In the IT environment, OPSEC (Operations Security) is the sum of processes and strategies for protecting critical data. OPSEC is based on five iterative sub-processes that must be run through one after the other. The term OPSEC originally comes from the military sector.
What is OPSEC?
The acronym OPSEC stands for operations security. It is originally a military term that includes all processes and measures to keep the planning and execution of military operations and all associated data secret. Today, OPSEC can also be found in non-military environments and attempts to identify and protect critical data as well as assess vulnerabilities, risks, and threats through appropriate strategies and processes.
Operations Security includes a total of five sub-processes that must be iteratively run through one after the other. The processes are analytical and classify the data to be protected. At the same time, they identify the measures required to protect it. The goal of OPSEC is to prevent potential attackers from accessing data without authorization or from using data with malicious intent. In the enterprise environment, Operations Security protects data in IT structures, on servers, websites, in communication links or transactions.
The goals of OPSEC
OPSEC is an essential component in protecting against data theft and cyber-attacks. It helps to establish the appropriate technical and organizational measures. Operations Security forms the basis for maintaining IT and data security in the long term.
Companies receive valuable information about attack methods, vulnerabilities, or potential attackers and can identify critical data that requires special protection. OPSEC makes the work of hackers, industrial spies, or cyber criminals more difficult. Potential risks are assessed and evaluated.
The five process steps of Operations Security
OPSEC is based on five iterative sub-processes. They help organizations identify the information that needs to be protected and take appropriate action to do so. The five sub-processes are:
- Identification of critical data requiring protection
- Analysis of threat scenarios
- Analysis of possible vulnerabilities
- Assessment of possible risks
- Taking appropriate countermeasures
The first sub-process involves identifying the people, data, and assets involved in critical business processes. All related data must be identified. This is often done from the perspective of the attackers to find possible targets.
Once the critical information has been found, the second step is to analyze the threat scenarios. Which attackers can possibly try to obtain critical data using which methods or techniques?
The third sub-process examines the systems and applications with regard to possible vulnerabilities and security gaps. In addition to technical security vulnerabilities, this also includes human vulnerabilities or social engineering.
The fourth sub-process focuses on assessing possible risks. For all critical data, it is determined how likely attacks are and how high the threat level is. The higher the risks, the more important it is to take suitable countermeasures.
The last process step takes care of suitable countermeasures depending on the existing risks. A plan with measures is created. Possible measures can be, for example The implementation of additional security hardware and software, the introduction of new security policies, or security training for employees.