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Practical UNIX and Internet Security, 3rd Edition by Alan Schwartz, Gene Spafford, Simson Garfinkel

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Risk Assessment

The first step in improving the security of your system is to answer these basic questions:

  • What am I trying to protect and how much is it worth to me?

  • What do I need to protect against?

  • How much time, effort, and money am I willing to expend to obtain adequate protection?

These questions form the basis of the process known as risk assessment. Risk assessment is a very important part of the computer security process. You cannot formulate protections if you do not know what you are protecting and what you are protecting those things against! After you know your risks, you can then plan the policies and techniques that you need to implement to reduce those risks.

For example, if there is a risk of a power failure and if availability of your equipment is important to you, you can reduce this risk by installing an uninterruptable power supply (UPS).

Steps in Risk Assessment

Risk assessment involves three key steps:

  1. Identifying assets and their value

  2. Identifying threats

  3. Calculating risks

There are many ways to go about this process. One method with which we have had great success is a series of in-house workshops. Invite a broad cross-section of knowledgeable users, managers, and executives from throughout your organization. Over the course of a series of meetings, compose your lists of assets and threats. Not only does this process help to build a more complete set of lists, it also helps to increase awareness of security in everyone who attends.

An actuarial approach is more ...

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