Keywords applicable to this article: dissertation, thesis, research, topics, information, security, risk
management, IT governance, it security, information security, computer security, isms, iso 27001,
iso 27002, iso 27005, iso 13335, information asset classification, storage, retrieval, transit, business
impact analysis.

Sourabh Kishore, Chief Consulting Officer
IT and Information Risk Management and Business Impact
Analysis at Corporate and Enterprise Levels: The
Opportunities for Academic Dissertations and Thesis Projects
The standards and best practices of Information Risk Management have evolved significantly in the recent past with the evolution of cloud computing and
the emerging threats to client businesses running their ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) on the clouds. Cloud computing infrastructures
are massive Internet-enabled data centres having virtualised pools of computing, storage, networking, and platform resources in service-oriented
configurations. Every client organisation gets a personalised Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) packaged with the desired ICT resources operating within a
domain protected by virtualised boundaries. Access control to the ICT resources in the VPCs are managed through virtual cloud security controls. Two VPCs
can be interconnected through VPC-to-VPC tunneling. The key challenges in this configuration are the following:

(a) Most of the security controls are owned and managed by the cloud service providers. The client organisation merely gets access to controls related to users
and groups management.
(b) There is inadequate visibility into the threats and risks to the ICT assets of the client organisation. Simply stated, the client organisations do not have
access to their respective comprehensive risks registers.
(c) The clouds have a massive attack surface. If an exploit materialises successfully, thousands of businesses can be taken down by a small group of hackers.
This was evident in the massive Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack on DYN DNS servers on October 21 2016 that had crippled thousands of web
business organisations having high dependence on cloud-based ICT resources. This attack was carried out using hundreds of thousands of compromised
Internet Of Things. Despite of such a massive sttack, the client organisations could only wait and watch what DYN and the associated cloud service
organisations were doing to implement preventive controls against reoccurence of this risk in future.
(d) The clients are locked-in with a cloud service provider over a period. It is very difficult for a client organisation to shift the ICT resources back to
self-hosted data centres or to other cloud service providers.
(e) There is no common enterprise-wide risks view for the businesses.
(f) The data stored on the cloud is spread across multiple unknown (untraceable) locations. There is a high risk of data proliferation with no clarity on who
shall be responsible.
(g) There is lack of clarity of the structure of accountability for protection of clients' ICT resources on the cloud computing.
(h) Moving ICT resources to cloud computing results in dismantling of the core ICT organisational structures that companies have been maintaining for
decades. In addition, the ICT services management and governance standards maintained by companies are diluted because the controls are transferred to
cloud service providers. For example, companies do not have much left to manage in the areas of incident, problem, change, release, configuration,
availability, service level, disaster recovery, and business continuity management.
(i) The framework of Enterprise Risk Management is no longer managed and controlled by companies as majority of the risks are transferred to third parties
(cloud service providers)
(j) The power of Enterprise Architecture controls is gradually shifting towards cloud service providers.

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There is a clear shift of power structures of the individual enterprises after they have adopted cloud computing. Perhaps, a roll back from this position to the
power of self-hosted ICT services in future will be almost impossible amidst lack of migration platforms, lack of skilled ICT employees, lack of consultancy,
and an overall lack of knowledge and expertise. One may view the current state of the cloud-dependent business organisations as an irreversible shift of
organisational inertia; a change without a back-out plan. However, cloud is here to stay as hundreds of thousands of business, government, public sector,
and not-for-profit organisations have moved their ICT resources to cloud computing. Hence, the approach of researchers should not be only to criticise cloud
computing but also find out ways to live with it and change the ways businesses have been managing their ICT risks and security. To explore the research
opportunities on cloud computing, a basic understanding of the traditional risk management standards is mandatory.

I hereby discuss the Information Risk Management and Business Impact Analysis framework from the perspective of the standard ISO 27005:2008, which is
based on ISO 27001:2013 (formerly ISO 27001: 2005) and ISO 27002:2008 controls. The ISO 27005:2008 standard is the formal replacement of ISO 13335-3 &
ISO 13335-4:2000 which essentially recommends a 100% metrics based evaluation of all the steps of risk assessment described in ISO 13335-3 using
quantitative techniques. This standard considers Risk Management, Configuration Management and Change Management as an integrated framework to
deliver IT security in an organization. The risk management framework recommended by this standard can be viewed as a "concentric spheres" model with
the information assets placed at the core of the model as shown in the figure below. This model was originally part of ISO 13335-3 that represents an
environment of threats that change continuously thus changing the risk baselines (residual acceptable risk levels) of the organizations and hence requires
periodic assessment of the effectiveness of controls such that the vulnerabilities are not exploited by the external threats to affect the information assets.

Figure Description: Concentric Spheres Model of Risk Management Framework (LEFT) and the Relationships Among Various Attributes of the Information
Risk Management Framework (RIGHT) (Source: ISO 27005 conceptual framework)

Based on the environment of threats and resulting risks the relationships in risk management, as defined by ISO 27005 framework is presented in the figure
above. A close observation of the figure shall reveal that every parameter can be assigned a metric value which can be measured objectively within a given
environment. The interrelationships of these parameters will result in a matrix like structure whereby the metrics of these parameters form a relationship and
hence control each other. For example, high asset value and high impact with low probability value may lead to lower threat value and hence lower risk
value. Hence, in spite of high asset value and high impact, the risk treatment may not be urgent for this asset. Typical example may be - impact due to
flooding to a Data Centre on the top floor of a building that is many miles away from a river and also has water storage tank located few hundred meters
away from the base of the building. A threat analysis coupled with history of flooding may lead to very low probability of flooding and hence the risk value
may arrive to be below the threshold of residual risks. Now let us imagine that the building authorities decided to install an overhead water tank on the roof
top. In this case the probability of impact on the asset may suddenly shoot up thus increasing the risk value beyond the threshold. Now the risk will need
urgent treatment by the asset owner to bring it back to the residual level below the threshold. This is the magic of metrics-based risk assessment as defined in
the ISO 27005 standard. Variation of metrics would lead to variation in risk values thus changing the perspective of the risk management team related to an
asset. Thus, the standard recommends metrics based relationship analysis of all parameters against every information asset identified in the organization.
The analytics require various databases to be maintained by the risk management team such that the metrics analysis can be revisited periodically whereby
the additions in the related databases may lead to variations demanding change in perspective of the risks identified. The databases required to manage this
relationship model effectively is presented in the figure above.

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TOPICS DELIVERED by us. With Sincere Regards, Sourabh Kishore.

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For cloud computing, ISO 27001: 2013 and ISO 27005:2008 have been transformed into ISO 27017:2015 and ISO 27018:2016 standards, which are the future
standards of Information Security and Risk Management in the cloud computing era. Whichever organization is able to establish the trust relationships
correctly will save lot of time & efforts in managing information risks and will also be able to achieve employee satisfaction because this framework ensures
enormous participation by employees without needing to be specialists in IRM domain. This however is still a hypothesis and requires efforts by academic
researchers to be converted into an empirical theory. Although a number of academic research studies have been conducted on these areas, they are largely
inadequate because these areas have evolved and grown many times faster than the pace of researches by academicians and students. I suggest that students
should undertake new topics for dissertations and theses in these areas given that a lot remains unaddressed by the academic community in the fields of
Information Security Risk Management and Business Impact Analysis and Management.

Now, let us discuss the risk management
process in detail. Information Assets are very critical for success of modern IT enabled businesses. In the modern
world, information assets are exposed to threats that have emerged as major IT security challenges. The threats to information assets result in "Risks" with
potential impact to businesses. The potential damage against an impact classifies the "Criticality" of the Risk. The key to Information and IT Security of an
organization is to know the assets, to know the threats to the assets, assess the probability and impacts to business, accurately measure the associated risks,
and finally establish appropriate mitigation strategies to reduce, avoid or transfer the risks. I recommend that Information Risk Management should be an
integral part of an organization's corporate governance such that adequate executive attention to the risks and corresponding Information and IT security
controls can be invited and mitigation strategies can be formulated. In many countries, it is legally required to implement appropriate IT Security if the
organization is managing critical public systems or data.

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Regards, Sourabh Kishore. Apologies for the interruption; Please continue reading!!

To manage Information Risks it is mandatory to know ALL the critical information assets of the organization. Every system that creates, processes, transfers
or stores information is an information asset - like, file/folders, databases, hard copy storage areas, desktops, laptops, shared network resources, employees'
drawers/lockers, or the employees' own memory (tacit knowledge). The primary requirement of Risk Management is to have an "Information Asset Register"
which is a secured database that needs to be updated regularly as and when new assets are added, modified or deleted. Every organization can have their
own definitions of "Confidentiality", "Integrity" and "Availability" parameters related to an Information Asset. These parameters should translate into metrics
that should be assigned to EVERY critical information asset identified in the Information Asset Register. The outcome is known as an "Asset Value" tagged
against every asset entered in the Asset Register.

The next important step is to assess the "Threat Value" by virtue of an in-depth analysis of the possible causes, the impact value (a function of multiple
impacts like Financial or Reputational impact), and the probability of an impact. Every organization can have their own parameters for calculation of Threat
Value because it largely depends upon the exposure factors (like Legal, Competition, Environmental, etc) that the organization is facing or can potentially
face in future.

The subsequent step is to assess the "Loss Event Value" which is a function of the possible events of asset compromising that the organization can face. Again
every organization can have their own loss event descriptions and the assessment methodology that are normally categorised under the known
vulnerabilities in the organization.

The final step is to arrive at the "Risk Value" which is a function of the Asset Value, the Threat Value and the Loss Event Value. The calculation of Risk Value
can be carried out differently for different organizations depending upon how many levels of escalation is feasible within the organization. Information
Assets with high Risk Values have high "Vulnerabilities" and hence appropriate controls need to be applied urgently.

Business Impact Analysis is the next step after completion of the Risk Assessment. Risk Assessment process will ensure that all the Information Assets of the
organization are identified and the corresponding "Risk Values" are assessed.

The scale of the Risk values can be defined depending upon the number of escalations feasible within an organization. A large organization may like to keep
a larger scale of Risk Values leading to more levels of escalation such that minor risks are not un-necessarily escalated to senior levels. However, a small
organization may like to implement smaller scale of Risk Values such that the visibility of risks to the senior/top management is better.

At every level of Risk, a mitigation strategy is mandatory. The mitigation strategy may include extra investments or extra precautions depending upon the
potential Business Impact of the risk. Some organizations may like to accept the Risks up to a certain levels because the cost to mitigate the risk is higher than
the business impact. Example, an organization may like to accept risks causing a financial impact of up to $500,000 because the cost of risk mitigation may be
higher than this value. Such decisions are possible after thorough "Business Impact Analysis" in various round table discussions at the top
management/board level. Please be aware that business impacts are different from the asset impacts that have been analysed during the risk assessment.
Business impact analytics are applied to the entire business and not only to the information assets. These decisions are critical to ensure that an accurate
investment plan can be approved such that the organization does not over-invest in low critical areas or under-invest in high critical areas.

The Business Impact Analysis should result in a list of Mitigation Actions that needs to be taken. Whenever an action is completed, the Risk Value can be
"Normalized" to a lower value such that the impact is within acceptable limits. Examples of Mitigation actions are: addition of CCTV surveillance, better
verification of visitors, visitors allowed up to visitor rooms only where CCTV cameras and microphones are installed, thorough analysis of surveillance data
by security experts, offsite data storage, transition of backup tapes allowed in secured metallic boxes via Bonded Couriers, Backup system ensuring data
encryption before writing on tapes, addition of clustering, fail-over, etc. to single Server installations, and so on.
Although such mitigation actions can always be accomplished to reduce the Risk Values, a sound approach of keeping Risk Values in control is to have a
sound Information Security Management System (ISMS) within the organization supported by Disaster Recovery Strategy, Business Continuity Planning,
Service Support & Service Delivery Processes.

The above description provides an overview of the concept of information risks and security management based on ISO 27005. What needs to change in the
cloud computing era? This is the core research domain I am trying to propose here. To give you some ideas on the possible research opportunities, I am
presenting a list of sample topics as the following.
In addition to the following suggestions, please contact us at
or to get more topic suggestions and to discuss your topic. We will be happy to assist you in
developing your narrow research topic with an original contribution based on the research context, research problem, and the
research aim, and objectives.

(1) Managing the widening domain of information assets on cloud computing in the information security risk management framework.
(2) Modeling dynamic attack graphs for identifying the sources of risks in cloud computing.
(3) Developing an information security risk management program for cloud-hosted information assets starting from the basics.
(4) Modeling attack scenarios on cloud computing for simulating controls determined through information security risk assessment.
(5) Risk assessment and protection against insider threats in cloud computing.
(6) An information security and risk management project plan on cloud computing detailing the tasks, efforts, timelines, resources, and dependencies.
(7) ISO 27005 and COSO-based quantitative modeling of information risk management on cloud computing.
(8) Developing information security metrics and measures for risk assessment on the cloud computing.
(9) Vulnerability flow analysis and cause-effect relationships analysis of risks factors on the cloud computing information systems.
(10) Assessing and managing platform services risks in the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) cloud computing model.
(11) Multi-agency collaborative risk management of cloud computing information systems.
(12) Analytical Hierarchy Modeling (AHM) of cloud computing risk management.
(13) Risk management of Internet of Things interconnected through cloud computing for cloud-based manufacturing and supply chain management.
(14) Trust relationships and privacy protection models for risk management on cloud computing.
(15) Risk management of financial services and payment systems operated through cloud computing.
(16) Modeling malicious activity diagrams and behavioural patterns for identifying high risk actors and their behaviours on cloud computing.
(17) Assessing and managing ICT infrastructure services risks in the Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) cloud computing service model.
(18) Trust and Accountability modeling for information risk management on cloud computing.
(19) Information Security Risk Management in mobile communications infrastructures built upon 4G LTE and LTE Advanced technologies.
(20) Managing information security in the era of mobile employees connecting to cloud-based organisational ICT resources through ubiquitous mobile access.
(21) Modeling an enterprise architecture and enterprise risk management framework on cloud computing.
(22) Security policy formulation and enforcement on cloud-hosted information assets.
(23) Mapping threats on the clouds with vulnerabilities of information assets on cloud computing following the NIST SP 800-144 guidelines, and the ISO
27005 and ISO 27017 standards.
(24) A study of COBIT 5 for risk management on the cloud computing.
(25) Comprehensive controls application based on risk assessment on cloud computing using the Cloud Controls Matrix by the Cloud Security Alliance.
(26) The emerging culture of security awareness and compliance in companies facing the concerns and challenges related to risk management of cloud-based
information assets.
(27) A review of client-side controls for securing cloud-hosted information assets in the Amazon Web Services (AWS) framework.
(28) Managing risks of information assets created and managed through Amazon Web Services (AWS) framework.
(29) A review of risks facing the global DNS servers seeding the cloud computing services and their possible mitigation strategies.
(30) Standardising the risk management vocabulary and the ISO 31000:2009 standard.
(31) A model of systemic, structured, and timely risk assessment on the cloud computing using intelligence from the dynamic security agents and the Virtual
Machine Monitors (VMMs).
(32) Tailoring guidelines for risk evaluation and treatment analysis for cloud-hosted ICT assets.
(33) Training, awareness, and security indoctrination for mobile employees accessing cloud-hosted ICT resources through ubiquitous mobile computing.
(34) Managing security risks through cloud-based De-militarized Zones (DMZ) for protecting Virtual Private Clouds.
(35) Modeling risk assessment data collection from distributed tacit knowledge sources for identifying the complex relationships among cloud-based
information assets.
(36) Identifying attack patterns and attack scenarios on cloud computing through distributed intelligent agents moving randomly in a cloud computing
virtual infrastructure.
(37) Structural relationship causal modeling of threats in cloud computing and assessing controls application
(38) Embedding risk awareness in business process modeling and engineering on the cloud computing
(39) Network graph analysis with probabilistic relationships for assessing threat scenarios on cloud computing
(40) Deploying distributed firewalls and intrusion detection and prevention systems on cloud computing for managing virtualisation risks

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