Maturity Modelling to Prepare for Cyber Crisis Escalation and
Grethe Østby
and Basel Katt
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Department of Information Security and Communication Technology,
Gjøvik, Norway
{grethe.ostby, basel.katt}
Keywords: Crisis Management, Maturity Escalation Model, Maturity Models, Crisis Escalation, Maturity Model Evaluation.
Abstract: The aim of this study is to evaluate a newly developed maturity escalation model, that is based on ISO 27005
and ISO 27035 standards. The evaluation is done by applying the model to assess the maturity escalation level
of an organization in the healthcare domain in Norway, which is called the Inland Hospital Trust. In this study,
we applied several theories, including escalation management modelling. After using and analysing the
maturity model in the healthcare organization context, we identified drawbacks of the current maturity
escalation model, and suggest improvements.
Recent industrial research report indicates that if an
organization was to use technology alone to
remediate security vulnerabilities, it would only solve
26 percent of the cyber security problem (Cisco,
2018). Consequently, it appears that in order to
remediate a major part of the problems, i.e. 74%,
social or socio-technical remedies need to be
considered. Related socio-technical security research
on incident handling and readiness of organization
and society in general has focused on modelling and
measuring incident maturity in organization and
create new tools and programs to process and
communicate security intelligence in organizations.
Although tools and programs have been
implemented, Bruer research has shown that the
current competence levels on digitalization process
among leaders in the public sector in Norway has led
computer security work to be isolated from strategic
planning daily operation (Bruer, 2017).
Consequently, upper management (leaders) are
focused on efficiency, not to society readiness and
emergency preparedness (Baugerød Stokke, 2009).
The Norwegian Auditor General's administration
study number 1, 2018 about digitalization in
governmental sector, concluded that the digitalization
among departments and directorates is going too
slowly (Office of the Auditor General of Norway,
2018). However, cyber security and safety are not
mentioned in any part of the report, only personal
information in the matter of how to transfer these data
from one department to another. This is also
underlined by governmental priorities.
“Norwegian health authorities have identified a
common goal for ICT development in the Health and
Care sector for the years to come: a health service
where the patient is in the centre. E-health solutions
allow for better communication and information flow
between actors that interact regarding patients in the
specialist health services and in the municipalities.”
Bent Høye, Norwegian Health minister
Digitalization appears to require more complex
risk- and resilience analysis process than those that
society has been using in the past (Haimes, 2009).
Communication in public to enhance the
understanding and the significance of cyber- security
and safety within public services is therefore required
to improve the awareness of the consequence’s socio-
technical cyber failures may have.
Current research indicates that governmental
maturity in different departments and organizations
within a country differs (Wahlgren & Kowalski,
2016), and that before generalized country wide
cyber-security solutions can be adopted, there is a
need to understand the current escalation maturity
levels of relevant departments and organizations.
In the research this paper refers to, we have used
an escalation maturity model newly developed by
Wahlgren and Kowalski (Wahlgren & Kowalski,
2019) to test the level of maturity in the Inland
hospital trust of Norway. As the model is newly
developed and only tested in Sweden before, we aim
to expand the use, and evaluate it usefulness to
differentiate the maturity on different layers in an
organization. We analysed the results of our study and
compared them to similar research in Sweden.
Furthermore, we evaluated the maturity model used,
and we suggest some changes to the model to make it
better usable for organizational improvement and
vaster use.
After the introduction, in section 2, we present
background and relevant literature. In section 3, we
present materials and methods used in the test, before
presenting the results from the test in section 4. In
section 5, we discuss the results and the use of the
model, to present conclusions and future directions in
section 6.
There appears to be a disconnect between how risk is
managed at the different levels in society. The
National Institute of Standards and Technology
(NIST) has ranged three different tiers in the
framework of risk management. These tiers are
strategic, tactical and operational (Locke &
Gallagher, 2011). Wahlgren and Kowalski has used
socio-technical methods to model and measure the
degree of maturity between these different levels of
Swedish government agencies (Wahlgren &
Kowalski, 2019). The escalation maturity model is
presented in figure 1.
Figure 1: Escalation management model.
Risk assessment and risk treatment in the
escalation model is based on ISO/IEC 27005, which
provides information security risk management
guidance, including advice on risk assessment, risk
treatment, risk acceptance, risk communication, risk
monitoring and risk review (ISO 27005, 2018). As
Figure 2 illustrates, the information security risk
management process can be iterative for risk
assessment and/or risk treatment activities. An
iterative approach to conducting risk assessment can
increase the depth and detail of the assessment at each
iteration. The iterative approach provides a good
balance between minimizing the time and effort spent
in identifying controls, while still ensuring that high
risk is appropriately assessed.
Figure 2: Information security risk management guidance.
The context is established first. Then a risk
assessment is conducted. If this provides sufficient
information to effectively determine the actions
required to modify the risks to an acceptable level,
then the task is complete, and the risk treatment
follows. If the information is insufficient, another
iteration of the risk assessment with revised context
(e.g. risk evaluation criteria, risk acceptance criteria
or impact criteria) is conducted, possibly on limited
parts of the total scope (see figure 2, risk decision
point 1). The effectiveness of the risk treatment
depends on the results of the risk assessment.
Responsibilities in Wahlgren and Kowalski model is
based on ISO 27035 part 1 and ISO 27035 part 2,
especially the 27035 – 2, which gives guidelines to
planning and preparedness for incident response.
To diffuse cyber-security awareness and prepare
for cyber-incidents and exercise best practice,
Wahlgren and Kowalski suggested the use of
escalation maturity models research (Wahlgren &
Kowalski, 2016). Maturity models have become
popular in many industries since the development of
the Capability Maturity Model for Software (SW-
A maturity model consists of a sequence of
maturity levels for a class of objects. It represents an
anticipated, desired, or typical evolution path of these
objects shaped as discrete stages. In our context, these
objects are organizations or processes. The bottom
stage stands for an initial state that can be, for
instance, characterized by an organization having
little capabilities in the domain under consideration.
In contrast, the highest stage represents a conception
of total maturity (Becker, Knackstedt, & Pöppelbuß,
Additionally, maturity models outline
characteristics associated with various levels of
maturity, thereby serving as the basis for an
organization’s capability maturity assessment. The
models serve to help organizations to understand their
“as is” situation and enable them to transition to the
desired “to be” maturity, through deriving and
implementing specific practices or improvement
roadmaps. These improvement maps support a
stepped progression with respect to organizations
capabilities, enabling them to fulfil the characteristics
required to meet specific maturity levels (Carcary,
If a maturity model is purely descriptive on
progression though, the application of the model
would be single point encounters with no provision
for improving maturity or providing relationships to
performance. This type of model is good for assessing
the here-and-now i.e. the as-is situation. A
prescriptive model provides emphasis on the domain
relationships to business performance and indicates
how to approach maturity improvement in order to
positively affect business value i.e. enables the
development of a road-map for improvement (Bruin
et al., 2005). De Bruin suggest 6 phases to
successfully implement the use of maturity-models:
1. Scope, 2. Design, 3. Populate, 4. Test., 5. Deploy
and 6. Maintain.
In this paper, we approach the challenges mentioned
in the introduction, using what can be referred to as a
naive inductivist approach. The naïve inductivist
approach starts by first observing a phenomenon and
then generalizing the phenomenon which leads to
theories that can be falsified or validated (Kowalski,
1994). This approach will use the methodology
outlined by design science research in information
systems (DSRIS) (Kuechler & Vaishnavi, 2012). This
methodology uses artefact design and construction
(learning through building) to generate new
knowledge and insights into a class of problems.
DSRIS requires three general activities: (1)
construction of an artefact where construction is
informed either by practice-based insight or theory,
(2) gathering of data on the functional performance of
the artefact (i.e., evaluation), and (3) reflection on the
construction process and on the implications the
gathered data (from activity (2)) have for the artefact
informing insight(s) or theory(s) (Kuechler &
Vaishnavi, 2012).
How to work on these steps was presented in a
thesis written by Karokola (Karokola, 2012). He
visualized this approach as outlined in Figure 3. As
we are approaching our work in a naive inductivist
approach, we modified the logical formalism in the
model from abduction to induction.
Figure 3: Design research methodology – modified.
To propose an artifact in an inductive approach, we
started up by using a newly developed cyber-incident
escalation maturity model to present the problem(first
step in the 2nd column). We chose the model as it is
based on socio-technical research in general, and
more specific for managerial purposes. We also
considered maturity models like EMRAM which is
universally recognized maturation model of
hospital’s electronic medical record (EMR)
environment (Ayat & Sharifi, 2016). However,
EMRAM is not considering information security and
incident handling. We also considered resilience
maturity modelling, but ultimately, resilience is not
just about 'bouncing back from adversity' but is more
broadly concerned with adaptive capacity and how to
better understand and address uncertainty in our
internal and external environments (Gibson, 2010).
For the next step in this research we asked the
participants to test our suggested model (second step
in the 2nd column). We then discussed further
development of the model and evaluated the research
in comparison with similar research in Sweden (third
and fourth step in the 2nd column).
The goal of this paper is to build a best practice of
using escalation maturity models research to diffuse
cyber-security awareness and prepare for cyber-
incidents and exercises (first and second steps in the
4th column), in which we want to use when preparing
for cyber exercises at the Norwegian Cyber Range
(NCR). NCR will be an arena where exercise will be
used to expose individuals, public and private
organizations, and government agencies to simulate
socio-technical cyber security events and situations in
a realistic but safe environment. We plan to evaluate
our results when executing exercises for the Inland
hospital trust.
3.1 The Escalation Maturity Model
A process in a maturity model can be assessed in more
than one project (i.e., multiple instances of a process).
All instances are aggregated in order to rate the
process. Thus, increasing the number of process
instances in assessment should not be interpreted as
measuring organizational scope.
As shown in Figure 4, Wahlgren and Kowalski
maturity model consists of a matrix whose rows
represent different maturity levels and whose
columns represent different maturity attributes. They
used ISACA´s (ISACA, 2009) maturity model as a
base for their model. The maturity levels are the same
as the five maturity levels Humphrey et al. (Sweet,
Edwards, Lacroix, Owens, & Schulz, 1987) used, and
like ISACA they added a sixth level “Non-existent”.
They used ISACA´s maturity attributes as a starting
point but adapted them around escalation of IT-
related security incidents. The main requirements for
the escalation maturity model are:
First, the incident must be detected
If this should be possible, you must be aware that
it is an IT-related security incident
To be aware, knowledge of different incidents is
It is then necessary to know your responsibility for
further handling the incident
The next step is to handle the incident, which
means that there must exist procedures that show
how to behave
These procedures must of course be anchored in a
policy defined by the management
If the incident shall be escalated directly, you
must know to whom; that is, there must be
predefined groups (organizational structure) that
can handle the incident
If the incident will be escalated later, there must
be established reporting to the management
There must exist means like appropriate risk
analysis methods for analysing incidents
Figure 4: Escalation maturity model.
Based on the requirements discussed before, the
maturity model for escalation capability has 6
different maturity levels:
0. Non-existent means that different processes are not
applied and there is no need for any kind of measures.
1. Initial means that the need for measures has been
identified and is initiated but the processes that are
applied are ad- hoc and often disorganized.
2. Repeatable is when measures are established and
implemented, and the various processes follow a
regular pattern.
3. Defined is when measures are defined, documented
and accepted within the organization.
4. Managed means that the processes are monitored
and routinely updated.
5. Optimized means that processes continuously
evaluated and improved using various performance
and effective measures tailored to the organization's
There are eight different maturity attributes:
A. Awareness deals with various aspects of how
aware employees are of various IT-related security
B. Responsibility deals with allocation of
responsibilities within the organization for IT-related
security incidents.
C. Reporting deals with the reporting channels and
how regular reporting of IT-related security incidents
are done.
D. Policies deal with different policies for IT-related
security incidents.
E. Knowledge deals with the different skills and
knowledge that are needed for handling IT-related
security incidents.
F. Procedures deal with various procedures for
handling IT-related security incidents.
G. Means deal with various tools for handling IT-
related security incidents.
H. Structure deals with various predefined groups for
handling IT-related security incidents.
To measure the different attributes a query
package of 67 questions were developed. The
different questions have different maturity attributes
and levels they belong to. All the different questions
in the questionnaire have been defined on different
levels, and program suggestions is defined for every
question. After doing the test, every participant gets a
report on what programs should be initiated based on
their own answers to each question.
3.2 Information Letter and Consensus
Regulations made by Norwegian Centre for Research
Data (NSD) require notification on personal data if it
consist of any data relating to an identified or
identifiable person whether you are going to process
personal data, and how you are going to process
personal data (NSD, 2019). The MM-escalation
system required notification as the information could
be stalked back to a person’s identity if the
information was charged on the stand-alone
computer. Thereby NSD required an information
letter and consensus from the participants, which was
provided and signed by the participants.
In this paper we present the maturity levels for cyber
security incident escalation performed in a study at
the Inland Hospital trust, in May and June 2019. We
present the results on each NIST-tiers, and the total
result of the test. From the strategic level, three
participants were randomly selected. From the
tactical level, there were only two participants as it is
only two tactical ICT-managers at the hospital trust.
From the operational level, three participants were
randomly selected. Thus, a total amount of eight
participants took part in the study. All selected
participants accomplished the test. The results are
ranked on mentioned 6 levels, from non-existent (0)
to Optimized (5). If a total value score of non-existent
on the attribute, the participant will not be visible in
the figures.
4.1 Strategic Participants Results
The results from the strategic participants show little
variance within the group. Only on responsibility, and
because of that, the total maturity level score is non-
existent. The results clearly show a need for
improvement on every attribute, even on
organizational attributes, though this is what shows
best results. The results are presented in Figure 5.
Figure 5: Maturity results on strategic level.
4.2 Tactical Participants Results
The results from the tactical managers were also
aligned within the group. The results themselves were
worse though. Non-existent results on responsibility,
knowledge and education and procedures, gives us
signals about major gaps in these areas. The results
are presented in Figure 6.
Figure 6: Maturity results on tactical tier.
4.3 Operational Participants Results
The results on operational tier is a little bit better than
on the other tiers. The variance within the group is
bigger though. And still, knowledge and education
are the weakest in this group. The results in this group
is presented in Figure 7.
Figure 7:
results on operational tier.
5.1 Results Analysis
When contracting all the results into one diagram, the
results indicate that policy, knowledge and education
are the weakest attributes. We know that the hospital
trust has policies and guidelines on information
security and emergency escalation, but the results
might indicate that they are not well known. We also
know that the hospital trust run educational programs
on systems, but information from the hospital trust
indicate that there is limited collective education on
information security, except the annual reminder
about change in passwords and limited relevant areas.
Several innovative system-implementations take
place at the hospital trust now, and we have suggested
a couple of master-thesis’ on information security
attached to these innovation-projects, to do research
on how the hospital trust follow up on their
information security policies in such projects. As a
result of our research, we also suggest new research
on regularity and content of information security
Additionally, the results from the strategic
participants suggests that reporting is barely initiated.
The reason might be that ICT is outsourced to
Sykehuspartner of which run the ICT-systems for all
hospital trusts in Norway. This might have led to
distance between the hospital trusts and the
Sykehuspartner, and the incident and event reports
are in internal systems in Sykehuspartner, and not
necessarily accessible for the hospital trusts
management on a regular basis.
Results from the tactical participants is the
weakest, with three attributes on non-existent level.
The other scorings are also low rated. The difference
in the results from the other participants is that they
suggest responsibility to be one of the non-existent
attributes. Both responsibility, knowledge and
education and procedures are scored as non-existent
from all the participants at the tactical level. The low
score on responsibility might come from the lack of
role definitions and function description of these
roles. To get a better grasp of this analysis, our future
research will cover investigation on emergency and
contingency plans. This might also be the fact for
procedures, as emergency and contingency plans also
should cover such issues.
Operational participants’ scores are the highest.
The difference from the other participants seems to be
on awareness, even though one of the participants
scores this up to Optimized. It is good to know that
the operational team score high. That should mean
that they will be able to manage their jobs. Still, they
suggest that the awareness overall in the organization
is weak, and that knowledge and education is non-
existent. It would be of great importance for the
organizations to work on knowledge and education,
and hopefully this will bring better awareness to the
organization as well.
As awareness came up as one of the weakest
results in the test in total, but mostly on operational
level, we run a quick security check on the hospital
trusts open sources to see if these results could be
confirmed also from such vulnerability scanning. We
found at least 3 vulnerable and exposed IP-addresses.
The hospital trust was immediately warned. The
security check confirmed the results from the
research, and open sources will be one of the issues
we suggest focusing on during the training and
exercises at the cyber range.
As the answers from the three layers in the
organization are diverse (but comparable within the
groups), we will prepare for the planned exercises
adjusted to these facts. We plan to have collective
instructions and separate instructions to meet the
diversity. As this research is a part of a long-term
research at the hospital trust, we will present these
diverse suggestions on the weakest research results.
5.2 Results Comparison
When comparing our research approach with studies
in Sweden, performed in 2019 (Wahlgren &
Kowalski, 2019), we found the following differences:
In Sweden 3 different organizations within the health
sector did the test, but only one person (with relevant
Information security competence) from each
organization. The results from the tests in Sweden
varied a lot, from non-existed in one organization to
almost optimal in another organization. This was the
main reason for us to use the NIST-tiers to push
forward several participants on all tiers. In our test,
we see that on the different tiers the results are
comparable, but there are differences between the
tires. This shows us that it is necessary to do the test
on all tiers to get the best possible picture to plan for
further use of the results. Compared to other maturity
models, e.g. the Community Cyber Security Maturity
Model (CCSMM) (White, 2007), the Wahlgren and
Kowalski model does not only look at the community
measured as an entirety, but also when looking at
different tiers in the organization, gives suggestions
on what to do to improve the situation. In comparison
to the CCSMM, the Wahlgren and Kowalski model
also uses the ISO-standards for Information Security,
like 27005 and 27035 to be in line with what is
expected in cyber crisis management. Wahlgren and
Kowalski escalation maturity model gives an
overview of what should be done within each
maturity attributes (as a part of the individual report),
to improve the situation. The results vary from Non-
excitant to Optimized on the same attributes, but we
see that there is consensus on the different tires.
Based on those results it will be important to divide
program and action points between the different tiers,
not only per participant.
In our analysis of the results, we intuitively
focused on the weakest scores. It is also important to
analyse the high scores, to find the strength of the
organization, and how to keep and evolve that as well.
After analysing the results, it is nevertheless
important to prioritize which attributes to work with.
We suggest presenting a suggested prioritization to
the management board of which will select acceptable
levels. When prioritized, an action strategy must be
defined within the regulations of project management
in the organization.
Next important step is how to implement the
projects. As mentioned in or model-analysis, we
suggest implementing plans at acceptable levels, both
on information security acceptable levels and on
human acceptable levels. When acceptable levels are
decided, implementation should be applied step by
Our research tested escalation MM at the Inland
hospital to understand level of maturity to support
diffusion of cyber security awareness and escalation,
give good knowledge for preparation for the hospital
trust exercises at the best possible level when
executing at the Norwegian Cyber Range (NCR). We
also conclude that the best use of the model is by
testing maturity on both strategic, tactical and
operational levels in the organization, and next to
prepare for equalization amongst the tiers.
We also suggest an improvement maturity process
with concrete improvement-suggestions on each
maturity-step, which can be used for preparation for
instructions in general and exercises in special. We
also propose to use this process in instructions and
exercises, to improve cyber security resilience step by
step. We plan to use the improved maturity model to
do a broad research within municipalities, and
consequently we will suggest necessary development
to contract and compare results from a connected
We would like to thank the Inland hospital trust for
being all positive and welcoming to do this research.
We would also like to thank Gunnar Wahlgren and
Stewart James Kowalski for giving us the opportunity
to use their newly developed maturity escalation
tools. Additionally, we would also like to give a
special thanks to Kieren Ni
Ĉolas Lovell, RNorN
RTD, for doing the vulnerability scanning on open
sources at the hospital trust.
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