Contextualising and Aligning Security Metrics and Business Objectives: a GQM-based Methodology

Eleni Philippou, Sylvain Frey, Awais Rashid

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
71 Downloads (Pure)


Pre-defined security metrics suffer from the problem of contextualisation, i.e. a lack of adaptability to particular organisational contexts – domain, technical infrastructure, stakeholders, business process, etc. Adapting metrics to an organisational context is essential (1) for the metrics to align with business requirements (2) for decision makers to maintain relevant security goals based on measurements from the field. In this paper we propose SYMBIOSIS, a methodology that defines a goal elicitation and refinement process mapping business objectives to security measurement goals via the use of systematic templates that capture relevant context elements (business goals, purpose, stakeholders, system scope). The novel contribution of SYMBIOSIS is the well-defined process, which enforces that (1) metrics align with business objectives via a top-down derivation that refines top-level business objectives to a manageable granularity (2) the impact of metrics on business objectives is explicitly traced via a bottom-up feedback mechanism, allowing an incremental approach where feedback from metrics influences business goals, and vice-versa. In this paper, we discuss the findings from applying SYMBIOSIS to three case studies of known security incidents. Our analysis shows how the aforementioned pitfalls of security metrics development processes affected the outcome of these high-profile security incidents and how SYMBIOSIS addresses such issues.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101634
Number of pages15
JournalComputers and Security
Early online date8 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2020

Structured keywords

  • Cyber Security
  • Jean Golding


  • Security metrics
  • Security decision-making
  • Contextual metrics
  • Metrics development process
  • Goal-question-metric (GQM)


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