by alex on June 24, 2010
PREFACE: You might interpret this blog post as being negative about risk management here, dear readers. Don’t. This isn’t a diatrabe against IRM, only why “certification” around information risk is a really, really silly idea.
Apparently, my blog about why I don’t like the idea of CRISC has long-term stickiness. Just today, Philip writes in the comments:
Lets be PROACTIVE instead of critical. I would love to hear about what CAN be a better job practice and skill set that is needed. I am working on both the commercial and Department of Defense and develop programs for training and coaching the skills from MBA to IT Audit and all of technical security for our Certification of Information Assurance Workforce and conduct all the CISM/CISA training and review courses for ISACA in both commercial and military environments. I have worked on Risk Management for years at ERM as well as IT Security/Risk, and A common theme in all of this is RISK MANAGEMENT. When I discuss the Value of IT with MBA students or discuss CMMI with MIS students or development houses, or discuss why ITIL/Cobit or other discuss with business managers what will keep them from reaching their goals and objectives, it is ALL risk management put into a different taxonomy that that particular audience can understand.I have not been impressed with the current Risk Management certifications that are available. I did participate in the job task analysis of ISACA (which is a VERY positive thing about how ISACA keeps their certifications) more aligned to practice. It is also not perfect, but I think it is a start. If we contribute instead of just complain, it can get better, or we can create something better. What can be better?So Alex I welcome a personal dialog with you or others on what and how we can do it better. I can host a web conference and invite all who want to participate (upto 100 attendee capacity).
I’ll take you up on that offer, Philip. Unfortunately, it’s going to be a very short Webex, because the answer is simple, “you can’t do risk certification better because you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”
That was kind of the point of my blog posts.
Just to be clear:
In IT I’m sort of seeing 2 types of certifications:
- Process based certifications (I can admin a checkpoint firewall, or active directory or what not)
- Domain knowledge based certifications (CISA, CISM)
The problems with a risk management certification are legion. But to highlight a few in the context of Certifying individuals:
A). Information Risk Management is not an “applied” practice of two domains. CISM, CISA, and similar certs are mainly, you know how to X – now apply it to InfoSec. IRM, done with more than a casual hand wave towards following a process because you have to, is much more complex than these, requiring more than just mashing up, say, “management” and “security”, or “auditing” and “security”.
(In fact, I’d argue that IRM shouldn’t be part of an MIS course load, rather it’s own tract with heavier influences from probability theory, history of science, complexity theory, economics, and epidemiology than, say, Engineering, Computer Science or MIS.)
B). IRM is not a “process”. Now obviously certain risk management standards are a process. In my opinion, most risk management standards are nothing BUT a re-iteration of a Plan/Do/Check/Act process. And just to be clear, I have no problems if you want to go get certified in FAIR or OCTAVE or Blahdity-Blah – I’m all for that. That shows that you’ve studied a document and can regurgitate the contents of that document, presumably on demand, and within the specific subjective perspective of those who taught you.
And similarly if ISACA wants to “certify” that someone can take their RiskIT document and be a domain expert at it, groovy. Just don’t call that person “Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control™” because they’re not. They’re “Certified in our expanded P/D/C/A cycle that is yet another myopic way to list a bajillion risk scenarios in a manner you can’t possibly address before the Sun exhausts it’s supply of helium.” “TM”
RE-ITERATING THE POINT
Look, as my challenge to quantify the impact of risk reduction of a COBIT program suggests, IRM is more than these standards.
And I gotta be clear here, you’ve hit a pet peeve of mine, the whole “Let’s be PROACTIVE” thing. First, criticism and dis-proof is part of the natural evolution of ideas. To act like it isn’t is kinda bogus. And like I said above, you’re assuming that there is something we should be doing about individual certification instead of CRISC – but THERE ISN’T ANY ALTERNATE, AND THERE SHOULD’NT BE. You’re saying, “let’s verify people can ride their Unicorns properly into Chernobyl” and assuming I’m saying, you know, “maybe we shouldn’t ride Unicorns”. I’m not. I’m saying “we shouldn’t go to Chernobyl regardless of the means of transportation”.
And in terms of what we CAN do, well in my eyes – that’s SOIRA. Now don’t get me wrong, as best as I understood Jay’s vision, it’s not a specific destination, it’s just a destination that isn’t Chernobyl. I don’t know where it is going yet Phil, but I’m optimistic that Kevin, Jay, John, and Chris are pretty capable of figuring it out, and doing so because of passion, not because they want to sell more memberships, course materials, or certifications. Either way, I’m just along for the ride, interested in driving when others get tired and playing a few mix tapes along the way.