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CS507 - Information Systems - Lecture Handout 38

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Risk Management

Managing the companies risk is gaining more and more importance. Companies are getting more aware of the fact that risks should be foreseen and addressed before they could prove havoc for the organization in any regard.

Corporate Culture and Risk Management

As it goes, “The ultimate risk is not taking the risk”. Recognizing and managing risk should be an important part of the corporate culture. IS related risk management is a one level deeper into the over all corporate risk strategy. Assuming that most of the business processes have become computer and technology dependent to whatever extent actually used, a secure IS supported with a sound risk management strategy must be available to the organization.

Constituents of Risk Management

Usually the following constitutes the risk management process.

  • Audit trails
  • Passwords – already been discussed
  • Environmental and Physical Security
  • Securing Web based transactions
  • Implementation of security in IS

The objective of the entire risk management process is that no one should hamper the working of the smooth working of IS. Risk management in a newly computerized environment and that in an ongoing operation will have to be viewed differently. The scope of risk should be defined by the organization; only then mitigation strategies can be undertaken. The organization should have a business continuity plan and should also know how to use it.

Risk management

Risk management in a newly computerized environment and that in an ongoing operation will have to be viewed differently. In an ongoing operation, risk management itself cannot be done without evidence collection and evidence of risks. Where the organization is desiring to implement a new system, careful thought needs to be given to see how potential risks can be managed. Security and risk management policies can be developed s the system expands and greater evidence of actual threats begins to become available.

Audit Trails

Establishing clear audit trails is an absolute must as much as managing physical environmental risks. They help in identifying the start and execution of transaction from the cradle to the grave. Audit logs to be kept should also record the errors occurring and possible actions should be taken to mitigate risks. Maintaining audit logs also helps in drilling down for investigation purposes. Exception report can also be prepared from these audit logs.

Business Continuity Planning

Part of the Risk management process is to ensure that the organization has a well considered business continuity plan. This becomes extremely essential in on-line environments where customer, supplier interaction is high e.g. ATM, on-line supply or purchase orders. In online environment, a critical need arises for an efficient recovery plan to minimize the discontinuation time and to perform back up activity.

“Business Continuity Planning (BCP) is a methodology used to create a plan for how an organization will resume partially or completely interrupted critical functions within a predetermined time after a disaster or disruption.”

BCP can also be defined as

“BCP is the process where by the institutions ensure the maintenance and recovery of operations including services to customers when confronted with adverse events such as natural disasters, technology failure, human error and terrorism.”

The Senior management and the board of Directors are responsible for identifying, assessing, prioritizing, managing and controlling risks. They should ensure that necessary resources are devoted to creating, maintaining and testing the BCP. The effectiveness of the BCP depends on management commitments and ability to clearly identify what makes business processes work. BCP is not limited to the restoration of the IS technology and services or data maintained in electronic form. Without a BCP that considers every single business unit including personnel workspace and similar issues.

An organization may not resume serving its customers at acceptable level. Business Continuity Planning is a process designed to reduce the organization’s business risk arising from operational dysfunction. These operations are critical and necessary for the survival of the organization. The operations which are critical may be either manual or automated.

The planning of operations also include human/material resources supporting these critical function/operations and assurance of the continuity of the minimum level of services necessary for critical operations. BCP methodology is scalable for an organization of any size and complexity. The plan can be made for an organization with operations of any type. Any type of organization may create a BCP manual, and arguably every organization should have one in order to ensure the organization's longevity. A business continuity plan is much more than just a plan or the information system. A business continuity plan identifies what the business will do in event of disaster.

Components of BCP

The business continuity plan includes:

  1. The disaster recovery plan that is used to recover a facility rendered inoperable, including relocating operation into a new location.
  2. The operations plan that is to be followed by the business units while recovery is taking place.
  3. The restoration plan that is used to return operations to normality whether in a restored or new facility.

Business Continuity Planning vs. Disaster Recovery planning

Business continuity planning:
Where will employees report to work, how will orders be taken while the computer system is being restored, which vendors should be called to provide needed supplies. For Example, in a web based environment where operations are active 24/7, there should be such an arrangement that the system, in case of crash, shifts over to a back up system to provide uninterrupted service.

Disaster Recovery Planning:

This typically details the process IT personnel will use to restore the computer systems. Disaster recovery plans may be included in the business continuity plan or as a separate document all together. Business continuity plan may not be comprehensively available in a non-critical environment but Disaster Recovery Plan should be there at least to manage and help organization to recover from disasters. A subcomponent of business continuity plan is the IT disaster recovery plan. IS processing is one operation of many that keep the organization not only alive but also successful, which makes it of strategic importance.

Phases of BCP

The BCP process can be divided into the following life cycle phases:

  • Creation of a business continuity and disaster recovery policy.
  • Business impact analysis.
  • Classification of operations and criticality analysis.
  • Development of a business continuity plan and disaster recovery procedures.
  • Training and awareness program.
  • Testing and implementation of plan.
  • Monitoring.

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Policy
A business continuity and disaster recovery policy should be proactive and encompass preventive, detective and corrective controls. The business continuity plan is the most critical corrective control. It is dependent on other controls, being effective, in particular incident management, and media backup.

Incident Management:

An incident is any unexpected event, even if it causes no significant damage. Incident and crises are dynamic by nature. They evolve, change with time and circumstances, and are often rapid and unforeseeable.
Because of this, their management must be dynamic, proactive and well documented. Depending on an estimation of the level of consequential damage to the business, all types of incidents should be categorized.
Incidents may vary from causing no damage to serious impacts on the continued functioning of the business. Hence they should be documented, classified, and followed up on until corrected or resolved. This is a dynamic process, as a major incident may deescalate momentarily and yet later expand to become a major crisis.

Media Back up
Taking back up on regular basis of business transactions and other data from the IS is very critical to an effective BCP.

Business Impact Analysis (BIA)

In this phase, identification of the potential impact of uncontrolled non specific events on the institutions business processes and outcomes. Consideration of all departments and business functions not just data processing and estimation of maximum allowable downtime and acceptable level of data and financial losses. To perform this phase successfully, one should obtain an understanding of the organization, key business processes, and IT resource used by the organization to support the key business process. The criticality of the information resources (e.g. applications, data, networks, system software) that support an organization’s business processes must be established with senior management approval. Various approaches to perform a BIA can be followed, for instance, questionnaire, interview group of key users and discussions with IT staff and end users together.

Classification of operations and criticality analysis

During this phase, risks and threats are analyzed. Impacts of these risks on the system are also computed.
For instance

  • The Risk: The system will suffer a serious disruption over the next five years:
  • Chance of Occurrence: 10% or 0.1
  • Assessed impact of disruption: Rs. 10 million x 0.1 percent = Rs. 10000 over five years

Based on these assessed impacts, the risks are ranked so that suitable recovery strategies can be developed.

Recovery Strategies

There are various strategies for recovering critical information resources. The strategy is considered to be appropriate if cost of implementation is acceptable, recovery time taken by the strategy is acceptable, cost and recovery time are also reasonable compared to the impact and likelihood of occurrence as determined in the business impact analysis.

Types of recovery Strategies

Disaster recovery must meet two requirements. First, The minimum application and application data requirements. Second, the time frame in the application and applications data requirements must be made available. Following are the various recovery strategies.

  1. Cold Site
  2. Hot Site
  3. Warm Site
  4. Reciprocal agreement
  5. Third Party arrangements

Cold sites

If an organization can tolerate some downtime, cold sites backup might be appropriate. A cold site has all the facilities needed to install a information system raised floors, air conditioning, power, communication lines and so on. The cold site is ready to receive equipment, but does not offer any components at the site in advance of the need. Activation of site is may take several weeks depending on the size of information processing facility.

Hot sites

If fast recovery is critical, an organization might need hot-site backup. All hardware and operations facilities will be available at the hot site. In some cases, software, data, and supplies might also be stored there. Hot sites are expensive to maintain. They usually are shared with other organizations that have same hot site needs.

Warm sites

They are partially configured, usually with network connections and selected peripheral equipment, such as disk drives, tape drives and controllers, but without the main computer. Sometimes a warm site is equipped with a less powerful CPU, than the one generally used. The assumption behind the warm site concept is that the computer can usually be obtained quickly for emergency installation and since, the computer is the most expensive unit, such a arrangement is less costly than a hot site. After the installation of the needed components the site can be ready for service within hours; however, the location and installation of the CPU and other missing units could take several days or weeks.

Reciprocal Agreement

Two or more organization might agree to provide backup facilities to each other in the event of one suffering a disaster. This backup option is relatively cheap, but each participate must maintain sufficient capacity to operate another’s critical systems. Reciprocal agreements are often informal in nature.

Third Party arrangements

Apart from having a give-and-take relationship with other organizations, an agreement may also be signed with third party vendors so as to outsource the disaster recovery process. The responsibility of the site development lies completely with the third party. The shift in responsibility can help organization to stop worrying of the recovery site all the time.

Development of Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Plans

In this phase, a detailed business continuity and disaster recovery plan should be developed. It should address all issues involved in interruption to business processes, including recovering from a disaster. The various factors that should be considered while developing the plan are:

  • Pre disaster readiness covering incidence response management to address all incidence affecting business processes and analysis
  • Evacuation procedure
  • Procedure for declaring a disaster
  • Circumstances under which a disaster should be declared. All interruptions are not disasters, but a small incident if not addressed in a timely or proper manner may lead to a disaster. For example, a virus attack not recognized and contained in time may bring down the entire IT facility.

Development Of Business Continuity And Disaster Recovery Plans

The various factors that should be considered while developing the plan are:

  • The clear identification of the responsibilities in the plan
  • The clear identification of the person responsible for each function in the plan
  • The clear identification of contract information.
  • The step by step explanation of the recovery option
  • The clear identification of the various resources required for recovery and continued operation of the organization.
  • The step by step application of the constitution phase.

Training and awareness program
Now the employees need to be made aware of the policies which have been devise. Initially the program will be an organization wide activity. Subsequently all new recruitments should be trained under the program

Testing and implementation of plan

Since BCP is a plan devised for any emergency situation emerging, employees should be made to face mocked situations so as to be prepared what to do when an emergency comes up. Certain issued may need to be resolved even if there is no undesirable situation. For example, where an organization opts for hot site strategy, basic equipment should be available all the time and ready to be used in the case of emergency.


Once the plan has been tested and implemented, it needs to be monitored and updated on regular basis for following reasons.

  • Changes in business strategy may alter the significance of critical application or deem additional applications as critical.
  • Changes in the software or hardware environment may make current provisions obsolete or inappropriate
  • Incidents emerging and affecting the organizations business continuity issues.
  • Reassessing the risks, their impact and likelihood of occurrence
  • Identifying any newly emerged risks and including them in the BCP
  • Training of the new recruits as and when they are employed.