Agile ValuesJan Kahmen6 min read

KPIs in Information Security: The 10 Most Important Security Metrics

Meaningful key figures are necessary to verify the effectiveness of IT security measures. They make the protection of sensitive data more efficient and help to identify problems at an early stage.


Table of Content

The Importance of Key Performance Indicators for IT Security

So-called key performance indicators (KPIs for short) provide information about the security status of individual components and thus allow a comprehensive assessment of the current security strategy. These are measured values that allow continuous conclusions to be drawn about possible deficits. The evaluation of these KPIs is thus an important factor in improving information security - even before security breaches occur.

With the help of KPIs, it is therefore easy to carry out a comprehensive security assessment. Alternatively, a Vulnerability Assessment can be performed for dedicated areas based on these findings. Using KPIs for information security is therefore an important step in increasing overall IT security in day-to-day business.
Tip: More information on planning and proven vulnerability scan strategies is available here.

KPIs and Information Security: The Relevance of Various Metrics

Numerous metrics can be collected in IT. This is because the enterprise network generates a large amount of data on a daily basis. However, much of the information collected is irrelevant to most security platforms. Instead of focusing on all the data, it is necessary to select the right KPIs.

The numbers provided by the Intrusion Detection System (IDS) or the Security Incident Response, for example, are particularly meaningful here. Bug bounty hunting is also an excellent way to identify security leaks. Combined with the data from other tools, it is possible to quickly determine whether the integrity of the data still exists.
Identifying the right KPIs can therefore seem difficult at first. As a general rule, the decisive factors for IT security are all those KPIs that illustrate activities between internal and external components. These include, for example, communication protocols used or successful and failed access attempts. Continuous vulnerability scanning is particularly important at this point, as systems register discrepancies more quickly than humans.
Companies should always opt for metrics that are actually relevant. Depending on the IT infrastructure, the technology used, and the employees, other metrics may be appropriate. In addition, sources such as the OWASP Mobile Top 10 regularly show known security gaps. If such gaps exist, it makes sense to eliminate them step by step.

Standards for Determining Relevant IT KPIs

How good a KPI really is can be determined on the basis of a number of factors. The following criteria are among the standards for assessing the quality of IT KPIs:

  • Meaningful: In order for valuable information to be gained from KPIs and appropriate measures to be derived, the KPIs must first and foremost be meaningful.
  • Simple: At the same time, good IT KPIs should be as easy as possible to determine. Companies obtain a lot of data through automated solutions, which eliminates additional effort.
  • Verifiable: Regular review ensures that metrics are always up to date.
  • Comparable: In order to gain important insights, companies must be able to put the KPI in relation to other metrics. Comparability over time is crucial here.
  • Understandable: Each KPI must have a recognizable message.
  • Repeatable: It is necessary that the data collection can be reconstructed over regular time intervals.
  • Timely: Only a current KPI is relevant to information security. The more current the data, the earlier discrepancies can be detected.
  • Reliable: Information that is subject to errors (for example, due to measurement errors) could falsify the statement of a KPI. The key figures used must therefore always be correct.

Static Versus Dynamic IT Security

Efficiency and effectiveness can be ensured by both audits and continuous control mechanisms:

  • In a purely static process, the KPIs are only evaluated selectively, i.e., at a specific point in time. What these are depends on the type of vulnerability scan and the company in question. Compared with a more dynamic security scan, however, the results here are less accurate.
  • A dynamic approach, on the other hand, focuses on all the KPIs collected and integrates them into the respective IT security strategy. The most important difference between the two approaches is that the thresholds are continuously adjusted here. In this way, the data collection can be optimized further and further.

The Top 10 KPIs for More Information Security

To improve cybersecurity, companies use different metrics and KPIs. The following are among the top 10 information security KPIs.

  • Intrusion attempts vs. security incidents: these metrics provide general insight into potential vulnerabilities.
  • Mean Time to Detect (MTTD): The time required to detect a security incident.
  • Mean Time to Respond (MTTR): The speed in which threats can be eliminated.
  • Mean Time to Contain (MTTC): The average time to eliminate attack vectors.
  • Undetected Devices on the Network: It helps keep third parties out of the corporate network.
  • Patching Efficiency: This helps organizations determine which patches to prioritize.
  • Training effectiveness: This is where employees' security awareness is regularly tested.
  • Benchmark data: This value determines how well security compares to similar companies.
  • Security Audit Compliance: This metric provides information about technologies, tools and procedures and their vulnerabilities.
  • Thrid-party Risk and Compliance: The value estimates the risk from external apps and APIs.

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