Introduction to Risk management

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 Vrijdag 21 Januari 2011

Earlier articles

Quantum computing

My Book

Security bij cloudproviders wordt niet beter door overheidsregulering

Passend Europees cloudinitiatief nog ver weg

Data Nederlandse studenten in cloud niet grootschalig toegankelijk voor bedrijven VS

VS kan nog steeds Europese data Microsoft opeisen ondanks nieuwe regels

The cloud is as insecure as its configuration

Infrastructure as code

DevOps for infrastructure

Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)

(Hyper) Converged Infrastructure

Object storage

Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV)

Software Defined Storage (SDS)

What's the point of using Docker containers?

Identity and Access Management

Using user profiles to determine infrastructure load

Public wireless networks

Supercomputer architecture

Desktop virtualization

Stakeholder management

x86 platform architecture

Midrange systems architecture

Mainframe Architecture

Software Defined Data Center - SDDC

The Virtualization Model

What are concurrent users?

Performance and availability monitoring in levels

UX/UI has no business rules

Technical debt: a time related issue

Solution shaping workshops

Architecture life cycle

Project managers and architects

Using ArchiMate for describing infrastructures

Kruchten’s 4+1 views for solution architecture

The SEI stack of solution architecture frameworks

TOGAF and infrastructure architecture

The Zachman framework

An introduction to architecture frameworks

How to handle a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack

Architecture Principles

Views and viewpoints explained

Stakeholders and their concerns

Skills of a solution architect architect

Solution architects versus enterprise architects

Definition of IT Architecture

What is Big Data?

How to make your IT "Greener"

What is Cloud computing and IaaS?

Purchasing of IT infrastructure technologies and services

IDS/IPS systems

IP Protocol (IPv4) classes and subnets

Introduction to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)

IT Infrastructure Architecture model

Fire prevention in the datacenter

Where to build your datacenter

Availability - Fall-back, hot site, warm site

Reliabilty of infrastructure components

Human factors in availability of systems

Business Continuity Management (BCM) and Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP)

Performance - Design for use

Performance concepts - Load balancing

Performance concepts - Scaling

Performance concept - Caching

Perceived performance

Ethical hacking

Computer crime

Introduction to Cryptography

Introduction to Risk management

The history of UNIX and Linux

The history of Microsoft Windows

Engelse woorden in het Nederlands

Infosecurity beurs 2010

The history of Storage

The history of Networking

The first computers

Cloud: waar staat mijn data?

Tips voor het behalen van uw ITAC / Open CA certificaat

Ervaringen met het bestuderen van TOGAF

De beveiliging van uw data in de cloud

Proof of concept

Een consistente back-up? Nergens voor nodig.

Measuring Enterprise Architecture Maturity

The Long Tail

Open group ITAC /Open CA Certification

Human factors in security

Google outage

SAS 70

De Mythe van de Man-Maand

TOGAF 9 - wat is veranderd?

Landelijk Architectuur Congres LAC 2008

InfoSecurity beurs 2008

Spam is big business

De zeven eigenschappen van effectief leiderschap

Een ontmoeting met John Zachman

Persoonlijk Informatie Eigendom

Archivering data - more than backup

Sjaak Laan

Recommended links

Genootschap voor Informatie Architecten
Ruth Malan
Gaudi site
XR Magazine
Esther Barthel's site on virtualization
Eltjo Poort's site on architecture


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