According to von Solms, von Solms, and Caelli (1994),

The goal of Information Security Management (ISM) is to lessen either the probability that something undesirable will happen (or the frequency with which it is known to be happening) or the severity of the consequences when it does happen, or both (p. 143).

The operational environment of an organization is the total set of information services needed and responsible for storing, producing, and distributing information throughout the organization (von Solms et al., 1994). Information Security Management is an effort to provide an optimal level of security for the organization's operational environment. The main elements in ISM are given in Figure 1. An optimal security level is determined by the trade-off between cost and complexities of security measures against the risk, vulnerabilities, and the loss the organization faces in the event of security breaches. Security risks arise because a security attack can exploit vulnerabilities. Countermeasures reduce risk by lowering vulnerabilities, but new ones may appear, and hence the feedback loop shown in Figure 1, indicating continuous refinement of security policies and procedures.

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Figure 1: The Main Elements in Information Security Management

Risk Analysis and Security Policy Formulation

Risk analysis as noted in Figure 1 is the first step in any security deployment exercise. Risk is realized when a threat takes advantage of vulnerability to cause harm to the organizational information resources. There are more than 70 risk analysis methods, including the widely used tool CRAMM, (United Kingdom Central Computer and Telecommunications Agency's Risk Analysis and Management Method) available for organizations to conduct security risk analysis (Spinellis, Kokolakis, & Gritzalis, 1999). The security management team did a risk profile analysis based on the risk profile matrix given in Guttman and Bagwill (1997).

Based on the risk analysis, a security policy document had to be formulated that defined the threats and risks of the information resources within IIML and the procedures and mechanisms for preventing or recovering from any such threats. The key trade-offs while formulating the security policy guidelines are: (1) services offered versus security provided, (2) ease of use versus security, and (3) cost of security versus risk of loss (Fraser, 1997). The main purpose of an information security policy is to inform the users and staff of their obligatory requirement to protect the information assets and resources of the organization. As pointed out in Whiteman, Townsend and Aalberts (2001), a baseline security policy consisting of a minimal set of guidelines was first developed and circulated among the users to get feedback and suggestions. A security policy document covers areas such as identification and authorization control, incident handling, Internet usage, firewall policies and administration, electronic mail usage, and WWW usage (refer to Guttman & Bagwill, 1997,

for a comprehensive guide on security policy formulation). IIML wanted to provide many different services both for internal users and to the outside, each of which required different levels of access needs and models of trust. A comprehensive list of services were compiled by the security team as given in Fraser (1997), and the corresponding access-control guidelines were developed. As given in Abrams and Bailey (1995), policy can be expressed in three different forms: natural language statements, mathematical, or non-mathematical formal statements. The security policy document for IIML was prepared using a combination of natural language statements and formal expressions. Mathematical statements, while reducing ambiguity to a minimum, are not understood by the heterogeneous user community, and hence were not adopted. To minimize the ambiguity in natural statements, a nonmathematical but constrained and more precise form of the policy construct is also incorporated. A sample policy statement in both forms is given in Appendix B. This methodology helped the security team to effectively disseminate the policies to the user community and define precise benchmarks for the security infrastructure implementation phase.

Selection of the Security Components

There are various components in an information security infrastructure, such as the firewall, intrusion detection system, virus protection system, and content inspection systems (refer to McBride, Patilla, Robinson, Thermos, & Moser, 2000, for a comprehensive description of security components). The firewall is a single network access point between the organization network and the external networks. The organizational information resources are protected by the firewall. Firewall solutions can be as simple as installing the latest version of the operating systems on the public servers of the network, and harden the operating system to reduce vulnerabilities. On the higher end, there is the commercial product by Checkpoint that integrates all security functions, costing about $3,000 for a 25-user license. But a firewall alone cannot prevent all security threats. Although firewalls remain critical frontline defensive equipment, other security components are also needed to guard against the evolving intrusions (ISS, 2002).

The second most important component in a security infrastructure is an Intrusion Detection System (IDS), which is extremely effective in identifying intruders (ISS, 2002). An IDS uses techniques such as pattern matching, expression matching, or byte-code matching to detect any intrusions. Once a possible intrusion is discovered, the IDS will take action ranging from sending an alert to the console of the security administrator to initiating a close to the intruder's network connection. An Intrusion Detection System such as Real Secure from Internet Security Systems costs about $10,000 to $20,000. Freeware products such as Snort are also available.

With the ever-increasing virus attacks, an active virus protection system that detects virus patterns and cleans the files and email messages before they enter the internal network servers is very much essential. A content management system scans the messages for obnoxious and offensive content and filters the messages and sends notifications to the senders. The content management system also improves network and server performance by filtering unsolicited mail messages and blocking spamming. Virus protection systems and content management systems such as Trend Micro Interscan eManager is priced at about $6,000 for a 300-user license.

Additionally, there may be upgrades required for the network devices such as switches and routers to incorporate network security features. In effect, the bill for setting up the security infrastructure could run as high as $60,000 to $200,000, depending upon the size of the information technology infrastructure of the organization. Apart from the hardware and software, trained manpower is needed to install, configure, and manage the security infrastructure. In practical terms, a dynamic proactive defense that combines firewall, intrusion detection, antivirus, and content management, coupled with strong policies and procedures and a strict regime for software updates and security patching is very much required for an effective security infrastructure. The various security components along with the required characteristics as defined by the security team are enclosed in Appendix C.

Comprehensive information security management is a big budget item, and with the awareness of security management still in the nascent stage in India, organizations think twice before embarking on such a project. With a given budget constraint and other limitations, organizations should choose a suitable combination of the various security components that are compatible with the assessed risk level and the defined security policies of the organization.

One way to reduce the infrastructure cost is to look at Open-source software (OSS), which is available free or at minimal price. The term "open source" refers to the code that is open to the public (refer to Swift, 2001, for a comprehensive guide on OSS). The open source technologies may not provide a comprehensive security solution, but help to reduce the total cost of ownership, and can fit in to the organization's security infrastructure at a very low price compared to proprietary components. The main disadvantage of open-source software is lack of support and scalability. It has been noted that OSS is used mainly in smaller organizations that do not have many mission-critical applications (Gill, 2002). Most of the free software also relies on security experts for installation and configuration. Though OSS provides source code, it is practically impossible for a non-expert to fix any problems. On the other hand, OSS advocates argue that minimal changes in the requirements are easy to make, as the open source community consisting of millions of programmers around the world constantly work on patches, bug fixes, and customized modifications of the software (Gill, 2002). Documentation for OSS is minimal, and it is not user friendly. Compared to OSS, the commercial software, such as Checkpoint Firewall, comes with the support of a wide array of hardware and software and has experts trained in the configuration. Under GNU public license (FSF, 2002), freeware comes with no warranty. But, Checkpoint gives a warranty for its product.

The alternatives before the security team were (1) select OSS components, (2) select proprietary components, and (3) select a combination of OSS and proprietary components. The selection depends on factors such as functionality, flexibility of the product, robustness, product support, ease of use, and finally, the cost. Based on the desired characteristics outlined in Appendix C and the initial bids received from the vendors, the comparison chart shown in Table 1 was prepared.

Table 1: Comparison of OSS and Proprietary Security Products

Security Component/Metric

OSS Product

Proprietary Product



Checkpoint NG

1. Centralized Management



2. Single point access (network address translation and masquerading)



3. Strong access control and authentication



4. Built-in proxy server with authentication



5. Hardware/software platform support



6. License



7. Price


$10,000 (INR 5,00,000) for 250 use license

Intrusion Detection System


ISS Real Secure

1. Server intrusion monitoring



2. Priority based alerts



3. Centralized management



4. Automatic signature updates



5. Network intrusion detection



6. Hardware/software platform support



7. License



8. Price


$8,000 (INR 4,00,000) for one network sensor plus $2,000 (INR 1,00,000) for software subscription services

The above table indicates that the OSS products satisfy all the desired characteristics as outlined by the security team. However, the hardware/software platform support was limited in the case of OSS products compared to the proprietary products. The cost of the proprietary products is much more than the allocated budget. The decision was clearly in favor of OSS products, especially because of the cost savings, although the security management team was aware of the limitations of OSS products as outlined above. For virus protection and content management, all the bids were for Trend Micro's Interscan VirusWall and eManager, respectively. These are proprietary products and no equivalent OSS products were available. Since the selected OSS products lack proper documentation and hence require expertise for installation, it was decided to outsource the installation and configuration to Bangalore Labs, a Security Service Provider (SSP). The implementation costs, as given below in Table 2, were well within the budget.

Table 2: Cost of the Security Infrastructure Implementation at IIML



1. Trend Micro Interscan VirusWall and eManager @ $18.1 for 300 users

$5,430 (INR 271,500)

2. Installation and configuration of Astero Firewall, Snort IDS, Squid Proxy, Trend Micro Interscan VirusWall and Trend Micro Interscan eManager

$7,400 (INR 370,000)

Total Cost of the Project

$ 12,830(INR 641,500)

Implementation of the Information Security Architecture

Security consultants from Bangalore Labs installed and configured the firewall and IDS components as per the security policy. All the email messages from within and from outside the campus network are first scanned by the Interscan VirusWall before being delivered to the mailboxes. This prevents virus-laden mail messages from ever reaching the user mailboxes and hence reduced the virus threats noticed earlier. The VirusWall was configured to get the updated signature files from the vendor Trend Micro ( site every 24 hours to keep up with new virus and worms. Within minutes after completing the installation, the benefits of the security infrastructure were evident when the IDS alerted the system administrator of Code Red virus intrusions, and the VirusWall filtered them.

There are other complexities as the IIML network is connected to two Internet Service Providers. IIML wanted to route the traffic through both the links so that load balancing would be achieved. To do this, the SSP implemented a "policy based routing," so that all Web traffic is directed through a high-capacity Internet access link, and email and other traffic is routed through the low-bandwidth access link. These were the additional value-added services that

the SSP provided to IIML in addition to installing and configuring the security components. The architecture of the IIML network is given in Figure 2. The whole project took about three weeks. The project plan and the rollout of the different services are shown in Appendix D.

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Figure 2: Information Security Architecture at IIML

Outsourcing Maintenance of the Security Infrastructure

After the successful implementation of the recommended security control, it is important that operational and administrative procedures are developed to support and enforce the security controls. To enforce the continuous, effective functioning of the security controls, it is very important that the controls are also effectively maintained and monitored (von Solms, 1998). Security management is not a one-time activity, and as new vulnerabilities are exposed through penetration testing, patches, and configuration, changes are required for the security components on a continuous basis which act as a feedback mechanism, as given in Figure 1. It has been reported in Weissman (1995) that periodic penetration testing, which is a form of stress testing that exposes security weaknesses, is a must for high-rated security systems. ISS (2002) reports that even though vulnerability assessment is a very important proactive measure, many organizations do not have the staff, resources, or processes to develop institutionalized standards for routine scans and remediation.

Whether to do the maintenance of the security infrastructure using in-house expertise or to outsource it to a service provider is a dilemma that haunts security administrators. The primary motive for considering outsourcing is that long-term outsourcing contracts tend to convert variable costs into fixed costs and thus make technology spending more predictable (Alner, 2001). Security management involves intensive technologies and requires highly

skilled and trained security specialists. The organization must recruit, train, and retain employees with unique skills to provide maintenance of the security systems. With little expertise available in this area, businesses can outsource the security management to SSPs (Pereira, 2001). SSPs also have the advanced system and communication monitoring tools and professionals trained in specific security technologies, and hence can guarantee service and system availability.

The security service provisioning industry is still evolving, even in the U.S. In India, Bangalore Labs started this movement, followed by others. The parameters that organizations should investigate before outsourcing their security management services include: technology of SSP to support the services, availability of key infrastructure such as Internet connectivity and network operations centers, comprehensiveness of services offered, and finally, the price and value of service offerings. Typical security services provided by SSPs are included in Appendix E (Sridhar & Bhandari, 2002). Most of the maintenance can be done by SSPs remotely from their Network Operations Centers (NOCs).

The IIML security team decided to outsource the maintenance activities because of the above reasons. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are critical in the outsourcing business (Alner, 2001). The information security SLA should specify the services expected from the outsourcer and indicate what functions will be retained by the client. SLAs and an Annual Maintenance Contract were signed with Bangalore Labs, the cost details of which are given below in Table 3. Bangalore Labs has a state-of-the-art Network Operations Centre (NOC) at Bangalore. A Virtual Private Network (VPN) tunnel (refer to Stallings, 2000, for VPN technology) was constructed between the IIML firewall and the firewall at Bangalore Labs through which remote monitoring is done (refer to Figure 1). The first successful vulnerability test post-implementation was done at the end of November 2001, and the firewall withstood the rigor of the test.

Table 3: Cost of the Annual Maintenance Contract



Annual Maintenance Contract


a. Vulnerability scanning at $176 per server, 3 times a year for 4 servers

$2,112 (INR 105,600)

b. Vulnerability scanning at $526 per network device per year for 4 devices

$2,104 (INR 105,200)

c. Firewall log analysis every 14 days at $100 for 26 fortnights

$2,600 (INR 130,000)

Total Annual Maintenance Contract Cost

$ 6816 (INR 340,800)

Annals of Cases on Information Technology
SQL Tips & Techniques (Miscellaneous)
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2005
Pages: 367 © 2008-2017.
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