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The Economics of Cybersecurity
In this chapter
· Making an economic case for security
· Measuring and quantifying economic value
· Modeling the economics of cybersecurity
In Chapter 8, we began to examine the kinds of security decisions you might make about your computer, system, or network. In this chapter, we focus on decisions involved in allocating scarce financial resources to cybersecurity. That is, as a practitioner, you must decide in what kinds of security controls to invest, based on need, cost, and the tradeoffs with other investments (that may not be security related).
For example, the chief executive officer may announce that because the company has done well, there is a sum of money to invest for the benefit of the company. She solicits proposals that describe not only the way in which the money can be used but also the likely benefits to be received (and by whom) as a result. You prepare a proposal that suggests installation of a firewall, a spam filter, an encryption scheme to create a virtual private network, and the use of secure identification tokens for remote network access. You describe the threats addressed by these products and the degree (in terms of cost and company profit) to which the proposed actions will benefit the company. The CEO compares your proposal with other possible investments: buying a subsidiary to enable the company to provide a new product or service, acquiring new office space that will include a larger library and more computer labs, or simply holding the money for a few years to generate a return that will profit the company. The choices, and the tradeoffs among them, can be analyzed by understanding the economics of cybersecurity.
We begin this chapter by describing what we mean by a business case: the framework for presenting information about why we think a particular security investment is needed. Then we examine more closely the elements needed in the business case: data and relationships that show that there is a problem and that the proposed solution will be good for the company. Presenting the business case involves not just economics but the need for consistent terminology, measurement, and a context in which to make informed decisions. The business case is informed by our understanding of technology but must be framed in business language and concepts so that it can be easily compared with nonsecurity choices.
Next, we look at analyses of the magnitude and nature of the cybersecurity problem in several countries, including the United States, Britain, and Australia. To make a compelling business case for security investment, we need data on the risks and costs of security incidents. Unfortunately, as our discussion shows, reliable data are hard to find, so we outline the kind of data collection that would help security professionals.
Once we have good data, we can build models and make projections. We examine several ways to model the impact of a cybersecurity investment. Building and using a model involve understanding key factors and relationships; we discuss examples of each. Finally, we explore the possibilities for future research in this rich, interdisciplinary area.
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