Introduction to Risk management

 This is a part of chapter "Security" of my forthcoming book "Infrastructure Architecture". Please feel free to comment using my email address stated in the right column of this website. 

Managing security is all about risk management and analysis. If there are no risks to handle, we don't need any security measures. The amount of effort we put in securing our infrastructure should therefore be directly related to the risk we face. Risk management is the process of determining an acceptable level of risk, assessing the current level of risk, taking steps to reduce risk to the acceptable level, and maintaining that level.

Before getting into details, it is good to explain some terminology most used in risk management.  

    • An asset is an infrastructure component that must be protected.
    • A vulnerability is any weakness, process or physical exposure that makes an infrastructure component susceptible to exploit by a threat.
    • A threat is a potential event that causes an unwanted impact to an infrastructure component by exploiting a vulnerability.
  • Risk is the combination of the probability of a threat and its consequence.
  • An exploit is actually using a vulnerability to attack an asset.
  • A safeguard is the control or countermeasure employed to reduce risk.

Or in a more popular way:  

  • Asset: that is your daughter
  • Vulnerability: She is 13 years old and goes to school with her friends who have a big influence on her
  • Threat: She gets addicted to smoking
  • Risk: There is a high chance of her taking a cigarette and start smoking
  • Exploit: Her friends offering her a cigarette
  • Safeguard: Explain her about the risk of smoking cigarettes

To quantify risks first a risk list is compiled. This can best be done in a workshop with all relevant stakeholders of one or more assets. A risk list contains the following parts.  

  • Asset name
  • Threat and/or vulnerability
  • Exploit
  • Probability: an estimation of the likelihood of the occurrence of an exploit of the vulnerability (how often we estimate this will happen)
    • 5: Frequent
    • 4: Likely
    • 3: Occasional
    • 2: Seldom
    • 1: Unlikely
  • Impact: the severity of the damage when the vulnerability is exploited:
    • 4: Catastrophic: Complete mission failure, death
    • 3: Critical: Major mission degradation, major system damage, exposure of sensitive data, or affecting all staff
    • 2: Moderate: Minor mission degradation, minor system damage, exposure of data, or affecting staff of one department
    • 1: Negligible: Some mission degradation, affecting less than 10 people
  • The quantified risk (= Likelihood x Severity)

A typical risk list would look like this:






Quan- tified Risk


Laptop gets stolen

Sensitive data on hard disk is readable





Printer hard disk contains sensitive data

Repair man could swap hard disk and the hard disk could get on the market with our sensitive data




Work- stations

Virus attack unknown to virus scanner

Unavailability or disclosure of data





Data protection via LUN masking contains error

Data could get exposed to wrong server




This entry was posted on Friday 21 January 2011

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Using ArchiMate for describing infrastructures

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An introduction to architecture frameworks

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Computer crime

Introduction to Cryptography

Introduction to Risk management

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The history of Novell NetWare

The history of operating systems - MS-DOS

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The first computers

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Sjaak Laan

Recommended links

Ruth Malan
Gaudi site
Esther Barthel's site on virtualization
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