Security Metrics: What is a "Metric"?

In this blog series on SecurityWeek, Tenable CSO Marcus Ranum advises security professionals on how they can create and share metrics in their jobs. These metrics can create better understanding and awareness about the success of their approaches, as well as allow them to build support for programs and funding requests.

There are many important and useful tools related to the metrics landscape; let's take a look at some of them and how they fit together. For the sake of this discussion, I'll stick with the definition of “metrics” that I offered previously:

A metric is some data and an algorithm for reducing and presenting it to tell a story.

Different metrics tools such as statistics, benchmarks and heuristics each have their place in our intellectual landscape, but the underlying principle behind all of them is rooted in The Scientific Method. The method of science is one of humanity's great inventions for controlling and understanding the world around us. The way science works, you attempt to gain understanding of something by hypothesizing some kind of cause/effect relationship in that thing, then hypothesizing how a change in that cause's inputs will affect the outputs. After you've done that, you alter some of the inputs in an experimental set, while leaving another set – the control set – unaltered, and see if the results of the change support or destroy your hypothesis.

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