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Security Assessment and Testing

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In this sample chapter form CISSP Cert Guide, 3rd Edition, you will review assessment and testing strategies, security control testing, collection of security process data, analysis and reporting of test outputs, and internal, external, and third-party audits.

This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Security assessment and testing covers designing, performing, and analyzing security testing. Security professionals must understand these processes to protect their assets from attacks.

Security assessment and testing requires a number of testing methods to determine an organization’s vulnerabilities and risks. It assists an organization in managing the risks in planning, deploying, operating, and maintaining systems and processes. Its goal is to identify any technical, operational, and system deficiencies early in the process, before those deficiencies are deployed. The earlier you can discover those deficiencies, the cheaper it is to fix them.

This chapter discusses assessment and testing strategies, security control testing, collection of security process data, analysis and reporting of test outputs, and internal, external, and third-party audits.

Foundation Topics: Design and Validate Assessment and Testing Strategies

Security professionals must ensure that their organization plans, designs, executes, and validates appropriate security assessment, testing, and audit strategies to ensure that risks are mitigated. Security professionals must take a lead role in helping the organization implement the appropriate security assessment, testing, and auditing strategies. The organization should rely on industry best practices, national and international standards, and vendor-recommended practices and guidelines to ensure that the strategies are planned and implemented appropriately.

Organizations will most likely establish a team that will be responsible for executing any assessment, testing, and auditing strategies. The team should consist of individuals who understand security assessment, testing, and auditing but should also include representatives from other areas of the organization. Verifying and validating security is an ongoing activity that never really stops. But security professionals should help guide an organization in terms of when a particular type of assessment or testing is best performed.

Security Testing

Security testing ensures that a control is functioning properly. Both manual and automatic security testing can be performed. Security testing should be carried out on a regular basis. Security testing should be performed on all types of devices.

When performing security testing, security professionals should understand that it will affect the performance of the devices involved in the security test. Security testing cannot always be performed during non-peak hours. Only performing this testing during non-peak hours could also result in skewed results.

Security professionals should consider the following factors when performing security testing:

  • Impact

  • Difficulty

  • Time needed

  • Changes that could affect the performance

  • System risk

  • System criticality

  • Security test availability

  • Information sensitivity level

  • Likelihood of technical failure or misconfiguration

Once security tests are performed, security professionals should analyze the results and make appropriate recommendations based on those results. In addition, the security testing tools themselves can be configured to send alerts or messages based on preconfigured triggers or filters. Without proper analysis, security testing does not provide a benefit to the organization.

Security Assessments

Security assessments are the reviews of the security status and reports for a system, application, or other environment. During this assessment, a security professional will review the results of the security tests, identify any vulnerabilities, and make recommendations for remediation. Security testing leads to security assessments.

Security professionals should prepare a formal security assessment report that includes all of the identified issues and recommendations. Also, they should document the actions taken based on the recommendations.

Security Auditing

Security auditing is the process of providing the digital proof when someone who is performing certain activities needs to be identified. Like security assessment and testing, it can be performed internally, externally, and via a third party. Security auditing is covered in more detail later in this chapter and in Chapter 7, “Security Operations.”

Internal, External, and Third-party Security Assessment, Testing, and Auditing

Security assessment, testing, and auditing occur in three manners: internal, external, and third-party. Internal assessment, testing, and auditing are carried out by personnel within the organization. External assessment, testing, and auditing are carried out by a vendor or contractor that is engaged by the company.

Sometimes third-party assessment, testing, and auditing are performed by a party completely unrelated to the company and not previously engaged by it. This scenario often arises as a result of having to comply with some standard or regulation or when accreditation or certification is involved. Many certifying or regulating bodies may require engagement of a third party that has not had a previous relationship with the organization being assessed. In this case, the certifying body will work with the organization to engage an approved third party.

Companies should ensure that, at minimum, internal and external testing and assessments are completed on a regular basis.

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