Handbook of Information Security Management:Computer Architecture and System Security

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Section 5-3
System Security

Chapter 5-3-1
Systems Integrity Engineering

Don Evans


The primary goal of any enterprise-wide security program is to support user communities by providing cost-effective protection to information system resources at appropriate levels of integrity, availability, and confidentiality without impacting productivity, innovation, and creativity in advancing technology within the corporation’s overall objectives.

Ideally, information systems security enables management to have confidence that their computational systems will provide the information requested and expected, while denying accessibility to those who have no right to it. The analysis of incidents resulting in damage to information systems show that most losses were still due to errors or omissions by authorized users, actions of disgruntled employees, and an increase in external penetrations of systems by outsiders. Traditional controls are normally inadequate in these cases or are focused on the wrong threat, resulting in the exposure of a vulnerability.

There are so many factors influencing security in today’s complex computing environments that a structured approach to managing information resources and associated risk(s) is essential. New requirements for using distributed processing capabilities introduces the need to change the way integrity, reliability, and security are applied across diverse, cooperative information systems environments. The demand for high-integrity systems that ensure a sustained level of confidence and consistency must be instituted at the inception of a system design, implementation, or change. The formal process for managing security must be linked intrinsically to the existing processes for designing, delivering, operating, and modifying systems to achieve this objective.

Unfortunately, the prevalent attitude toward security by management and even some security personnel is that the confidentiality of data is still the primary security issue. That is, physical isolation, access control, audit, and sometimes encryption are the security tools most needed. While data confidentiality may be an issue in some cases, it is usually more important that data and/or process integrity and availability be assured. Integrity and availability must be addressed as well as ensuring that the total security capability keeps current with technology advancements that make it easier to share geographically distributed computing resources.

As the complexity of today’s distributed computing environments continues to evolve independently, with respect to geographical and technological barriers, the demand for a dynamic, synergistically integrated, and comprehensive information systems security control methodology increases.

Business environments have introduced significant opportunity for process reengineering, interdisciplinary synergism, increased productivity, profitability, and continuous improvement. With each introduction of a new information technology, there exists the potential for an increased number of threats, vulnerabilities, and risk. This is the added cost of doing business. These costs focus on systems failure and loss of critical data. These costs may be too great to recover with respect to mission- and/or life-critical systems. Enterprise-wide security programs, therefore, must be integrated into a systems integrity engineering discipline carried out at each level of the organization and permeated throughout the organization.

The purpose of this document is to provide an understanding of risk accountability issues and management’s responsibility for exercising due care and due diligence in developing and protecting enterprise-wide, interoperable information resources as a synergistic organizational function.


Distributed systems are an organized collection of programs, data, and processes implemented in software, firmware, or hardware that are specifically designed to integrate separate operational systems into a single, logical information system infrastructure. This structure provides the flexibility of segmenting management control into domains or nodes of processing that are physically required or are operationally more effective and efficient, while satisfying the overall goals of the information processing community.

The operational environment for distributed systems is a combination of multiple separate environments that may individually or collectively store and process information. The controls over each operational environment must be based on a common integrated set of security controls that constitute the foundation for overall information security of the distributed systems.

The foundation of security-relevant requirements for distributed systems is derived from the requirements specified in the following areas:

  Operating systems and support software,
  Information access control,
  Application software development and maintenance,
  Application controls and security,
  Satisfaction of the need for cost-effective business objectives.

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