PCI – Going Beyond the Standard: Part 24, Disaster Recovery (DR) & Business Continuity Management (BCM)

You may be wondering why I would put this after Governance seeing as that seems to bring everything together, and you may also be wondering why I did not included Disaster Recovery (DR) in the same post as Incident Response (IR) which everyone else always does.

They would be good questions, and my reasoning is relatively simple; You cannot HAVE Business Continuity Management (BCM) without Governance so that must be formalised first, DR represents the detailed processes summarised in the BCM, and IR is the feed INTO the DR/BCM, not the output from it.

To put it another way; the Business Continuity Plan (BCP) details what must be done, in what order, and how quickly to save the business, DR puts that plan into effect, and IR would have uncovered the inciting incident that brought both the BCP and DR plans into play in the first place.

Assuming that made any sense, the question is; What if I don’t HAVE a BCP?

I am surprised every time I ask a client for a BCP and don’t get one. Mostly because I’m not too bright, but partly because it makes absolutely no sense to me that ANY organisation in any industry sector, anywhere in the world would not make such a simple effort to help themselves STAY in business. While both DR and BCP represent what amounts to contingency planning and will hopefully never have to be invoked (assuming your IR is top notch of course), NOT having a plan is nothing short of irresponsible.

There are several well known standards related to Business Continuity, and for obvious reasons they encompass more than just IT systems:

  1. ISO 22301:2012: Societal security — Business continuity management systems – Requirements
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  2. ISO 22313:2012: Societal security — Business continuity management systems – Guidance
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  3. ISO/IEC 27031:2011: Information security – Security techniques — Guidelines for information and communication technology [ICT] readiness for business continuity
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  4. NIST Special Publication 800-34 Rev. 1, Contingency Planning Guide for Federal Information Systems
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  5. ANSI/ASIS SPC.1-2009 Organizational Resilience: Security, Preparedness, and Continuity Management Systems

Unfortunately the ISO stuff will set you back a few hundred quid, so start with the NIST / ANSI stuff to ge yourself familiar enough with the concept to at least ask the right questions.

For DR, start with mapping out all of your business processes and asset dependencies. If you don’t know how things fit together, you’ll have no idea how to put them back in place. Clearly, if your asset management processes are not robust, you can’t even begin the mapping process, so get that done first.

Once you have mapped out your business processes, it’s a relatively simple task to organise all of your procedural documentation into how you reestablish all the moving parts. You have all that, right? So whether you have full redundancy in all things, hot swap, warm spares or a whole host of other DR clichés, how you get your systems back online boils down to a series of easily followed instructions.

From an IT perspective, all the BCP plan does is tell you in which order to bring those systems back online and in what timeframe. It should be needless to say – but it isn’t – the plan and all of its moving parts must be tested on an annual basis or even explicit instructions cannot get the response times to an optimal state.

No aspect of security should be performed half-arsed, DR and BCP processes are no exception. Even within the field of security BCP is a speciality, and making the plan simple and appropriate is a talent more than a skill. Expect to pay a lot for these services but rest assured it is money well spent.

Business as Usual

Security Core Concept 6: Business Continuity Management (BCM) & Business as Usual (BAU)

This will be the shortest of my blogs on the Security Core Concepts for a number of reasons;

  1. The majority or organisations will not raise their security program to the point that this is even possible;
  2. It will be assumed that this is all covered in the previous steps; and
  3. It’s often only perceived as a nice to have, but not critical.

…and so on.

But the biggest reason I’m not going to focus on this, is because the preceding Core Concepts tell you what you need to know, and reading my additional thoughts should be unnecessary. If you introduce the first 5 Core Concepts, this will be the only logical next step, and the benefits clear.

Business Continuity Management (BCM) is; “…a compilation of processes that identifies and evaluates potential risks to an organization and develops the organization’s resilience by ensuring critical objectives are met the resources necessary to achieve those objectives are available.

I have emphasised resilience because this is really what it’s all about; staying in business. The Security Core Concepts deal with only one part of what Business Continuity is all about. Yes, a very important part, but your data, and the ability to process that data, is not all your business encompasses.

This is why BCM belongs under your Governance framework. As the gatekeepers of your change control, and focal point for conversations between all departments, they are best placed to manage the never ending adaptation of your resiliency processes in light of internal changes, and the external threat landscape.

It’s shocking just how unprepared most organisations are for this contingency planning. What would have been an inconvenience is now a full blown event, and what should have stayed an event, is now a business crippling disaster. All for the want of a few more conversations, a few additional processes, and an annual test.

Seems a small price to pay for staying is business, doesn’t it?

As for Business as Usual (BAU), it’s; “…the normal execution of standard functional operations within an organisation.”

How can something so blatantly obvious not be the Holy Grail of security? Why is getting to this point so difficult for every organisation I’ve even worked for?

Back to my Ikea analogy from a previous post; Let’s say the instructions to build a bed-side table are lost and it’s your job to work out how it’s put together. You will eventually work it out (unless you’re me), and you’ll be happy. But now let’s say you didn’t write down HOW you did it, will you be able to put another one together as fast as you could if you had instructions? More to the point, could someone else who is new to the task?

BAU is the standardisation of all of your processes to the point that they become second nature, AND are documented in such a fashion that anyone can pick up where the previous person left off. The phase ‘Knowledge Management’, which is intrinsic to BAU, was a big deal in years past, but seems to been usurped by the next security-shiny-thing.

Either way, knowledge management is the difference between doing everything all over again every time (reinventing the wheel), and doing it properly every time. Or being able to safely and quickly transition your business towards innovation and market competition, and away from disaster or obscurity.

And now you know why policies and procedure are so important, and one of The 4 Foundations of Security?

Take a guess as to who is responsible for driving an organisational culture that embraces BAU? Yep, the CEO, and I hope you weren’t surprised.

There is clearly more involved in both BCM and BAU, but we’re keeping things simple.

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