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ISO/IEC 27004

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ISO/IEC 27004:2016 < Click to purchase via Amazon — Information technology — Security techniques — Information security management ― Monitoring, measurement, analysis and evaluation (second edition)



“ISO/IEC 27004:2016 provides guidelines intended to assist  organisations in evaluating the information security performance and the effectiveness of an information security management system in order to  fulfil the requirements of ISO/IEC 27001:2013, 9.1. It establishes: (a) the monitoring and measurement of information security performance; (b) the monitoring and measurement of the effectiveness of an  information security management system (ISMS) including its processes  and controls; [and] (c) the analysis and evaluation of the results of monitoring and measurement.”
[Source: ISO/IEC 27004:2016]


ISO/IEC 27004 concerns measurements or measures needed for information security management: these are commonly known as ‘security metrics’ in the profession (if not within ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 27!).


Scope and purpose

The standard is intended to help an organisation evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of its Information Security Management System, providing information necessary to manage and (where necessary) improve the ISMS systematically. It expands substantially on clause 9.1 of ISO/IEC 27001 concerning ‘monitoring, measurement, analysis and evaluation’.



These are the main sections:

  1. Rationale - explains the value of measuring stuff e.g. to increase accountability and performance;
  2. Characteristics - what to measure, monitor, analyse and evaluate, when to do it, and who to do it;
  3. Types of measures - performance (efficiency) and effectiveness measures;
  4. Processes - how to develop, implement and use metrics.

Annex A is where most of the theoretical measurement model from the 2009 version of the standard now languishes.

Annex B catalogs 35 metrics examples of varying utility and quality, using a typical metrics definition form.

Annex C demonstrates a pseudo-mathematical way to describe a metric, or rather an ‘effectiveness measurement construct’ (!).


Status of the standard

The first edition was published in 2009.

A substantially revised (rewritten) second edition was published in 2016.

Work is under way on a third edition, updating the standard to reflect the 2022 editions of ISO/IEC 27001, 27002 and 27005.


Personal comments

Since an ISMS is literally worse than useless without suitable metrics, it is appropriate for ISO/IEC 27001 to list this standard as a normative or essential standard. More than that, information security metrics are of value in all organisations regardless of whether or not they have an ISO27k ISMS in place. I understand why ‘27004 and several other ISO27k standards are aligned specifically to 27001: the narrow scope and tight focus increases the chances of the standards being completed and published in a reasonable timeframe (a problem that plagued the original version of ‘27004). That leaves a gap for broader-scope standards, including a general purpose information risk and security metrics standard ... or indeed an entire book.

The example metrics in Annex B are a mixed bunch, and are not very well described. Please don’t think that you ought to be using them, unless they happen to suit your specific information needs. There are lots of things to measure and better ways to do it e.g.:

Incident mgmt process metrics


Various metrics-related terms from the 2009 version of the standard are defined in ISO/IEC 27000 but are mostly irrelevant now. They may be dropped when 27000 is next updated.

The German standards body, DIN, suggested introducing the GQM (Goal-Question-Metric) approach into the standard - an excellent idea but raised far too late to make it into the 2016 release. Hopefully it will resurface in the current revision, although the scope appears to be limited to a ‘monor revision’, re-aligning the standard with the 2022 releases of ISO/IEC 27001, 27002 and 27005.


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