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Metrics Vs Controls

Do enterprise businesses really need both?

Commonly used terms and processes within cyber security, metrics and controls are effective methods used to protect any enterprise from cyber attacks.

But sometimes, what one person’s metric is, could be another’s control. It is simply a matter of perception.

So, this does beg the question – if metrics and controls are simply a matter of terminology, is it necessary to have both?

Let us dive into that because the QO view is that they have very different objectives.

The Matter of Metrics

In brief and broadly speaking, metrics measure the effectiveness of your cyber security programme.

Typical metrics include:

  • Number of incidents.
  • The number of vulnerabilities found and remediated.
  • The percentage of employees that complete your security training.

All of these are designed to monitor your performance and identify areas of improvement.

Considering Cyber Controls

Controls are somewhat different-

  • Controls are measures put in place to prevent, detect, and respond to cyber threats to ultimately reduce the threat of a cyber attack and limit the damage should one occur.


Typical controls can include:

  • Credential Management
  • Least Privilege
  • Training
  • Patching
  • Back-Up
  • Vulnerabilities
  • Joiners, movers, leavers


In fact, our CTO recently wrote a blog that outlined the top 5 controls you should implement in your business – find this article here.

So, reviewing this information, it is apparent that they both serve very different purposes.

You have on one hand the need for controls to ensure that your ecosystem remains as operationally resilient as possible and then, on the other, metrics to measure how effective these controls really are and report on whether you really have been as secure as you would like!

So, Why Do Cyber Professionals Get Confused About Metrics and Controls?

Complexity plays a part: as any cyber security professional knows, the landscape is complex and forever evolving as a result of constant emerging threats. So frankly it’s a challenge for any cyber security professional to develop metrics and controls that can accurately reflect and report. With controls that involve multiple layers of processes, tech, and throw in the human element, these can be extremely hard to measure and assess.

This then creates a challenge in the ability to standardise: so, as a result there has never been a widely accepted standard for measuring cyber security metrics or controls. Businesses have different methodologies, even different frameworks – often developing their own niche ones – and even the use of differing terminology, which makes it near impossible to compare or benchmark results across the industry.


Here comes data playing its part again: ultimately cyber security teams need to rely on data. Data is prevalent in any business and is also king in the fight against cyber-crime – and that data needs to be accurate and comprehensive. However, obtaining (knowing whether you know where all the data is), collecting and analysing that data is exceedingly challenging in many businesses. Businesses may not have complete access to that data and do not have the resources to trawl through the data to analyse it effectively.

Business objectives are so often misaligned: cyber security metrics and controls HAVE to be aligned to a businesses’ overall objectives and so often they just aren’t. So it becomes impossible to measure any effectiveness of controls or even justify any investment in cyber security.

Then there’s the same old problem of resource: many organisations have limited resources to devote to cyber security, which can make it difficult to implement and measure effective controls. This can lead to confusion about which metrics are most important and which controls should be prioritised.

Then here comes the most important point of all: Proving the value of cyber security: too many cyber security professionals still think that they have to prove value of the role they play within the business so they think they need metrics for everything – so they collect, report and alert on anything that they think proves value of security or can demonstrate compliance.

So how can metrics and controls obtain clarity for any cyber security professional?

Firstly, it starts with a Board strategy alignment to cyber. Once business objectives are aligned and a spotlight is cast on cyber, then there will be progress to clearly define metrics and controls. Security teams should work closely with other stakeholders in the organisation to establish clear goals and objectives, prioritise security initiatives, and identify the right metrics and controls to measure and monitor performance. So often this is not the case but we have certainly seen this changing though and, as focus shifts, the eyes of the board are on cyber a lot more!

So, what’s the answer to the debate on controls and metrics?

In short, you need both and here’s why.

Cyber security professionals need to drive the conversation about aligning business objectives with operational resilience. So rather than creating an overwhelming amount of metrics to “prove” the value of cyber teams’ activities to the Board, drive really top of funnel metrics that prove the thresholds of business cyber security that are pertinent to the Boards desire to be operationally secure – make it meaningful to them.

Also, at operational level, the ability to have complete visibility of all your data is key in the process and this is a challenge that hasn’t really changed with time, and this links to understanding your assets. Then, being able to understand the effectiveness of your controls and metrics in real time 24/7 will also allow any business to report with complete accuracy as to whether you are as secure, compliant and reducing cyber risk as effectively as you need to.

If you don’t know what all your assets are, then it’s impossible to understand where all your data is – but this is a process that CCM can help you with.


If you need help obtaining that visibility of data take a look at our CCM platform here.  

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