per head. AV detection.

Challenges with a Cybersecurity Metric:

  • It tracks the activity but does not say anything about outcomes. This is a major limitation because the outcome adds more value.
  • The metric provides a simple dashboard having the security status of a company. However, in the process, it reveals key information about how prepared the organization is.
  • There exists a huge communication gap between the security function and the people that they report to. Thus, the metric becomes incomprehensible for management.
  • The ideas that a metric gives are not hard-wired. They might change and thus, viewing a metric as an exact science might not do any good to an organization.
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