Luís Enrique Sánchez, Daniel Villafranca
SICAMAN NT. Departamento de I+D, Juan José Rodrigo, 4. Tomelloso, Ciudad Real, Spain
Eduardo Fernández-Medina, Mario Piattini
ALARCOS Research Group. TSI Department. University of Castilla-La Mancha
Paseo de la Universidad, 4 – 13071 Ciudad Real, Spain
Keywords: ISMS, SME, Maturity Model, Risk Analysis.
Abstract: The maturity and security management systems are essential in order to guarantee the continuity and
stability of the companies in the current market situation. However, this requires that enterprises know in
every moment their security maturity level and to what extend their information security system must
evolve. In small and medium-sized enterprises, the application of security standards has an additional
problem, which is the fact that they do not have enough resources to carry out an appropriate management.
This security management system must have highly reduced costs for its implementation and maintenance
in small and medium-sized enterprises (from here on refered to as SMEs) to be feasible. In this paper, we
will put forward our proposal of a maturity model for security management in SMEs and we will briefly
analyse other models that exist in the market. This approach is being directly applied to real cases, thus
obtaining a constant improvement in its application.
Information and processes supporting systems and
nets are the most important assets for any
organization (Dhillon and Backhouse 2000) and they
suppose the main differentiating factor in the
evolution of an enterprise. These assets are exposed
to a great variety of risks that may critically affect
enterprises. There are many sources that provide us
with figures showing the importance of the
problems caused by a lack of adequate security
measures (Wood 2000; CSI 2002; Hyder et al. 2004;
Biever 2005; Telang and Wattal 2005; Goldfarb
At present, tackling the implementation of a
security management system is extremely complex
for a small or medium-sized enterprise (Pertier 2003;
Kim and I.Choi 2005). The tendency in the field of
enterprise security is that of gradually migrating
their culture towards the creation of a security
management system (ISMS), despite the fact that
this progression is very slow. Thus, studies such as
that of René Sant-Germain (Sant-Germain 2005)
estimate that with the current models, by 2009 only
35% of the enterprises in the world which employ
more than 2000 people will have implemented an
ISMS, and that the figures for SMEs will be much
At present, the market demands that enterprises
are able to guarantee that technologies for computer
assets and information are secure, fast and easy to
interact with (Corti et al. 2005). However, in order
to fulfill these requirements, the system
administrators have discovered two problems with
no satisfactory solution: a lack of tools to allow
them to confront the management of information
system security in a centralized, simple way and
(according to the size of the enterprises) a lack of
information security (Pertier 2003; Kim and I.Choi
The first problem is still unsolved, but we
believe that by solving the second problem we shall
be able to solve the first. With regard to the second
Enrique Sánchez L., Villafranca D., Fernández-Medina E. and Piattini M. (2007).
In Proceedings of the Second International Conference on Security and Cryptography, pages 355-362
DOI: 10.5220/0002122003550362
problem, not only national organizations but also
international ones have gone to great lengths to
elaborate a set of rules and specifications related to
the security of information and communication
technologies. These rules are above all focused on
the definition of security controls through codes of
good practices, rules defining security management
systems and rules with criteria to certify security.
Nevertheless, the situation is complex, and for a
small or medium-sized enterprise it is an extremely
difficult task to implement a security management
system which may have several levels of exigency,
and with their limited resources. In addition, the
process almost always gives rise to the situation of
the enterprise being forced to take the risk of not
having a security management system because it is
not able to implement it.
In this paper, we shall describe a new proposal
for a maturity model and security management
orientated towards SMEs, aimed at solving the
problems detected in classical models which are
proving to be inefficient when implemented in
SMEs due to both their complexity and another
series of factors that will be analysed in detail in the
following sections of the paper.
The remainder of this paper is organized as
follows: Section 2 very briefly describes existing
maturity models, their current tendencies and some
of the new proposals that are appearing. Section 3,
introduces our proposal for a maturity model
orientated towards SMEs. Finally, in Section 4, we
shall conclude by discussing our future work on this
Security Maturity Models (COBIT 2000; Eloff and
Eloff 2003; Lee et al. 2003; Aceituno 2005; Areiza
et al. 2005; Barrientos and Areiza 2005) are
designed with the intention of establishing a
standardized valuation which can not only be used to
determine the state of security information in an
organization but which also allows us to plan the
means by which to attain the desired security goals.
These maturity levels will be progressive, meaning
that the information security implemented increases
at the same time as maturity levels rise.
Almost all the defined maturity models, have
common domains, and matrixes have been
developed (Institute; Eloff and Eloff 2003; Jimmy
Heschl 2006) which make it possible to interconnect
and relate maturity models to each other, so that they
can be compared and interconnected with each
Among the information security models (Areiza
et al. 2005) that are most frequently applied to
enterprises nowadays, we can highlight SSE-CMM
(Systems Security Engineering Capability and
Maturity Model), COBIT (COBIT 2000) and ISM3
(Walton 2002), Moreover, although research to
develop new models has been carried out, none of it
has been able to solve the current problems that
occur at the time of applying those models to SMEs.
Among these new proposals we can highlight
CC_SSE-CCM developed by Jongsook Lee (Lee et
al. 2003), which is based on the Common Criteria
(CC), and the SSE-CMM model developed by Eloff
and Eloff (Eloff and Eloff 2003), which defines four
different classes of protection allowing a progressive
increase in security levels.
Other proposals see risk analysis as being the
central concept of ISMS. Among these, we can
highlight the proposal by Karen & Barrientes
(Barrientos and Areiza 2005) and UE CORAS (IST-
2000-25031) (Lund et al. 2003).
The majority of the current models based on
risks use the Magerit v2 risk analysis (MageritV2
2005) as a methodology. The problem with the
Magerit is that as it is the most complete and
efficient risk analysis that exists in the market, it is
not useful for SMEs since it implies both an
enormous complexity when collecting data and the
direct involvement of users.
As opposed to those models which see risk
analysis as being the nucleus of ISMS, in our case,
and although we consider it to be very important, it
is only seen as one more piece in the system. Siegel
(Siegel et al. 2002) points out that computer security
models that are exclusively centred upon risk
elimination models are not enough. On the other
hand, Garigue (Garigue and Stefaniu 2003)
highlights that nowadays managers wish to know not
only what has been done to mitigate risks but also
that this task has been effectively carried out and
whether its performance has allowed the company to
save money.
We must take into account that risk analysis is an
expensive process which cannot be repeated any
time a modification is performed. Hence, it is
important to develop specific methodologies which
allow the maintenance of risk analysis results. UE
Coras’ (Lund et al. 2003) project makes this risk
analysis maintenance the main point of its model.
The way in which to confront these maturity
levels differs according to the authors taken as a
reference. Thus, some authors insist on using
SECRYPT 2007 - International Conference on Security and Cryptography
ISO/IEC 17799 international regulation in security
management models but always in an incremental
manner which takes the particular security needs
into consideration (Von Solms and Von Solms 2001;
Walton 2002; Eloff and Eloff 2003; Barrientos and
Areiza 2005).
The proposal presented in this paper is also
based on the ISO/IEC 17799 international regulation
but has been orientated towards its application in
SMEs and an avoidance of the problems detected in
current models.
The Information Security Maturity Model that we
propose allows any organization to evaluate the state
of its security but is mainly orientated towards
SMEs since it develops simple, cheap, rapid,
automated, progressive and maintainable security
management models, which are the main
requirements of these enterprises when
implementing these models. Furthermore, small and
medium size companies represent more than 95% of
Spanish companies and for this reason, we could not
consider the Spanish set of enterprises mature from a
technological viewpoint until we could not achieve
an adequate security level in small and medium size
enterprises. The most outstanding characteristics of
our model are the following: i) it has three security
levels (1 to 3) instead of the 5-6 levels proposed by
the classical models, ii) we propose that each level is
certifiable instead of the total certification that exists
at present, and finally, iii) the maturity level is
associated with the characteristics of the enterprise.
In this way, and by using the information
obtained from customers who use SICAMAN, we
have developed a spirally structured maturity model
(see Figure 1). This model has the aim of facilitating
the performance of fast and economic cycles which
allow us to create a security culture within the
organization, in a constant and progressive way. The
purpose of our model is, initially, to carry out an
estimation of the enterprise maturity level at a low
cost and in a short period of time, so as to determine
a project plan which can be presented the company’s
board of directors. Other characteristic of our model
is that it has the purpose of carrying out the
proposed plans in a short term instead of the plans
derived from the current models that have a long
duration and this fact makes them totally inadequate
for the current changing structure of small and
medium size enterprises.
Another of the main contributions presented by
the model that we have developed is a set of
matrixes which allow us to relate the various
components of ISMS (controls, assets, threats,
vulnerabilities, risk, procedures, registers, templates,
technical instructions, regulations and metrics) and
which the system uses to automatically generate a
large amount of the necessary information, noticably
reducing the necessary period of time for ISMS
development and implementation. This set of
interrelations between all of the ISMS components
means that if there is any change in these
components in any of those objects, the
measurement value of the rest of the objects in the
system is altered so that we can always have an
updated valuation of how the security system of the
company evolves.
Figure 1: Simplified Diagram of the spiral model phases.
By using this model, we are always able to
estimate, in a minimum period of time, the maturity
level of the enterprise’s ISMS and are also able to
identify the set of rules that best adapt themselves to
it. We are thus able to propose realistic short-term
goals for the company’s expected evolution for each
spiral cycle. Once we have identified the current
maturity level of the enterprise, an improvement
plan will be created and will be presented to the
board of directors. The main objective of this will be
that of complementing the current maturity level in
order to reach the following maturity level.
Figure 2: Simplified Diagram of the spiral model phases.
The security management model is formed of
three phases and the results of each of the previous
phases are necessary for the following phase (see
Figure 2). At the same time, there is information
feedback from Phase III to Phases I and II which
allows the system to modify its parameters if
necessary, and to adapt itself to the new
In the following section, we will give a
summerized analysis of the functioning of each
phase of the model by reviewing and analysing the
algorithms that the system uses to generate adequate
information for the enterprise with minimum effort.
At the end of the section, we will briefly present the
tool used to automate the model.
3.1 Phase I: Establishment of the
Current and Desired Maturity
The main objective of this phase is the establishment
of the security level desirable for the enterprise and
later, the current security level will be obtained
through the audit. Moreover, vital information for
Phases II and III will be obtained.
Figure 3: Diagram of the Spiral Model Phase I.
This section is composed of two sub-phases (see
Figure 3):
Establishment of the enterprise profile:
The model that we propose uses a set of
characteristics intrinsic to the enterprise in
order to define the maximum maturity level
to which the enterprise must evolve taking
into account the current situation. Each of
these parameters is translated into a value
and the normalized sum of these values
determines the maximum maturity level that
the system considers appropriate for the
The equation (1) to calculate the maturity level
associated with the company is as follows:
Σ(SectWeight*(ValFactor/MaxValFactor)/ Σ(SectWeight)
According to that expression and our practical
experience with our customers, we have considered
three maturity levels (see Figure 4):
1: If the result is between 0-0.25.
2: If the result is between 0.25–0.75.
3: If the result is between 0.75–1.
Figure 4: Phase I – Maturity Levels.
The different elements of this expression are
shown below:
o Factors: Factors represent a set of
parameters that we have selected and that
have an effect upon determining the
security dimensioning which is adequate for
the enterprise. In the current version, the
following parameters have been considered:
i) Number of employees, ii) Annual
turnover, iii) Dependency on I+D
Department, iv) Number of employees
using the Information System, v) Number
of people directly associated with the
Systems Department, vi) Level of enterprise
dependency on I.S. outsourcing.
These factors have values ranges associated
that are determined depending on the
characteristics of the enterprise.
o WeightFactor: This is a correct parameter
extracted from a matrix which assigns
values to the factor—sector pair. This
parameter of the equation allows us to
control the deviations that the special
characteristics of enterprises belonging to
certain sectors may produce.
SECRYPT 2007 - International Conference on Security and Cryptography
Initial Security Audit: This subphase,
included in Phase I, consists of performing a
detailed check-list that helps us position the
current state of the company with regard to
its maturity level. The 735 subcontrols can
belong to different maturity levels, although
in the initial configuration that we
recommend all subcontrols belong to a same
3.2 Phase II: Risk Analysis
Once we have carried out the first phase to position
the enterprise at a Maturity Level and to decide to
what extend the ISMS implementation must be
developed, we must perform a risk analysis of the
enterprise assets (see Figure 5).
This phase is extremely delicate due to the high
cost that it may suppose and the importance of its
results in the success of the ISMS.
The risk analysis model that we have developed
is based on the models proposed by Stephenson
(Stephenson 2004) which are centered upon the
synergy between technical testing and risk analysis,
taking ISO17799 and the Magerit v2 risk analysis
methodology (MageritV2 2005) as a reference.
These models have not proved to be adequate for
SMEs for the following reasons: Firstly, they are
enormously complex, in the second place, they
require an enormous effort of involvement from the
members of the enterprise, and finally the costs
associated with them are not acceptable to this type
of enterprises.
Phase II
(Risk Analysis)
Risk Matrix
Plan Generation
Assets -
Threats -
Risk Criteria
List of assets
Risk Level
Do.I.1 y 2
Improvement Plan
= Matrixes
Σ = Equations
= Algoriths
= Levels
Do = Documents
De = Deliverables
Phase III
Phase I
Figure 5: Diagram of the Spiral Model Phase II.
For this reason, in our model we have tried at all
times to simplify the previous models in order to
make them adequate for use in SMEs. The main
bases on which our methodology is defined are:
Flexibility, Simplicity and Cost Efficiency (both
human and temporal). It is, therefore, a methodology
aimed at identifying enterprise assets and their
associated risks at the lowest possible cost, by using
the results generated in Phase I and some simple
This risk analysis will be formed of different
objects (Assets, Threats, Vulnerabilities, Impacts
and Risks) which interact with each other.
One of the most important aspects of the risk
analysis that we have developed is that of
Association Matrixes which allow us to minimize
the cost of risk analysis and to produce the
maximum result and information for the enterprise
with the minimum effort. There have been
performed a series of matrixes that allow us to
associate the different components of the risk
analysis (assets-threats-vulnerabilities) and at the
same time, these components with the results
produced in Phase I (controls). These matrixes are of
great importance due to the fact that they help us
both to simplify risk analysis and to obtain a
valoration of the level of coverage of an asset with
regard to ISO/IEC 17999 controls. These matrixes
are static although the consultant may decide to
modify them in other to make them more adequate
for the company’s needs:
Assets vs vulnerabilities Matrix: This
allows us to associate assets with the
vulnerabilities that may affect them.
Threats vs vulnerabilities Matrix: This
allows us to associate vulnerabilities to each
type of threat.
ISO17799 threats vs controls Matrix: This
makes it possible to associate threats with
the ISO17799 controls which affect them,
and thanks to the previous matrixes; it also
allows us to give a security level to an asset
from the controls associated with it.
Assets-Threats vs Risk Criteria: This matrix
makes it possible to associate the assets and
threats of a company with regard to the risk
criteria we have defined (Confidentiality,
Integrity, Availability y Legality). Although
in the current version, the risk generation
algorithm doesn’t use this matrix for the
improvement plan, it is used for the report
Another of the aspects provided in our risk
model is that of Level of fulfilment of a control
subjected to an unacceptable risk. The level of
fulfilment of a control is of vital importance at the
time of prioritizing the system improvement plan
because it permits us to determine the level of
current coverage of a particular asset. In the case of
an asset whose risk is high because of the impact
that a security error might have upon the
organization and which, at the same time, has low
control coverage, we must prioritize the increase of
such coverage in order to raise its level of
Finally, the risk analysis will be based on two
Risk Level Algorithm: The definition of risk
level (RN) will be given by the combination
of the probability (P) of occurrence
(vulnerabilities) with the threat level (TL).
Improvement Plan Generation Algorithm.
For the current phase of the project, the
improvement plan generation algorithm that
has been developed is very basic and it is
only generated by taking as a reference the
assets that have obtained a high risk and
ordering them from highest to lowest
according to the control coverage. With the
results obtained, the system achieves the
controls, and issues a report indicating the
control that must be improved and those
factors that will improve.
3.3 Phase III: ISMS Generation
In this phase, we have tried to make ISMS
manageable, orientated towards the dominions of the
most interesting regulation for the organization and
to reduce the number of metrics, thus obtaining rapid
results and feeding back the process in each cycle
with the purpose of achieving the initially indicated
maturity level.
In the previous phases, we have obtained the
enterprise profile, its current maturity level, its
maximum advisable maturity level, the state of its
controls, its assets, the risks associated with it and
the improvement plan. With all this information, the
system is now ready to automatically prepare an
information system management plan for the
enterprise, using a series of matrixes associated with
the previous results to do so (see Figure 6).
Figure 6: Diagram of the Spiral Model Phase III.
This set of matrixes which, together with those
shown in Phases I and II, are the main contributions
of our model will be internally used by the system to
determine which procedures, technical instructions,
registers, etc. must be activated for the enterprise.
The objects library of which the ISMS
application is composed will steadily grow, so for
this reason we have preferred to generate the first
version of the model with a single library composed
of the following set of objects (4 technical
instructions, 25 regulations, 65 patterns, 50
procedures, 35 register).
In this phase of ISMS generation, one of the
most important aspects is that of the Association
Matrixes which allow us to associate all the objects
in these libraries. These matrixes are internally used
by the system to recommend an ISMS initial plan for
the SME according to the information obtained in
previous phases. There are four types of matrixes:
Relationship between regulation and
documents: The regulation defines the rules
that must be fulfilled in an ISMS concrete
subject. The violation of a rule of this
regulation is normally associated with the
non-fulfilment of other objects (procedures,
patterns, registers and so on).
Relationship between regulation and
ISO17779: This matrix allows us to
associate the regulation rules with
ISO17799 controls in a way in which we
can measure the non-fulfilment of
ISO17799 controls.
Relationship between documents and
ISO17799 controls: This is the most
important matrix since it allows us to
SECRYPT 2007 - International Conference on Security and Cryptography
associate the documents by composing our
model with ISO17799 controls.
Relationship between procedures and their
associated documents: This matrix is at
present used as a reference by which to
determine which documents are input/output
and which are only input or only output.
Matrixes associated with ISO17799 are vitally
important in the design of our system since they are
used by the algorithm for the selection of those
documents and procedures which are considered
vitally important not only for the ISMS design but
also for its subsequent follow-up.
To finish this phase, an ISMS generation
Algorithm is used. Given the enormous scope of the
research, the ISMS generation Algorithm has been
developed by seeking the simplicity principle. This
algorithm is composed of the following steps: ISMS
objects Selection and Application of colour codes.
The final result of this phase will be a set of
regulations and procedures that must be fulfilled if
the security level of the enterprise is to improve.
They will have a colour code which will visually and
rapidly indicate to its users where a greater effort
must be made. ISMS will be dynamic; adapting it
self to the changes in control coverage levels along
with those in the security levels, depending upon
how the system evolves. The evolution of the system
will be measured through a set of metrics defined
upon the ISMS set of objects.
Despite the enormous efforts that are being made to
create adequate maturity models to manage security
in SMEs, these do not yet fit properly with the
environment in which they must be implemented.
The most probable reason for this is the lack of
maturity of the enterprises as well as the fact that
they have tried to implement models which are too
general and ambitious.
In this paper, we have presented a proposal for a
new maturity and security management model
orientated towards SMEs which allows us to
reconfigure and adapt existing models in order to
guarantee the security and the stability of their
management system with regard to the dimension of
each enterprise. To do so, we have defined a
methodology and a tool able to support the results
that have been generated during the research (the
tool has not been described in this paper due to
space restrictions). We have clearly defined how this
new maturity model must be used and the
improvements that it offers with regard to the
classical models.
Some of the main and most valuable conclusions
obtained from the feedback of the participant
enterprises in which several models have been
analysed are shown below:
The majority of the SMEs have very similar
security structures. This characteristic
makes it possible to develop automated
security systems by means of the definition
of static matrixes, which can later be
If we over-dimension the security level of
an enterprise with regard to its size, a
degradation of the controls that we have
over-dimensioned will be produced until
they reach their natural balance.
Enterprises are shown to be more receptive
to very short-term implementation plans
than to long- term ones.
The maturity model presented reduces the
system’s implementation costs and also improves
the percentage of success of its implementation in
SMEs. For these reasons, as the majority of our
customers are SMEs, our proposal is being well
received and its application is being very positive
because it allows this type of enterprises access to
the use of security maturity models which, until
now, has only been possible for large enterprises.
As this proposal is under constant development,
our short and long term objective is that of studying
maturity models to a greater depth so as to refine
both our model and the tool that is being developed
at the same time as the model.
Among the model improvements that we intend
to work on in the future, it is worth highlighting that
we wish:
To improve the algorithms of which the
system is composed in order to increase their
effectiveness in decision making.
To include a planner of the time and the
resources that the company wants to spend
on the project, so that the system will be
able to estimate time-milestones in the
improvement plan.
In Phase III, to include a library with the
subprojects that should be worked on to
improve the security management system
With the help of the “action research” research
method and the feedback directly obtained from our
customers, we hope to achieve a continuous
improvement in these implementations.
This research is part of the following projects:
(PBC-06-0082), both supported by the FEDER and
the “Consejería de Ciencia y Tecnología de la Junta
de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha”,
RETISTRUST (TIN2006-26885-E) granted by the
“Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia” (Spain), and
Proyect SCMM-PYME (FIT-360000-2006-73)
supported by the PROFIT granted by the “Ministerio
de Industria, Turismo y Comercio).
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