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How can IT security be measured?

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IT security is, by nature, an intangible and hard-to-measure objective or service. It can be extremely difficult to accurately evaluate the benefit of security provisions, or to see how well security systems work.

Risk analyses and evaluations are performed to assess each individual risk in relation of the probability of its occurrence and its impact. Once risks are labeled as low, medium, or high, the company can measure its ability to deal with them, mitigate them, or outright prevent them.

Within the security industry, some best practices have emerged for measuring the efficacy of security strategies and systems. Security metrics are measured against certain standards to quantify the risk of suffering damage or loss as a consequence of a malicious attacks. These metrics are particularly important to understand which areas are open to improvement, which ones are the most outstanding vulnerabilities, and how to properly allocate a cybersecurity budget.

One way to measure IT security is to tabulate reports of cyberattacks and cyber threats over time. By mapping these threats and responses chronologically, companies can get closer to evaluating how well security systems have worked as they are implemented. Companies can also survey point people who are in key security positions to provide for a kind of “risk perception” that will also feed into security benchmarking. Some experts recommend tracking security return on investment by asking the right questions of those who work on the front lines of cybersecurity and taking all of the incoming data to provide a bigger picture for security results.

Companies can also promote accuracy and security measurement by breaking security down into its various components. For example, endpoint security is the specific implementation of security practices for data endpoints like smartphone screens, tablets and PCs. Other aspects of data security involve data in use over a network, where professionals may use network checkpoints to establish security benchmarks, or measure security in other ways.

Traces of malicious activity could be tracked by security tools, together with other data that could be suggestive of potential vulnerabilities (such as number of patches applied, intrusion attempts, changes in privileges, system alerts, etc.). This data can be collated with info extracted from log management software to make correlations and reports that measure the improvement in security over time.

For many IT professionals, security measurement is an “input in, input out” process where security experts aggregate data about cyber threats, feeding it into a database and coming up with informative reports. These types of sophisticated analysis help to drive the evaluation of security practices and help human decision-makers deal with change management for security strategies. In general, IT security involves a “security life cycle” with multiple steps and stages to respond to threats, rather than just providing a static type

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Claudio Buttice
Data Analyst
Claudio Buttice
Data Analyst

Dr. Claudio Butticè, Pharm.D., is a former Pharmacy Director who worked for several large public hospitals in Southern Italy, as well as for the humanitarian NGO Emergency. He is now an accomplished book author who has written on topics such as medicine, technology, world poverty, human rights, and science for publishers such as SAGE Publishing, Bloomsbury Publishing, and Mission Bell Media. His latest books are "Universal Health Care" (2019) and "What You Need to Know about Headaches" (2022).A data analyst and freelance journalist as well, many of his articles have been published in magazines such as Cracked, The Elephant, Digital…