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


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 organizations evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of their ISO27k Information Security Management Systems, 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, analyze 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 standard was first published in 2009.

A substantially revised second edition was published in December 2016.

Personal comments

Compared to the rather academic/theoretical 2009 version, the 2016 second edition of this standard is much more pragmatic and hence useful for infosec practitioners.

An ISMS is literally worse than useless without suitable metrics (thus it is appropriate for ISO/IEC 27001 to list this standard as a normative or essential standard) but information security metrics are of value in all organizations regardless of whether or not they have an ISO27k ISMS in place. I understand why the revised 27004 standard (along with 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, and derailed the 27005 revision). However, I believe 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.  In most cases, there are better ways to measure - better security 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 in the revision project to make it into the 2016 release ... so that’s a good idea that will hopefully resurface in the next round of revision.