CEC Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Information Systems (DISS)

Department

Graduate School of Computer and Information Sciences

Advisor

Marlyn K. Littman

Committee Member

Sumitra Mukherjee

Committee Member

Carol C Woody

Abstract

An information system (IS) risk assessment is an important part of any successful security management strategy. Risk assessments help organizations to identify mission-critical IS assets and prioritize risk mitigation efforts. Many risk assessment methodologies, however, are complex and can only be completed successfully by highly qualified and experienced security experts. Small-sized organizations, including small-sized colleges and universities, due to their financial constraints and lack of IS security expertise, are challenged to conduct a risk assessment. Therefore, most small-sized colleges and universities do not perform IS risk assessments, which leaves the institution's data vulnerable to security incursions. The negative consequences of a security breach at these institutions can include a decline in the institution's reputation, loss of financial revenue, and exposure to lawsuits.

The goal of this research is to address the challenge of conducting IS risk assessments in small-sized colleges and universities by validating the use of the Operationally Critical Threat, Asset, and Vulnerability Evaluation (OCTAVE) Allegro risk assessment methodology at a small-sized university. OCTAVE Allegro is a streamlined risk assessment method created by Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute. OCTAVE Allegro has the ability to provide robust risk assessment results, with a relatively small investment in time and resources, even for those organizations that do not have extensive risk management expertise.

The successful use of OCTAVE Allegro was validated using a case study that documented the process and outcome of conducting a risk assessment at George Fox University (GFU), a small-sized, private university located in Newberg, Oregon. GFU has the typical constraints of other small-sized universities; it has a relatively small information technology staff with limited expertise in conducting IS risk assessments and lacks a dedicated IS risk manager. Nevertheless, OCTAVE Allegro was relatively easy for GFU staff to understand, provided GFU with the ability to document the security requirements of their IS assets, helped to identify and evaluate IS security concerns, and provided an objective way to prioritize IS security projects. Thus, this research validates that OCTAVE Allegro is an appropriate and effective IS risk assessment method for small-sized colleges and universities.

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