Mitigating Risk with Compensating Controls in CISSP

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I have seen first-hand the devastating effects of security breaches. From personal identity theft to corporate espionage, these attacks can cause extensive financial losses and irreparable damage to an organization’s reputation. As a result, one of the top priorities for businesses and individuals alike is effective risk management.

In the world of Cyber Security, the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification is one of the most recognized and respected credentials. One of the critical concepts covered in the certification is that of compensating controls. These controls are essential in mitigating risk and providing additional security when the primary control fails or is not available.

The importance of compensating controls cannot be overstated. When considering the potential impact of a security breach, a single point of failure can be catastrophic. However, with the implementation of compensating controls, the risk becomes much more manageable.

In this article, we will explore what compensating controls are and how they can be used to mitigate risk in the world of Cyber Security. We will also examine some of the common types of compensating controls and provide tips for implementing them effectively. Join me as we delve into the world of CISSP and the critical role that compensating controls play in keeping us all safe.

What is an example of compensating control Cissp?

An example of a compensating control in the realm of CISSP might involve the use of intrusion detection technology as a secondary line of defense. In situations where the primary control measures are expensive or unfeasible, compensating controls provide a secondary layer of protection against potential security breaches. When implementing compensating controls, CISSP professionals will use methods such as replacing primary security measures or adding additional security measures to fortify existing controls. Some possible examples of compensating controls that may be used in CISSP include:

  • Access controls: Access controls, such as biometrics or password-protection, can help to restrict access to sensitive data or systems. When primary access controls are not possible or practical, a secondary compensating control may be implemented
  • for example, logging all access attempts to a sensitive database, to later be audited and used to identify potential threats.
  • Physical controls: Physical controls, such as security cameras or locked doors, help to restrict physical access to sensitive areas. In some situations, a secondary compensating control might be to use motion detection technology to alert security personnel if someone attempts to gain unauthorized access to a restricted area.
  • Encryption: Encryption is widely used to protect sensitive data by rendering it unintelligible to unauthorized individuals. When primary encryption methods are not practical or too expensive, a secondary compensating control might be to restrict access to the data by using heightened physical controls or by logging and auditing all access attempts to the data.
  • Disaster recovery: Disaster recovery measures help to ensure that data and systems are protected in the event of a security breach. When primary disaster recovery measures are not practical or too expensive, a secondary compensating control might be to use off-site backup storage to protect critical data. Backup storage can be used to quickly rebuild systems in the event of a security breach, and may also be used to restore lost or damaged data.

    In conclusion, compensating controls can be an effective way to provide secondary protection against security threats in situations where primary control measures are either too expensive or unfeasible. As a CISSP professional, it’s important to be aware of the various compensating control measures that can be used to secure sensitive data and systems. By utilizing these measures, CISSP experts can help to provide additional security protections to keep data and systems safe from threats.


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    1. Prepare a comprehensive risk assessment plan that identifies the risks and vulnerabilities associated with the information systems, applications, and data. This will ease the process of identifying potential compensating controls in the event that the primary control fails.

    2. Implement a systematic framework for selecting and implementing compensating controls. Consider the cost and feasibility of each control, as well as its effectiveness in addressing the identified risk.

    3. Ensure that compensating controls are well-documented and approved by the necessary authorities. This reduces the risk of compromise and also helps to facilitate compliance with industry regulations and standards.

    4. Train your employees to understand the importance of compensating controls and how they should respond in the event of a security incident. Regular training and awareness programs can help build a strong and effective safety culture within the organization.

    5. Regularly monitor and test compensating controls to ensure that they are functioning as intended. This is important in order to identify any potential weaknesses before they can be exploited by threats, and to take corrective action when necessary.

    Understanding the concept of compensating control

    Compensating controls are alternative measures used to mitigate security risks or threats when other countermeasures like safeguards, procedures, or tools are not feasible or too expensive to put into place. These controls can act as alternatives to primary controls or can supplement primary controls to enhance security defenses. Compensating controls should be strategically planned and selected to ensure they are effective in addressing the risks they are compensating for. The availability and appropriateness of compensating controls vary from one organization to another based on the nature, scope, and size of the risks involved.

    Compensating controls can either be workarounds or alternate measures put in place of primary security measures. For instance, adding security cameras as a compensating control for lack of security guards, using biometric authentication as an alternate measure to passwords, or using encryption as a workaround for poor access controls. Regardless of the type, compensating controls should be effective, reliable, and provide an adequate level of protection to the risks they are compensating for.

    Examining scenarios where compensating controls are necessary

    Compensating controls are necessary in various situations such as when there is a lack of resources. For example, small organizations may not have the budget or personnel to implement a full-scale security program, so they may have to rely on compensating controls like firewalls, intrusion detection systems, or managed security services. Additionally, compensating controls may be necessary when organizations operate in risky environments where some security measures are impractical or not possible, such as in war-torn regions or areas with high criminal activity.

    Moreover, compensating controls may be necessary when the cost of implementing a primary control outweighs the value of the assets or risks involved. For instance, it may not make economic sense to install security cameras in a parking lot used by a handful of employees, so a compensating control like access control cards can be put in place instead.

    In some cases, compensating controls may be mandated by regulations or standards, such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which allows for compensating controls to be used as a means of demonstrating compliance.

    Advantages and disadvantages of compensating controls

    Compensating controls offer several advantages, including cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and the ability to provide an adequate level of protection in situations where primary controls are not feasible. They can also be used to bridge gaps in security posture or enhance the security defenses of primary controls.

    On the other hand, there are some disadvantages to compensating controls. For example, they may not be as effective as primary controls, and they may not address the root cause of the security issues. Additionally, using compensating controls may increase the complexity of an organization’s security program, making it more challenging to manage and monitor.

    It is also essential to note that compensating controls should not be used as a substitute for primary controls, but rather as a supplement or workaround. If the primary controls are feasible, they should be implemented over compensating controls.

    Key factors to consider when implementing compensating controls

    When implementing compensating controls, several key factors should be considered. These include identifying high-risk areas, assessing the severity and likelihood of the risk, selecting controls that offer the most value, ensuring compatibility with existing controls, and ensuring the controls are effective and reliable.

    Moreover, organizations need to ensure that the compensating controls meet all compliance requirements and are adequately documented, tested, and evaluated. Additionally, compensating controls should be reviewed periodically to ensure they are still effective and relevant because the risk environment and threat landscape can change over time.

    Example of a compensating control in the CISSP domain

    An example of a compensating control in the CISSP domain is using a vulnerability scanner as a workaround for the lack of secure software development practices. Developing secure applications from the ground up can be expensive and time-consuming, and while it is the best practice, it may not be feasible for all organizations. Therefore, using a vulnerability scanner can be a compensating control to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities in the applications during production and deliver secure code to production faster and at a lower cost.

    Integrating compensating controls into an overall security strategy

    Compensating controls should be integrated into an overall security strategy that includes implementing primary controls, risk assessments, and vulnerability management. An organization’s security strategy should identify gaps in the primary controls that require compensating controls and ensure that the compensating controls are appropriately documented, tested, and evaluated.

    Additionally, the security program should have monitoring and reporting mechanisms to track and report on the effectiveness of compensating controls. This process should include risk assessments, vulnerability scans, and penetration tests to ensure that the compensating controls are still meeting the requirements to mitigate the risks.

    Best practices for assessing and validating the effectiveness of compensating controls

    Organizations should follow some best practices when assessing and validating the effectiveness of compensating controls. These include:

    Conducting Risk Assessments: Organizations should conduct regular risk assessments to determine the effectiveness of compensating controls and identify potential gaps.

    Documenting: Organizations should document the compensating controls, including when they were implemented, how they work, and how they provide an adequate level of protection.

    Testing: Compensating controls should be tested regularly to ensure they are still effective and reliable.

    Reporting: The results of the tests and assessments should be documented and reported to ensure that senior management is aware of the effectiveness and value of the compensating controls.

    Periodic Reviews: Organizations should conduct periodic reviews of compensating controls, including assessing new security trends and emerging threats to determine if any new controls are necessary.

    In conclusion, compensating controls are alternative measures used to mitigate security risks or threats when primary countermeasures are not feasible or too expensive to put into place. While they offer several advantages, including cost-effectiveness and flexibility, they are not a substitute for primary controls. Organizations must take a strategic approach to implement and monitor compensating controls and ensure they meet all compliance requirements and adequately mitigate risks.