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A Structured Comparison of the Corporate Information Security Maturity Level


Abstract and Figures

Generally, measuring the information security maturity is the first step to build a knowledge information security management system in an organization. Unfortunately, it is not possible to measure information security directly. Thus, in order to get an estimate, one has to find reliable measurements. One way to assess information security is by applying a maturity model and assess the level of controls. This does not need to be equivalent to the level of security. Nevertheless, evaluating the level of information security maturity in companies has been a major challenge for years. Although many studies have been conducted to address these challenges, there is still a lack of research to properly analyze these assessments. The primary objective of this study is to show how to use the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) to compare the information security controls’ level of maturity within an industry in order to rank different companies. To validate the approach of this study, we used real information security data from a large international media and technology company.
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A Structured Comparison of the Corporate
Information Security Maturity Level
Michael Schmid1,2[000000023534313X]and
Sebastian Pape1,3[0000000208937856]
1Chair of Mobile Business & Multilateral Security
Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany
2Hubert Burda Media Holding KG
3Chair of Information Systems, University of Regensburg, Germany
Generally, measuring the information security maturity is the first step to
build a knowledge information security management system in an organization.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to measure information security directly. Thus,
in order to get an estimate, one has to find reliable measurements. One way
to assess information security is by applying a maturity model and assess the
level of controls. This does not need to be equivalent to the level of security.
Nevertheless, evaluating the level of information security maturity in companies
has been a major challenge for years. Although many studies have been conducted
to address these challenges, there is still a lack of research to properly analyze
these assessments. The primary objective of this study is to show how to use the
analytic hierarchy process (AHP) to compare the information security controls’
level of maturity within an industry in order to rank different companies. To
validate the approach of this study, we used real information security data from
a large international media and technology company.
Information security
Information security management
Analytic hierarchy process
Information security controls
Maturity Model ·Security Maturity Model ·Security metrics framework
1 Introduction
Information security can only be measured indirectly [
]; unfortunately there is
still no gold standard. One way to indirectly measure it is to use metrics and
] which aim to approximate the real status of information security. This
approach is not always reliable [
]. Some information to build those metrics are
obtained from technical systems (e.g. firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention
systems, security appliances). However, most of these metrics and KPIs have to
be quantified by humans and are therefore prone to errors.
Accepted at IFIP SEC 2019
Copyright Springer, Cham
2 Michael Schmid and Sebastian Pape
This can lead to possible inaccuracies, measurement errors, misinterpretations,
etc. [
]. If these metrics are then compared across the board, the information
security managers face a major challenge. As a consequence, this could lead to bad
decisions based on wrong conclusions. Moreover, by just comparing the metrics,
without any weighting the specifics of the respective industry are not considered.
Thus, a prioritisation within the comparison is not possible [
]. This problem is
reinforced when the comparison of information security metrics between different
companies or departments would take place [
], which is exactly on of the current
challenges enterprises face today: How to compare their (sub-)companies of a
specific industry (e.g. eCommerce) in terms of information security.
The main goal of this paper is to compare the effect of multiple factors in
the information security assessment process. Aiming at achieving this goal, the
analytic hierarchy process (AHP) is applied. The Analytical Hierarchy Process
(AHP) is one of the most commonly used Multiple Criteria Decision Methods
(MCDM), combining subjective and personal preferences in the information secu-
rity assessment process [
]. It allows a structured comparison of the information
security maturity level of companies with respect to an industry [
] and to
obtain a ranking[
]. This allows us to define a separate weighting of information
security metrics for each industry with to respect their specifics while using
a standardized approach based on the maturity levels of the ISO 27001:2013
controls [
]. ISO 27001 was in particular selected, because this standard is shown
to be mature, widespread and globally recognized. This minimizes the additional
effort for collecting the required metrics. In this study, the maturity level is based
on a hierarchical, multi-level model to analyze the information security gap for
the ISO 27001:2013 security standard [
]. As a prerequisite for the comparison,
we assume companies have implemented an information security management
system (ISMS) in accordance with ISO 27001 [26].
To validate the approach of this study, we used real information security data
(i.e. security controls’ maturity level) from Hubert Burda Media (HBM) a large
international media and technology company consisting of over 200 individual
companies. This provides sufficient data with a high degree of detail in the area of
information security. The result from our AHP-based approach is then compared
with the perceived status of information security by experts.
The remainder of this work is structured as follows: In Sect. 2 we give a brief
overview of related work. Section 3 describes our methodology when we developed
our approach shown in Sect. 4. Our results are shown in Sect. 5 followed by a
discussion and our conclusion in Sect. 6, respectively Sect. 7.
2 Background and Related Work
In addition to the differences in the assessment of information security, all
assessment procedures have in common that the ratings of the maturity level
and the weighting of weights remain separate judgements and are not allocated
to a common overall value in the sense of an ’information security score’. It is
therefore up to the evaluator to carry out the respective evaluation, as he or she is
A Structured Comparison of Corporate Information Security Maturity Level 3
forced to choose between these two quantitative aspects of the evaluation, i. e. the
ratings on the one hand and the weighting on the other [
]. In contrast to this,
the works of Boehme [
] and Anderson [
] deal more with the economic impact
of investments in information security. The focus of this work is to compare
the degree of maturity within an industry. This could later lead to a monetary
assessment of information security or maturity.
A solution which involves to merging ratings and weights and thus integrates
different assessment measures at the same time offers multi-attribute decision-
making procedures[
]. These are methods that offer support in complex decision-
making situations, i. e. when a decision has to be made in favour of one of several
options against the background of several decision criteria (so-called attributes).
The prerequisite for using the multi attribute decision procedure is, as de-
scribed above, the determination of weights. A popular method of doing this is
the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) method developed by Saaty [
]. Nasser [
describes how to measure the degree of maturity using AHP. In contrast to our
paper which deals with the comparison of the maturity level within an indus-
try, Nasser [
] focuses on the determination of inaccurate expert comparison
judgement in the application of AHP.
Some recent works deals with this problem setting using the AHP but there
exist further restrictions. Watkins [
] uses for his approach not the control
maturity level and is only valid in the cyber security environment. Bodins’ [
approach is based on the comparison of the CIA-Triangle and not on ISO 27001-
controls. Peters [
] has already shown the application of AHP in the domain of
project management but did not use real data to validate the approach.
2.1 Multiple Criteria Decision Methods
Multi criteria decision problems which could be solved with a multiple-criteria
decision analysis method (MCDM) are a class of procedures for the analysis of
decision or action possibilities characterized by the fact that they do not use a
single superordinate criterion, but a multitude of different criteria. Problems in
evaluating multiple criteria consist of a limited number of alternatives that are
explicitly known at the beginning of the solution process. For multiple criteria,
design problems (multiple objective mathematical programming problems), the
alternatives are not explicitly known. An alternative (solution) can be found by
solving a mathematical model. However, both types of problems are considered
as a kind of subclass of multi-criteria decision problems [
]. MCDM helps
to determine the best solution from multiple alternatives, which may be in
conflict with each other. There are several methodologies for MCDM such as:
Analytical hierarchical process (AHP), Grey relational analysis (GRA), Technique
for order preference by similarity to ideal solution (TOPSIS), Superiority and
inferiority ranking (SIR), Simple additive weighting (SAW), and Operational
competitiveness rating (OCRA) [7].
4 Michael Schmid and Sebastian Pape
2.2 The Analytical Hierarchy Process
The AHP, is a method developed by the mathematician Thomas L. Saaty [
to support decision-making processes. Because of its ability to comprehensively
analyse a problem constellation in all its dependencies, the AHP is called ’analyt-
ical’. It is called a ’process’ because it specifies how decisions are structured and
analysed. In principle, this procedure is always the same, which makes the AHP
an easy-to-use decision tool that can be used more than once and is similar to a
routine treatment [
]. The goal of the Analytic Hierarchy Process method is
to structure and simplify complex decision problems by means of a hierarchical
analysis process in order to make a rational decision. The AHP breaks down a
complex evaluation problem into manageable sub-problems.
3 Research Methodology
Many companies use the maturity level measurement of the controls from ISO
standard 27001 to obtain a valid and reliable metric. The ISO standard is
well established and the maturity assessment of the standard’s controls is an
adequate possibility to create a picture of the information security processes of a
company. While this might be sufficient for a continuous improvement within
the same company, a problem arises if one wants to compare the information
security processes of different companies or departments. Depending on the field
of industry, some of the processes might be more important than others.
The general aim of this approach is to determine which company within an
industry is better or worse in a (sub)area of information security, in order to create
transparency among the companies within an industry concerning information
security. Positive effects of this approach would be the improvement or deteri-
oration of the information security in a sector within an industry recognizable
up to the question where the management should invest money economically for
information security in order to improve a sector.
We define the requirements in the next subsection, then determine the proper
algorithm and finally describe the data collection for our approach.
3.1 Requirements
The most important requirement is that the metrics we rely on should be easy
to gather. Assuming that the investigated company is running an information
security management system (ISMS), a natural approach is to rely on the
controls of the ISO/IEC 27001 standard and their maturity level. Existing
data (e.g. information security maturity level) should be used wherever possible.
Furthermore, the approach should consider the environment of the industry in
which the company is located. Additionally, the information gathering should be
repeatable and stable. Comparing and evaluating over a long period should be
possible as well as an overall as an comparison of security levels of business units
or companies in a similar area. Finally, the approach should allow it to visualize
and explain the results of the comparison and allow to derive the areas where
companies could improve.
A Structured Comparison of Corporate Information Security Maturity Level 5
3.2 Algorithm Selection
Taking all requirements into account, our problem is a multi-dimensional decision
problem, and thus can be addressed by a multiple-criteria decision analysis method
(MCDM). Our comparison criteria (dimensions) are the ISO/IEC 27001 controls
and we compare the different companies based on their corresponding maturity
levels for each control. Thus, the MCDM needs discrete, quantitative input and
a criteria weighting method. Since the underlying controls are hierarchically and
therefore very structured, the chosen method/model should reflect that also.
This leads us to the analytical hierarchy process (AHP) as a best fit method
in the above described context. The AHP is a mature structured technique for
organizing and analyzing complex decisions, combining subjective and personal
preferences. The AHP has been the most widely used technique of multi-criteria
decision making during the last twenty five years [
]. The advantage of this
method over the utility value analysis, for example, is that it goes beyond the
evaluation of ideas and generates a clear selection recommendation. Its hierarchical
structuring of decision making fits well to the ISO/IEC 27001 controls’ hierarchy
and the qualitative evaluation part of the AHP is very much in line with the
maturity level for information security. Since the AHP compares the maturity
level for each control company-wise, it naturally allows to understand where
each company’s security level is ranking related to each control. Additionally, the
weight of each criteria (control) can be easily derived. In the concrete application
case it is possible to compare the importance of individual controls of ISO 27001
very granularly with each other (pairwise). This is in particular necessary in order
to be able to establish an industry reference. Furthermore, the AHP enables
precise calculations of weights, in this case the information security maturity
ratings of companies in a specific sector.
Thus, we used a paired comparison questionnaire based on the AHP to
compare controls and their maturity level for an industry.
3.3 Data Collection
To test the above approach it is necessary to set up the model and verify it
with real data. We need a maturity assessment of the ISO/IEC controls and to
weight them according to the considered industry. We focused on the eCommerce
industry for the following reasons:
Available data from a large range of companies
Excellent data quality and validity
High actuality of the existing data
Very good know-how available in the expert assessment of the industry
Maturity Assessment of ISO/IEC 27001 Controls
We collected data from
Hubert Burda Media (HBM), an international media and technology company
(over 10,000 employees, more than 2 billion annual sales, represented in over 20
countries). This group is divided into several business units that serve various
business areas (including print magazines, online portals, e-commerce, etc.). The
6 Michael Schmid and Sebastian Pape
business units consists of over 200 individual companies with about 30 of them
being in the eCommerce industry. Each subsidiary operates independently of
the parent corporation. There is a profit center structure, so the group acts as a
company for entrepreneurs and the managing directors have the freedom to invest
money into information security or choose the appropriated level of security.
We will briefly describe how this data is collected before going into more
detail on the data used for the comparison. Each individual company in the group
operates its own Information Security Management System (ISMS) in accordance
with ISO/IEC 27001:2013, which is managed by an Information Security Officer
(ISO) on site and managed by a central unit in the holding company. As part
of the evaluation of the ISMS, the maturity level for the respective ISO 27001
controls is ascertained - very granularly at the asset level. The maturity level is
collected/updated regular once a year as part of a follow-up.
First, the information values of the respective company (e. g. source code,
customer data, payment data, etc.) are determined according to the protection
goals of confidentiality, integrity and availability and assigned to a technical
system (e. g. application, client, server, etc.).
Second, these technical systems undergo a threat analysis
of the assets
in relation to the respective asset type as part of information security risk
management. The threat analysis is classically evaluated with regard impact
and the probability of occurrence. This results in an aggregated risk value (1-5)
for each asset after a pre-defined settlement. This risk value is later transferred
to the control valuation as the target maturity level. In this way, a comparison
is made between the protection requirements of the information values and the
protection level of the respective (IT) system.
Third, the control evaluation is then carried out using the Cobit maturity level.
The controls are dynamically selected
according to the previously evaluated
threats. The Cobit maturity level is a 6-step evaluation scale (0-5) with which
a continuous improvement can be measured and a potential improvement can
be identified. This allows it to evaluate the actual maturity level per control
and asset. The assessment of the current status of the controls is carried out by
the information security officer of the respective company. The collected data is
therefore not technical data but subjectively quantified data with a possible bias.
Although, the evaluated data is reviewed by further experts, a complete review
cannot be carried out due to resource limits. The target maturity level is already
determined by the risk value / protection level of the system. This provides a
clear picture of the ISMS status at a very granular asset level.
Fourth, the picture is completed by the Cobit maturity analysis of the IT-
/ISM processes
. For each of these processes, the controls (e. g. A.16 for incident
4threat catalogue according to ISO/IEC 27005:2011
5referring to the protection goals of confidentiality, integrity and availability
6by a predefined threat/control matrix
Business Continuity Management, Compliance, Incident Management, Information
Security Management, Organizational Information Security, Protection Requirement
A Structured Comparison of Corporate Information Security Maturity Level 7
management) are evaluated with an actual maturity level [
]. In the later
evaluation (typically by means of a spider graphic) the complete ISO 27001
standard is evaluated with the aid of the Cobit degree of maturity [14].
The available data is very granular on asset level (application, client, server,
etc.). However, although the companies are from the same industry, they do not
necessarily have the same kind of assets. Thus, we decided to abstract from the
assets and to aggregate the data at company level. To do this automatically, we
used the mean value of all evaluated assets per control. For the following proof
of concept, we only show data from 5 companies.
4 The Approach - the AHP-Implementation
In this section, we discuss how the AHP is applied to our comparison. The first
step of the AHP, to model the problem as a decision hierarchy, we have already
done by deciding that our decision-criteria will be the ISO/IEC 27001 controls.
The goal is clearly defined: to find the subsidiary within the company with the
best information security/level of maturity within an industry. Appendix A of
ISO 27001 helps us to select criteria and sub criteria, which is divided into 14
Control Categories, 35 Control Objectives and 114 Controls (see Fig. 1).
The next step is the prioritization of all criteria and sub criteria (Sect. 4.1).
This represents the domain specific part of the AHP calculations and it only needs
to be done once per domain. It is followed by the evaluation of the alternatives
(Sect. 4.2). The alternatives represent the agile part of the calculation. We describe
in the corresponding section, how the evaluation can be directly derived from
the maturity level of a company’s control. Based on the individual evaluations
and prioritizations of controls, the AHP uses a mathematical model to determine
a precise weighting of all alternatives in relation to the respective criteria and
assembles them in a percentage order (Sect. 4.3).
In the next subsections we describe in detail how the AHP was used and show
how the applied AHP model was implemented in a statistical software (in this
case in R).
4.1 Pairwise Comparison of the Control Categories and Controls
The characteristics of an industry have a significant influence on the pairwise
comparison when comparing the individual controls. If the information secu-
rity of companies is to be compared with each other, e.g. in the e-commerce
sector, it will differ significantly from that of companies in other sectors, e.g.
publishing or the manufacturing industry. On the one hand this is due to the
different business models within the industries, because the IT strategy and
the information security strategy are derived from the business strategy. On
the other hand this is due to the different focus in information security. For
example, the eCommerce industry is very focused on application development
and (confidentiality) protection of customer data, whereas the highest commodity
to be protected in the manufacturing industry is the availability of systems.
8 Michael Schmid and Sebastian Pape
Fig. 1: Exemplary ISO 27001 Appendix A structure
The decision-maker must compare each criterion with its pair and denotes
which of the two criteria appears more important to him/her. This method of
pairwise comparisons allows the decision-maker to elicit a very precise evaluation
from the multitude of competing criteria. The comparisons must be carried out
specifically for one industry (e. g. eCommerce). In the case of our hierarchy based
on the ISO/IEC 27001 controls, 91 pairwise comparisons have to be made for the
control categories and 208 for the controls, respectively. This leads to a ranking
order in which the criteria are ranked according to their importance.
The comparison is done as follows: Each result of a pairwise comparison of
two criteria entered in the evaluation matrix shows how much more significant
a criteria is in relation to the criteria of the level above. To do this, refer to
the scale in Tab. 1a. In order to make a comparison for one criteria, i.e. the
control categories, we compare the individual control categories with each other.
The authors made this comparison in a straight forward Excel spreadsheet. The
assessment of the relative importance of the criteria at the criterion level can
be found in Tab. 1b. These pairwise comparisons are always carried out by an
expert with the background knowledge and with reference to the industry (here
eCommerce). The comparison for the sub criteria, the controls, follows the same
4.2 Pairwise Evaluation of the Controls’ Maturity Levels
The alternatives in our example are the information security maturity of 5
eCommerce companies of HBM. For each control and each company there is a
corresponding maturity level based on the Cobit Maturity Model. 0 represents
A Structured Comparison of Corporate Information Security Maturity Level 9
Table 1: AHP Scores and their Application
AHP Verbal
Score description
9 Extreme
8 preference
7 Very strong
6 preference
5 Strong
4 preference
3 Moderate
2 preference
1 Equal preference
(a) Fundamental AHP
Sub criteria A Sub criteria B A/B Score
Control A.12.1.11Control A.12.1.2 B 1
Control A.12.1.1 Control A.12.1.3 B 1
Control A.12.1.1 Control A.12.1.44B1
Control A.12.1.22Control A.12.1.3 B 1
Control A.12.1.2 Control A.12.1.4 A 3
Control A.12.1.33Control A.12.1.4 A 3
1Documented operating procedures 2Change management
3Capacity management 4Separation of development
(b) AHP Comparison with sub criteria (Controls) from control
group A.12.1
the worst and 5 the best result, always in relation to the evaluation of a control.
As already discussed in Sect. 3.3, the maturity levels for each company were
based on assets and we aggregated the maturity levels by calculating the average
maturity level for each control over all evaluated assets of the respective company.
For the pairwise comparison, the gap between the comparative maturity levels
of two companies’ controls is considered to decide which company is doing better
at a specific control. For that purpose, we need to map the 6-stage scale of the
Cobit maturity grade gaps (see Tab. 2) to the 9-stage AHP score. The result is a
table where each GAP Cobit interval represents an AHP score, which is verbally
described. An exemplary calculation can be found in Tab. 2c). Alternative A
(Company 1) is compared with the alternatives B (Company 2 to 5). A Cobit GAP
-2 (i.g. 1-3) means hat Company 2 is 2 control maturity better than Company 1,
the AHP score is, corresponding to the Cobit GAP interval, 4, respectivly 1/4.
This can be used to calculate which of the 5 companies performs best in Control
The step of comparing the companies’ maturity levels for each control repre-
sents the business unit specific part of the analysis. Note that, due to our mapping
of the GAP Cobit interval and the AHP score, this can be done fully automatic
if the corresponding maturity levels are provided. The pairwise comparison, the
calculation of the difference and the ’translation’ to the GAP intervals is done in
the statistics software R.
4.3 Calculation of the Comparison
As mentioned above, the actual calculation of the AHP is done with R. The
implementation in R worked with the help of a YAML (Ain’t Markup Language)
script executed in R. The YAML script is a simplified markup language for data
serialization. The YAML script contains all results of the pairwise comparison
of criteria and sub criteria, as well as the maturity levels of the 114 controls
10 Michael Schmid and Sebastian Pape
Table 2: Combined GAP of Cobit Maturity Model and AHP Score
Cobit Maturity Cobit
Model level
Optimized 5
Managed and 4
Defined Process 3
Repeatable but 2
Initial/Ad Hoc 1
Non-existent 0
(a) Maturity Model vs.
Cobit GAP
9 4.45 - 5.00 Extreme
preference8 3.89 - 4.44
7 3.34 - 3.88 Very strong
preference6 2.78 - 3.33
5 2.23 - 2.77 Strong
preference4 1.66 - 2.22
3 1.12 - 1.65 Moderate
preference2 0.56 - 1.11
1 0.00 - 0.55 Equal
(b) AHP Score vs. GAP Cobit
Alt. A Alt. B Cobit Score
Co. 1 Co. 2 -2 1
Co. 1 Co. 3 1 2
Co. 1 Co. 4 -3 1
Co. 1 Co. 5 1 2
(c) Comparison for Control
of the 5 eCommerce companies. The decision hierarchy built up in the YAML
script corresponds to the ISO standard. The decision hierarchy is then enriched
with alternatives. The paired comparison of the alternatives is executed by a
function of the R-package ’ahp’ (version 0.2.12 from Christoph Glur) at script
runtime for a simple data processing flow. The runtime of the script (with data
from 5 companies) on an iMac (3.2 GHz Intel Core i5) was less than 10 seconds,
indicating that it is efficient enough to handle large amounts of data easily.
5 Results of the Comparison
The AHP was used to compare the maturity level in order to find the company
with the best information security within an industry (here eCommerce).
Prioritization of Controls
Here we show which priority the control cat-
egories (criteria) and controls (sub criteria) have in relation to the complete
appendix A of ISO 27001 over all. The pairwise comparison for the eCommerce
industry shows that the controls of the control category ’A.14’ have the highest
priority (17.6 %), followed by ’A.17’ (14.7 %) and ’A.12’ (10.1 %). Within control
category ’A.14’, controls ’A.14.2.8’ (22.6 %), ’A.14.2.7’ (15.2 %) and ’A.14.2.6’
(11.8 %) are the most important as shown in Fig. 2.
Comparision of the Companies
The Control Category ’A.14’ was used
to exemplarily show the evaluation. Figure 2 also shows how the individual
eCommerce companies weighting compare with each other in the control category
’A.14’ in detail. Overall (cf. Fig. 3), Company3 (21.0 %), Company5 (20.9 %)
and Company1 (20.5 %) came out best in a direct comparison. The differences
are marginal and only on closer inspection are there more pronounced differences
observed at the control level. In relation to a control category e.g. of ’A.14’, the
maturity of Company1 (4.4 %) and Company4 (4.0 %) is better in detail, but
A Structured Comparison of Corporate Information Security Maturity Level 11
Fig. 2: Top3 Control Categories prioritized and companies ranked
Fig. 3: Control category A.14 weight contribution and ranked companies
considering the control category ’A.17’, Company3 (5.2 %) is clearly ahead of
Company4 (1.7 %).
6 Discussion
Based on these results, we discuss the main findings as follows. The results show
that with the pairwise comparison it is possible to obtain a priority for each
individual control, and thus very granular, in the overall context of ISO/IEC
27001 for the eCommerce industry. The priorities of the larger control categories
are also very helpful, as a quick comparison of priorities is possible here. The
approach with the pairwise comparison by AHP meets all requirements of the
methodology part. Similarly, it is shown that the weighting of the pairwise
comparisons of the maturity level of eCommerce companies can be mapped very
12 Michael Schmid and Sebastian Pape
granularly to the controls of the ISO/IEC 27001 standard. It was also possible
to derive the AHP score from the maturity levels automatically. This makes it
easy to compare the rankings of the companies. The only effort which needs to
be invested (for each industry) is the prioritization of the controls.
The results suggest that the approach works in conjunction with real data
(the maturity levels of HBM’s eCommerce companies) at least for the chosen
area. The results of the comparison also withstand the reality that one of the
authors observes in his daily professional life. The results also showed that the
ranking results reflect the reality of at least the HBM eCommerce companies.
However, it can be strongly assumed that the method is directly applicable to
other companies with the same or similar results.
6.1 Limitations
For reasons of simplification and clarity, we have demonstrated the approach only
with a small number of companies. But is easily possible to run the approach
with the full set of HBM’s companies and to extend it to other business units by
readjusting the ISO/IEC 27001 controls’ priorities.
The application of the AHP methodology is not undisputed in technical
literature. At this point the authors consider some points of this criticism. On
the one hand, these are points concerning the mathematical part of the AHP
and on the other hand, the criticism is based on the procedure. In the model
calculated above, the pairwise comparison of the criteria and sub criteria has
been carried out by one person (with expert knowledge), which can be regarded
as a very subjective survey of all pair comparisons. This assumes that there are
high demands on the respondent due to the many pair comparisons, which is
why there are often problems with validity [
]. This could lead to a limitation of
the size of the decision model and is seen as a critical and possible optimization
point of the AHP methodology in literature and practice [11].
If you take a closer look at the origin of the maturity level, you immediately
notice that it is determined by the information security officer’s self-disclosure.
As with all quantification, the human factor, a lack ob objectivity or bias, cannot
be excluded here. However, it can be largely validated by a team of experts.
Another point concerns the type of data collection, the resulting prevailing data
quality and possible imponderables in data evaluation. These issues could only be
reduced but not completely eliminated by several iterations of quality assurance.
In the next chapter, some of the limitations will be discussed and further
improvements of the methodology/model will be proposed.
7 Conclusion and Future Work
The results of the pairwise comparison suggest that AHP is very well suited to
compare the information security maturity of different companies and to find the
company with the best information security within an industry.
A Structured Comparison of Corporate Information Security Maturity Level 13
It has been proven that a comparison within the eCommerce industry is
possible using this model and thus ranking the prioritization of control categories
and, above all, the individual controls can follow. The AHP provides in this case
a robust and comprehensive treatment for decision makers in both qualitative
and quantitative ways as found in this study and it can be assumed that this will
also work for other companies in the same environment. The real insight is to
adapt the AHP or the data so that it works together. The AHP-model has shown
how AHP might be used to assist decision maker evaluate information security
in one branch. Very interesting, and also for validation, would be the pairwise
comparison for other industries such as publishing houses, manufacturing industry.
Companies with very different degrees of maturity could also be interesting here.
Some of the limitations mentioned above regarding the AHP methodology
deal with the comparison of pairs. A possible improvement of the model would be
to compare it with the help of a team of experts from the eCommerce industry.
This would have the advantage that the pair comparison is subject to validation.
In future work, the focus will be on the details of implementing this model
across a variety of different examples, as well as working on more expanded
decision hierarchy with an additional level of sub criteria (control objectives).
In addition, it would be interesting to calculate the approach with different
aggregated data (min, max, median) in addition to the mean value and to observe
the effects. Furthermore, it would be interesting to apply the AHP methodology
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... A structured comparison of the corporate information security maturity level [57] This article suggests using a maturity model to measure the level of information security controls in organizations, as a direct measurement is not possible. The analytic hierarchy process (AHP) can be used to compare the level of maturity of information security controls and rank companies. ...
... The model helps distribute resources based on the criticality of the application, resulting in efficient cybersecurity funding and improved overall cybersecurity posture for the organization. 57 Steps to design a maturity model with an agile framework for the implementation of IT security management systems aligned to the policies of the Colombian government for the public sector [101] Currently, public sector companies may struggle with implementing and measuring the maturity of their information security and privacy models, despite having them in place. This proposal offers guidelines and steps to design a maturity model based on an agile framework that can be adapted to their specific needs and resources. ...
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In today’s world, private and government organizations are legally obligated to prioritize their information security. They need to provide proof that they are continually improving their cybersecurity compliance. One approach that can help organizations achieve this goal is implementing information security maturity models. These models provide a structured framework for measuring performance and implementing best practices. However, choosing a suitable model can be challenging, requiring cultural, process, and work practice changes. Implementing multiple models can be overwhelming, if possible. This article proposes a prioritization strategy for public institutions that want to improve their information security maturity. We thoroughly analyzed various sources through systematic mapping to identify critical similarities in information security maturity models. Our research led us to create the AIM (Awareness, Infrastructure, and Management) Triad. This triad is a practical guide for organizations to achieve maturity in information security practices.
... The idea to assess the maturity levels of ISO/IEC 27002 controls is also supported by standard GRC (governance, risk, compliance) tools like risk2value which is also used by major companies [8]. There also exist several academic approaches relying on similar maturity-based approaches [9,10,11]. ...
... But in practice, oftentimes, less complex variants are implemented, for example, in the VDA-ISA questionnaire, in which the controls' maturity levels are directly assessed [7]. There are several other approaches in security management based on the maturity levels of the ISO/IEC 27002 security controls [9,10]. To the best of our knowledge the quality of this kind of maturity level assessments has never been analysed in the literature. ...
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Maturity models are a widely used concept for measuring information security. The idea is to systematically evaluate the maturity of security-relevant processes in an organisation. This enables decision makers to get an overview of the implementation status of relevant processes to identify neuralgic points. Maturity models thus play a central role in the conception of information security management systems (ISMS). Some industries, for instance, the German automotive industry, have even established security maturity levels as the de facto standard for measuring information security. However, the quality of security maturity level assessments has not been sufficiently investigated yet. We have analysed to what extent security managers can accurately assess the maturity levels of security controls. To verify the quality of maturity level assessments a case study was conducted where security experts assessed a subset of the ISO/IEC 27002 security controls for a hypothetical scenario using the COBIT maturity levels. Additionally, ex-post interviews have been conducted with several study participants to verify some of the hypotheses developed during the previous analyses. Our results show that many security experts struggled with the task and did not perform well. However, we discovered professional characteristics that have a strong significant effect on the assessment capabilities. We also identified various types of additional support that can help practitioners to make more reliable assessments in practice. Moreover, the experts self-perception was overly optimistic when asked to assess their performance. We even found a weak inverted correlation for more experienced experts, also known as Dunning-Kruger effect. Our results have a strong impact on practise since they indicate that practitioners need support to carry out high-quality assessments and they also show what kind of support addresses the identified challenges.
... Again, we select security controls based on ISO/IEC 27001 along with the COBIT framework since this data is already available for all subsidiaries in the ISMS system of the large enterprise. To not further complicate the problem, we only consider e-commerce subsidiaries within the large enterprise to avoid the need of cross-domain comparisons [187]. Figure 3.11 shows a part of the evaluation. ...
... 11: AHP Applied to Security Controls in E-Commerce[187] ...
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In order to address security and privacy problems in practice, it is very important to have a solid elicitation of requirements, before trying to address the problem. In this thesis, specific challenges of the areas of social engineering, security management and privacy enhancing technologies are analyzed: Social Engineering: An overview of existing tools usable for social engineering is provided and defenses against social engineering are analyzed. Serious games are proposed as a more pleasant way to raise employees’ awareness and to train them. Security Management: Specific requirements for small and medium sized energy providers are analyzed and a set of tools to support them in assessing security risks and improving their security is proposed. Larger enterprises are supported by a method to collect security key performance indicators for different subsidiaries and with a risk assessment method for apps on mobile devices. Furthermore, a method to select a secure cloud provider – the currently most popular form of outsourcing – is provided. Privacy Enhancing Technologies: Relevant factors for the users’ adoption of privacy enhancing technologies are identified and economic incentives and hindrances for companies are discussed. Privacy by design is applied to integrate privacy into the use cases e-commerce and internet of things.
... Although organisations have complied with ISM requirements set by the industry standards, there is a lack of objective mechanisms to gauge the maturity of the implementation [18]. Even though there are attempts on ISM maturity models [19], [20], [21], [22], they mainly appear as abstract concepts. ...
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Information Security Management (ISM) is a systematic initiative in managing the organisation’s information security. ISM can also be defined as a strategic approach to addressing information security (IS) risks, breaches, and incidents that could threaten the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information. Although organisations have complied with ISM requirements, security incidents are still afflicting numerous organisations. This issue shows that the current implementation of ISM is still ineffective. The ineffective ISM implementation illustrates the low maturity level. To achieve a higher level of maturity, organisations should always evaluate their ISM practices. Several maturity models have been developed by international organisations, consultants, and researchers to assist organisations in assessing their ISM practices. However, the current models do not evaluate ISM practices holistically. The measurement dimensions in current models are more focused on assessing certain factors only. This caused the maturity assessment to be not executed comprehensively. Therefore, this study aims to address this shortcoming by proposing a comprehensive maturity assessment model that takes into account ISM success factors to evaluate the effectiveness of the implementation. This study adopted a mixed-method approach, which comprises qualitative and quantitative studies to strengthen the research finding. The qualitative study analyses the existing literature and conducts interviews with nine industry practitioners and six experts while the quantitative study involves a questionnaire survey. The data obtained from the qualitative study were analysed using content analysis while the quantitative data employed statistics analysis. The study identified fourteen success factors and fifty-seven maturity dimensions, which each contains five maturity levels. The proposed model was evaluated through experts’ reviews to ensure its accuracy and suitability. The evaluation shows that the model can identify the ISM maturity level systematically and comprehensively. This model will ultimately help the organisations to improve the weaknesses in the implementations thus diminishing security incidents.
... However, they only cover eight respectively five high-level security controls which makes clear that their informative value is far less than LiSRA's. The same also applies to other approaches like the analytic hierarchy process (AHP) based approach by Schmid and Pape that provide less informative value [47]. ...
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Information security risk assessment frameworks support decision-makers in assessing and understanding the risks their organisation is exposed to. However, there is a lack of lightweight approaches. Most existing frameworks require security-related information that are not available and that are very challenging to gather. So they are not suitable in practice, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who often lack in data and in security knowledge. On the other hand, other explicit SME approaches have far less informative value than the proposed framework. Moreover, many approaches only provide extensive process descriptions that are challenging for SMEs. In order to overcome this challenge, we propose LiSRA, a lightweight, domain-specific framework to support information security decision-making. It is designed with a two-sided input where domain experts initially provide domain-specific information (e.g. attack scenarios for a specific domain), whereupon users can focus on specifying their security practices and organisational characteristics by entering information that many organisations have already collected. This information is then linked to attack paths and to the corresponding adverse impacts in order to finally assess the total risk. Moreover, LiSRA can be used to get transparent recommendations for future security activities and presents detailed insights on the mitigating effects of each recommendation. The security activities are being evaluated taking into account the security activities already in place, and also considering the dependencies between multiple overlapping activities that can be of complementary, substitutive or dependent nature. Both aspects are ignored by most existing evaluation approaches which can lead to an over-investment in security. A prototype has been implemented, and the applicability of the framework has been evaluated with performance and robustness analyses and with initial qualitative evaluations.
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The lack of national security standardization bodies can have adverse impact on the adoption of international security standards and best practices. To assure security confidence among various organizations and to promote systematic adoption of standards and best standards, a practical framework that can support comparative measures is needed. . This paper presents GoSafe, a novel practical cybersecurity assessment framework that is tailored to the ISO 2700x standard requirements for the development of Information Security Management System (ISMS). GoSafe can be used for both self-assessment and auditing/scoring tool by national cybersecurity authorities. Using GoSafe, organizations can evaluate their existing information security management systems against local and international standards by utilizing built-in pre-audit tools. As such, GoSafe will help organizations evaluate and enhance their readiness for evolving risks and threats. In GoSafe framework, a novel mathematical model was also designed and implemented for the scoring/rating tool, namely, the national cyber security index (aeNCI). The aeNCI employs multiple parameters to determine the maturity of existing cybersecurity programs at national organizations and generate a classification and comparison reports. The efficacy of GoSafe proposed framework is demonstrated using a practical case study. The results enabled the stakeholder to verify the security configuration of their systems and identify potential attack/risk vectors.
Conference Paper
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General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has not only a great influence on data protection but also on the area of information security especially with regard to Article 32. This article emphasizes the importance of having a process to regularly test, assess and evaluate the security. The measuring of information security however, involves overcoming many obstacles. The quality of information security can only be measured indirectly using metrics and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), as no gold standard exist. Many studies are concerned with using metrics to get as close as possible to the status of information security but only a few focus on the comparison of information security metrics. This paper deals with aggregation types of corporate information security maturity levels from different assets in order to find out how the different aggregation functions effect the results and which conclusions can be drawn from them. The required model has already been developed by the authors and tested for applicability by means of case studies. In order to investigate the significance of the ranking from the comparison of the aggregation in more detail, this paper will try to work out in which way a maturity control should be aggregated in order to serve the company best in improving its security. This result will be helpful for all companies aiming to regularly assess and improve their security as requested by the GDPR. To verify the significance of the results with different sets, real information security data from a large international media and technology company has been used.
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Generally, measuring the Information Security maturity(ISM) is the first step to build a new knowledge information security management system in an organization. Knowing the ISM level helps organizations decide the type of protection strategies and policies will be taken and their priorities to strengthen their competitive ability. One of the possible ways to solve the problem is a using multiple criteria decision-making (MCDM) methodology. Analytic hierarchy process (AHP) is one of the most commonly used MCDM methods, which combines subjective and personal preferences in the information security assessment process. However, the AHP involves human subjectivity, which introduces vagueness type of uncertainty and requires the use of decision-making under those uncertainties. In this paper, the IS maturity is based on hierarchical multilevel information security gap analysis model for ISO 27001:2013 security standard. The concept of fuzzy set is applied to Analytic Hierarchical Process (AHP) to propose a model for measuring organizations IS maturity under uncertain environment. Using fuzzy AHP approach helps determine more efficiently importance weights of factors and indicators, especially deal with imprecise and uncertain expert comparison judgments. A case study is used to illustrate the better new method for IS evaluation
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Cyber space is affecting all areas of our life. Cloud computing is the cutting-edge technology of this cyber space and has established itself as one of the most important resources sharing technologies for future on-demand services and infrastructures that support Internet of Things (IOTs), big data platforms and software-defined systems/services. More than ever, security is vital for cloud environment. There exist several cloud security models and standards dealing with emerging cloud security threats. However, these models are mostly reactive rather than proactive and they do not provide adequate measures to assess the overall security status of a cloud system. Out of existing models, capability maturity models, which have been used by many organizations, offer a realistic approach to address these problems using management by security domains and security assessment on maturity levels. The aim of the paper is twofold: first, it provides a review of capability maturity models and security metrics; second, it proposes a cloud security capability maturity model (CSCMM) that extends existing cyber security models with a security metric framework.
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measuring information security is difficult; it is difficult to have one metrics that covers all types of devices. Security metrics is a standard used for measuring any organization's security. Good metrics are needed for analysts to answer many security related questions. Effective measurement and reporting are required to improve effectiveness and efficiency of controls, and ensure strategic alignment in an objective, reliable, and efficient manner. This paper provides an overview of the security metrics and its definition, standards, advantages, types, problems, taxonomies, risk assessment methods and also classifies the security metrics and explains its risks.
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Information security can be achieved by implementing a set of appropriate controls. However, identifying and selecting the most effective information security controls in organizations have been major challenges for years. Although many studies have been done to address these challenges, there is still lack of research to rank these controls. In this study, a fuzzy Analytic Hierarchy Process was used to prioritize and select effective managerial domains and control objectives in information security controls. In this research, the process of implementing ISO 27001 Information Security in National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company was selected. According to results, the access control, information systems acquisition, development and maintenance have the highest priorities among the information security controls in managerial domains. On the other hand, the business continuity management and asset management have the lowest priorities among the studied information security controls. Furthermore, it was found that among 39 control objectives, the user access management and third party service delivery management have the highest and lowest priorities, respectively.
This book offers a simple introduction to the theory and practice of the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) without a pre-requisite for a sophisticated mathematical background. AHP is an intuitive and mathematically simple methodology in the field of multi-criteria decision making in Operational Research (OR). Using Super Decisions v3, the newly developed software by the Creative Decisions Foundations, this book provides a quick and intuitive understanding of AHP using spreadsheet examples and step-by-step software instructions. Super Decisions v3 marks a drastic departure from the previous version 2 in terms of interface and ratings model development. In addition to a concise guide, instructional videos are also available to demonstrate how to use the different features of Super Decisions v3. Most AHP books assume the reader has basic OR mathematical background; however, AHP was developed with the goal that decision makers can take advantage of this methodology without struggling with the mathematics behind it. For this reason, only basic arithmetic knowledge is required from the readers. In conclusion, this book delivers a quick and practical understanding of the AHP methodology that can be useful for corporate executives and decision-makers in all fields.
This book offers a simple introduction to the fundamentals and applications of the Analytic Hierarchy Process (AHP) without a pre-requisite for a sophisticated mathematical background. It provides a quick and intuitive understanding of the methodology using spreadsheet examples and explains in a step-by-step fashion how to use Super Decisions, a freely available software developed by the Creative Decisions Foundations. The book is intended to be a resource for decision makers with little or no exposure to the field of Operations Research (OR); however, the book can be used as a very gentle introduction to the AHP methodology and/or as an AHP hands-on supplement for standard OR textbooks. AHP is an intuitive and mathematically simple methodology in the field of multi-criteria decision making. Because of this, most AHP books assume the reader has basic OR mathematical background. However, AHP simplicity suggests that decision makers from all disciplines can take advantage of the methodology without struggling with the mathematics behind it. To fulfill this need, this book delivers a quick and practical understanding of the method that can be useful for corporate executives.