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Generative Control Theory for Information Security



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Journal of Information Systems Security
Volume 10, Number 1 (2014)
Pages 4177
ISSN 1551-0123 (Print)
ISSN 1551-0808 (Online)
Benoit Raymond — Laval University, Canada
Richard Baskerville — Georgia State University, USA; Curtin University, Australia
Information Institute Publishing, Washington DC, USA




Increasing information security losses, coupled with more closely regulated security risk disclosure, are raising the importance of information security standards for identifying control gaps and for implementing appropriate and effective information security controls. Despite the growing importance and variety of information security standards, and the large amount of resources involved in their adoption, there remains a lack of theoretical development in this area. The objective of this paper is to develop a better understanding of information security controls defined in standards, by analyzing and comparing their control sets. Our analysis of control sets in two prominent information security standards led to the discovery of a new class of controls - generative controls – which was not previously recognized in the information security literature, and also to the proposition of a new classification scheme with simple metrics for analyzing control sets in standards. This discovery serves as a building block for the proposition of a new theory called ‘generative control theory’ (GCT) for information security. This theory, together with its underlying concepts, explain how the presence of generative controls defined in standards allows them to be applicable to a large number of widely differing organizations, and thereby assures the implementation of appropriate and effective information security controls in those organizations. It also explains the implications of the presence of generative controls in standards for practitioners, researchers and compliance auditors. For example, generative controls present a higher risk of creative compliance. Finally, this study provides recommendations regarding the design, implementation and audit of controls as defined in standards. 




Information Security, Information Security Control, Information Security Standard, Generative Control, Surface control, Deferred Control Definition, Adaptive Security, Surface Compliance, Deep Compliance.




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