Utilize Maturity Models to Identify Program Weaknesses

Written by CISOSHARE

March 26, 2018

25 min read

Information security often takes the back seat with the day-to-day challenges of running an organization. 

Even within businesses that have implemented an information security program, they often don’t detect problems until a serious security breach occurs. 

Unfortunately, many companies don’t utilize more advanced or proactive stances on cyber security until the breach forces them to deal with the problems that haven’t been addressed by their reactive approach. 

For organizations that are unsure of where their security program stands in terms of preparedness, capability security maturity models can provide an objective way to test preparedness and make improvements. 

What are CMM, CMMC, CMI, and where do you begin?

Learn more about security maturity model alignment to these, and more!

What is Capability Maturity Modeling? 

Capability maturity modeling, or CMM, is a formal process used by organizations to measure and improve their programs and processes. “Maturity” in this case, relates to how formal and optimized processes are for any given program. 

In this case, a security maturity model is a set of characteristics or indicators that represent capability and progression within an organization’s security program. 

Maturity modeling based on CMM focuses on creating processes that are thorough, repeatable, and have the potential to improve continuously. 

Capability maturity modeling works to automate these processes to make them an effective part of an organization’s overall operational infrastructure. 

Utilizing CMM can help an organization identify the areas where their process is reactive to security threats. From there, the organization can rework their processes to be more proactive and implement measurable improvements. 

Aspects of a Security Maturity Model 

A capability security maturity model defines five distinct maturity levels. Each of these levels indicates that an organization is at a certain level of optimization for their security processes. 

As an organization progresses from one level to the next, their processes will move from unorganized and unstructured to a level where their data processes run smoothly and are continuously optimized. 

There are key process areas (KPAs) that characterize each level of the maturity model. KPAs are a cluster of related practices that, when they are implemented together, satisfy goals that are set to improve a given area of the program.

The following KPAs are what organizations should keep in mind at each level of the maturity model:

  • The commitment to perform
  • The ability to perform
  • The activities performed
  • Measurement and analysis of the results
  • Verifying the implementation of processes

The above KPAs should be considered within each of the following maturity model levels:

Level 1: Initial 

At this level, there are no organized processes in place. Processes are ad hoc and informal. Security processes are reactive and not repeatable, measurable, or scalable. 

Level 2: Repeatable 

At this stage of maturity, some processes become repeatable. A formal program has been initiated to some degree, although discipline is lacking. Some processes have been established, defined, and documented. 

Level 3: Defined 

Here, processes have become formal, standardized, and defined. This helps create consistency across the organization. 

Level 4: Managed 

At this stage, the organization begins to measure, refine, and adapt their security processes to make them more effective and efficient based on the information they receive from their program. 

Level 5: Optimizing 

An organization operating at Level 5 has processes that are automated, documented, and constantly analyzed for optimization. At this stage, cybersecurity is part of the overall culture. 

Reaching Level 5 doesn’t mean that an organization’s maturity has peaked, however. It means that they are constantly monitoring and evolving their processes to make them better. 

Why Use a Security Maturity Model? 

There are different types of security maturity models, utilizing similar maturity levels, that can work for your organization. The key to effectively utilizing a security maturity model is to use them to understand and identify weaknesses in organizational processes.

By using a security maturity model, an organization can transform from struggling to manage their information security processes to ensuring that they’re fully optimized and functional across the board. 

Security maturity models can also be used as a path to metrics and measurement from which you can communicate and visualize improvements with your security program more easily. 

Want to understand how mature your security program really is, and measure alignment to multiple frameworks and maturity models all with one tool? We can help you quickly see where you stand without the need for multiple extensive security program assessments. 

Build a Compliant and Mature Security Program

Download a complimentary white paper on how to use a maturity model!