TUCoPS :: General Information :: hk_progm.txt

Security Program Management

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This file is a DRAFT chapter intended to be part of the NIST
Computer Security Handbook.  The chapters were prepared by
different parties and, in some cases, have not been reviewed by
NIST.  The next iteration of a chapter could be SUBSTANTIALLY
different than the current version.  If you wish to provide
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5.  Security Program Management 

5.1  Purpose of Security Program Management

Organizations should view information resources security as a
management issue, treated like any other item of strategic
importance.  Information and information processing assets
(computers) are a critical component of most organizations'
ability to perform their mission and business functions.  The
purpose of a security program is to protect these vital assets. 
Accordingly, ensuring security requires the development of a
comprehensive management approach that integrates fundamental
protection considerations.

In general, organizations divide the management of security into
two major types of activities:  'Central' and 'System'
activities.  Central security activities are the tasks carried
out on behalf of the organization such as policy development,
compliance reviews, and oversight.  System level security
activities are those tasks performed by functional management,
'end-users,' and computer systems personnel to secure a
particular computer system.  These tasks include performing risk
analyses, installing safeguards, and administering security.

The purpose of this chapter is to present security as a
management function.  An organization-wide approach to security
program management is presented.  Because organizations differ
vastly in size, complexity, management styles, and culture, it is
not possible to describe one ideal security program.  However,
this chapter does describe some of the features and issues common
to most organizations.  

Note:  This chapter addresses security program management, not
the various activities such as risk analysis or contingency
planning, that make up an effective security program.  

5.2  Structure of a Security Program 

Most organizations have security programs which are distributed
throughout the organization with different elements performing
different functions.  While this is a desirable management
structure, the distribution of the security function in many
organizations is haphazard, based on chance.  Instead, the
distribution of the security function should be the result of a
planned and integrated management philosophy.

Figure 5-1 shows a management structure based on that of an
actual Federal agency.  The agency in the example has five major
units each of which has several large computer facilities.  Each
facility runs multiple applications.  This type of organization
needs to manage security at the agency level, the unit level, the
computer facility level, and the application level.

figure 5-1  (see attachment)

There are many benefits to managing computer security at multiple
levels.  Each level contributes to the overall security program
with different types of expertise, authority and resources.  In
general, the higher levels (such as the Headquarters or Unit
Levels in the Agency described above) have more clout, better
ability to set policy, to see the "big picture," and to enforce. 
On the other hand, the systems levels (such as the computer
facility and applications levels) are more familiar with the
technical and procedural requirements and problems of the systems
and the users.  The levels of security program management are
complementary; each helps the other be more effective.

Recognizing that each organization will have its own structure,
this chapter divides security program management into two levels:
the central level and the system level.  The central security
program address the overall management of security within an
organization or a major component of an organization.  The system
level security program addresses the management of security for a
particular information processing system.  Most organizations
have at least these two levels and many organizations, such as
the example above, have several more levels.   

5.3  Central Program 

The purpose of a central security program, as stated above, is
the overall management of security within an organization.  In
the federal government, the organization could consist of a
department, agency, installation or other major operating unit.  

A central security program provides two quite distinct types of
benefits.  The first type is increased efficiency and economy of
security throughout the organization.  The second type is the
ability to provide enforcement and oversight.  Both of these
benefits are in keeping with the purpose of the Paperwork
Reduction Act, as implemented in OMB Circular A-130.

     The Paperwork Reduction Act establishes a broad mandate for
     agencies to perform their information management activities
     in an efficient, effective, and economical manner.... 
     Agencies shall assure an adequate level of security for all
     agency automated information systems, whether maintained in-
     house or commercially.  (Section 5; Appendix III,
     Section 3.)

OMB Circular A-130, therefore, requires that Federal agencies
have computer security programs.

5.3.1.    Efficiency and Economy

A central security program can manage or coordinate the use of
security-related resources across the entire organization.  The
most important of these resources are normally information and
financial resources.  

It is a truism to discuss both the overload of information
available to modern managers and the utility of well-managed
information.  Most organizations, however, have trouble
collecting information from myriad sources and effectively
processing and distributing it within the organization.  This
section discusses some of the sources and uses of security

Within the Federal government, many organizations such as the
Office of Management and Budget, the General Services
Administration, and the National Institute of Standards and
Technology provide information on computer, telecommunications,
and information resources.  This information includes security-
related policy, regulations, standards, and guidance.  A
considerable portion of the information is channelled through the
Senior Designated Official for each agency (see FIRMR Part 201-
2).  Agencies are expected to have mechanisms in place to
distribute information received by the senior designated

Security-related information is also available from private and
Federal professional societies and groups.  These groups will
often provide the information as a public service, although some
private groups charge for it.  However, even for information that
is free or inexpensive, the costs associated with personnel
gathering the information can be expensive.  For instance, it is
not cost effective for an organization to send everyone to every
security conference.  

Internal security-related information, such as procedures which
worked, or did not work, virus infections, security problems and
solutions also need to be shared within an organization.  Often
these issues are specific to the operating environment and
culture of the organization.  

A security program at the organization level should provide a way
to collect the internal security-related information and
distribute it as needed throughout the organization.  Sometimes
an organization can also share this information with external
groups.  Figure 5-2 shows a simplified version of this flow of
information.  For example, in most organizations, external
interaction occurs at both the organization and system levels.  
However, the central security program should be aware of the
interaction at the system level to aid in the sharing of
information and to make sure that the organization has identified
and tapped all important sources.

Another use of an organization-wide conduit of information is the
increased ability to influence external and internal policy
decisions.  If the central security program office can speak for
the entire organization, then it is more likely to be listened to
by upper management and external organizations.  However, to be
effective, there must be excellent communication between the
system level security programs and the organization level.  For
example, if an organization were considering consolidating its
mainframes into one site (or considering distributing the
processing currently done at one mainframe site), the central
security program personnel could discuss the security
implications and costs or cost savings.  If the central security
program knows the actual costs of providing for multiple
contingency options and other security factors, then the central
security program can speak authoritatively during policy

figure 2  (see attachment)

Beside being able to help an organization use information more
cost effectively, a security program can also help an
organization better spend its scarce security dollars. 
Organizations can develop expertise and then share it, reducing
the need to contract out repeatedly for similar services.  The
following example is based on the Agency in Figure 1:

     Each of the agency five operating units developed a separate
     specialized expertise, and the organization as a whole
     shares the increased knowledge base.  Operating Unit #1,
     which uses primarily UNIX, developed skills in UNIX
     security.  Operating Unit #2, which uses primarily MVS, but
     has one UNIX machine, concentrated on MVS security but
     relies on Unit #1's skills for their one UNIX machine.

The central security program can also develop its own areas of
expertise.  Many security programs develop skills in contingency
planning and risk analysis in order to help the entire
organization perform these vital security functions.

Besides allowing an organization to share expertise, and
therefore save money, a central security program can also use its
position to negotiate discounts based on volume purchasing of
security hardware and software.

5.3.2.    Oversight
Besides helping an organization to improve the economy and
efficiency of its security program, the central security program
can also serve as an independent evaluation or enforcement
function.  The purpose of this oversight role is to ensure that
organizational subunits are cost-effectively securing resources
and following applicable policy.  While the Office of Inspector
General (OIG) and external organizations, such as the General
Accounting Office (GAO), also perform a valuable evaluation role,
they operate outside the regular management channels.  See
Chapter XXXX for a further discussion of the role of independent

There are several reasons for having an oversight function within
the regular management channel.  First, since security is a part
of the regular management of organization resources, it is a
responsibility which cannot be abdicated to another organization. 
Second, it allows an organization to find and correct problems
without the potential embarrassment of an IG or GAO audit or
investigation.  Third, the organization may find different
problems than an outside organization.  The organization better
understands its assets, threats, systems and procedures than an
external organization, and people involved in the audit may share
information within the organization they would withhold from an

5.4  Central Security Program Elements & Considerations

In order for a central security program to be effective, it must
be an established part of organization management.  If system
managers and applications owners do not need to consistently
interact with the security program, then it can become an empty
token of upper management's "commitment to security."  The
following paragraphs describe some of the means of becoming an
established program and some of the indicators that a program has
achieved this goal.

Stable Program Management Function.  A well-established program
will have a program manager recognized within the organization as
the IT security program manager.  In addition, the program will
be staffed with able personnel and links will be established
between the program management function and IT security personnel
in other parts of the organization.  A security program is a
complex function that needs a stable base from which to direct
the management of security resources, such as information and
financial resources.  The benefits of an oversight function
cannot be achieved if the security program is not recognized
within an organization as having expertise and authority.

Stable Resource Base.  A well-established program will have a
stable resource base in terms of personnel, funds, and other
support.  Without a stable resource base, it is impossible to
plan for and execute programs and projects effectively.   

Published Mission and Function Statement.  A published mission
statement grounds the IT security program into the unique
operating environment of the organization.  The statement clearly
establishes the function of the IT security program and defines
responsibilities for both the IT security program and other
related programs and entities.  Without such a statement, it is
impossible to develop evaluation criteria for the effectiveness
of the IT security program.

Existence of Policy.  Policy, as discussed in Chapter XX,
provides the foundation for the IT security program and is the
means for documenting and promulgating important decisions about
IT security.  In addition to policy, a central security program
should also publish standards, regulations, and guidelines which
implement and expand on policy.  These are also discussed in
Chapter XX.

Long-Term Security Strategy.  A well-established program explores
and develops long-term strategies to incorporate security into
the next generation of information technology.  Since the IT
field moves rapidly, it is essential to plan for future operating

Compliance Program.   An IT security program must address whether
the organization is in compliance with national policies and
requirements as well as organization specific requirements. 
National requirements include those prescribed under the Computer
Security Act of 1987, OMB Circular A-130, the FIRMR, and FIPS

Liaison with Other Offices Within the Organization.  There are
many offices within an organization that potentially affect IT
security.  The IRM and traditional security offices (such as
personnel, industrial, or physical security) are the two most
obvious.  However, IT security often overlaps with other offices
such as Safety, Reliability, and Quality Assurance, Internal
Control or the Inspector General.  An effective program must have
established relationships with these groups in order to integrate
security into the management of an organization.  The
relationships must be more than just passing information; the
offices must influence each other.  

     Example:  Agency IRM Offices engage in strategic and
     tactical planning for both information and information
     technology, in accordance with the Paperwork Reduction Act
     and OMB Circular A-130.  Security should be an important
     component of these plans.  The security needs of the agency
     should affect information technology choices and the
     information needs of the agency should effect the security

Liaison with External Groups.  As discussed in this chapter,
there are many sources of security information, such as NIST's
Computer Security Program Managers' Forum, computer security
bulletin board, and the Forum of Incident Response and Security
Teams (FIRST).  An established program will be knowledgeable of
and take advantage of external sources of information.  It will
also be a provider of information.

5.5  System Level Security Program 

The purpose of the system level security program is to ensure
appropriate and cost-effective security for each system.  A
central security program, as explained above, addresses the
entire spectrum of information resources security for an
organization.  The system level security programs implement
security for each information system.  This includes influencing
decisions about what controls to implement, purchasing and
installing technical controls, day-to-day security
administration, evaluating system vulnerabilities, responding to
security problems, etc.  It encompasses all the areas discussed
in this Handbook.

The system level security program is the advocate for security. 
The system security officer is the person who must raise the
issue of security and help work on solutions.  For example, has
the data owner made clear the security requirements of the
system?  Will bringing a new function online impact security?  Is
the system vulnerable to hackers and viruses?  Has the
contingency plan been tested?  Raising these kinds of questions
will force system managers and data owners to identify their
security requirements and ensure that they are being met.

5.6  System Level Security Program Elements and Considerations

Like the central security program, there are many factors which
influence how successful a system level security program is. 
Many of these are similar to the organization level.  This
section addresses some additional considerations.  

Integration with System Operations.  The system level security
program must consist of people who understand the system.  For
security management to be effective, it must be integrated into
the management of the system.  Effective integration will assure
that system managers and data owners consider security in the
planning and operation of the system.  The system level security
program manager must be able to participate in the selection and
implementation of appropriate technical controls, security
procedures, and must understand system vulnerabilities.  The
system level security program must be able to respond to system
security problems in a timely manner.

For large systems, such as a mainframe data center, the security
program will often include a manager and several staff positions
in such areas as access control, user administration, and
contingency and disaster planning.  For small systems, such as an
office-wide LAN, the security program may be an adjunct
responsibility of the LAN administrator.  

Separation From Operations.  A natural tension exists between
security and operational elements.  In many instances,
operational components, which tend to be far stronger entities,
seek to resolve this tension by having the security program
embedded in IT operations.  The typical result of this
organizational strategy is a security program that lacks
independence, has minimal authority, receives little management
attention, and has few resources.  As early as 1978, the General
Accounting Office (GAO) identified this organizational mode as
one of the principal basic weaknesses in federal agency IT
security programs.  While it is possible for central security
programs to face this problem, system level programs face this
problem more often.

This conflict between the need to be a part of system management
and independence has several solutions.  The basis of many of the
solutions is a link between the security program and upper
management, often through the central security program.  A key
requirement of this setup is the existence of a reporting
structure which does not include systems management.  Another
possibility is for the security program to be completely
independent of system management and report directly to higher
management.  There are many hybrids and permutations such as co-
location of security and systems management staff, but separate
reporting (and supervisory) structures.  Figure 5-3 presents an
example of placement of the security program within a typical
Federal agency.

Figure 5-3  (see attachment)

System Security Plans.  The Computer Security Act mandated that
agencies develop computer security and privacy plans for
sensitivie systems.  The purpose of this plan is to ensure that
each Federal and Federal interest system has appropriate and
cost-effective security.  System level security personnel should
be in a position to develop and implement security plans. 
Chapter XX, Life Cycle, discusses the plans in more detail.  

5.7  Interaction Between the Central and System Level Security

The need for central and system level security programs to work
together has been a major theme of this chapter.  A system level
program that is not integrated into the organizational program
may have difficulty influencing significant areas affecting

The system level security program implements the policies,
guidance, and regulations of the central security program.  The
system level office also learns from the information disseminated
by the central program and uses the experience and expertise of
the entire organization.  The system level security program
furthers distributes information to systems management as

The communication, however, is not one way.  The system level
security program tells the central office about needs, problems,
incidents, and solutions.  The organization shares experience and
expertise.  The central security program can then represent the
system to the organization's management and to external agencies
and advocate programs and policies beneficial to the security of
all the systems. 

5.8  Interdependencies

Policy.  Policy is the basis for the IT security program.  The
central security program(s) normally produces policy concerning
general and organizational security issues.  However, the system
level security program normally produced some issue-specific
policies and policies affecting only one system.  Chapter XX,
Policy, provides additional guidance.

Life Cycle Management.  The process of securing a system over its
life cycle is the role of the system level security program.  
See Chapter XX Life Cycle Management.

Independent Audit.  The independent audit function described in
Chapter XXXX should be complementary to the compliance function
performed by a central security program.  

General.  The general purpose of the IT security program, to
improve security, causes it to overlap with every control.  Most
controls will be addressed at the policy, procedural, or
operational level by the central or system security program.

5.9  Cost Considerations

Section XXXX discussed how an organization-wide security program
can manage security resources, including financial resources,
more effectively.  The cost considerations for a system level
security program are more closely aligned with the overall cost
savings in having security.

The most significant cost of a security program is personnel.  In
addition, many programs make frequent and effective use of
consultants and contractors.  A program also needs funds for
training of personnel and travel to perform oversight,
information collection and dissemination activities, and meet
with personnel at other levels of security management.

5.10 References

CSI Course:  Managing an Organization Wide Security Program

OMB Circular A-130, especially Main Body and Appendix III

FIRMR 201-2 (Designated Senior Officials)

Information Resources Security:  What Every Federal Manager
Should Know.  GSA IRMS

"Security Policy and Organization Structure" in Information
Security for Managers.  Chapter 1.2

Computer Security Act of 1987

GAO Report LCD 78-123, "Automated Systems Security--Federal
Agencies Should Strengthen Safeguards Over Personal and Other
Sensitive Data"

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