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This section of the ISM provides guidance on system-specific security documentation.

System-specific security documentation

System-specific security documentation, such as the system security plan, incident response plan, continuous monitoring plan, security assessment report, and plan of action and milestones, support the accurate and consistent application of policies, processes and procedures for systems. As such, it is important that they are developed by personnel with a good understanding of security matters, the technologies being used and the business requirements of the organisation.

System-specific security documentation may be presented in a number of formats including dynamic content such as wikis, intranets or other forms of document repositories. Furthermore, depending on the documentation framework used, details common to multiple systems could be consolidated into higher level security documentation.

System security plan

The system security plan provides a description of a system and includes an annex that describes the security controls that have been identified and implemented for the system.

There can be many stakeholders involved in defining a system security plan. This can include representatives from:

  • cyber security teams within the organisation
  • project teams who deliver the capability (including contractors)
  • support teams who operate and support the capability
  • owners of information to be processed, stored or communicated by the system
  • users for whom the capability is being developed.

Security Control: 0041; Revision: 3; Updated: Aug-19; Applicability: O, P, S, TS
Systems have a system security plan that includes a description of the system and an annex that covers both security controls from this document (based on the system’s classification, functionality and technologies) and any additional security controls that have been identified for the system.

Incident response plan

Having an incident response plan ensures that when a cyber security incident occurs, a plan is in place to respond appropriately to the situation. In most situations, the aim of the response will be to prevent the cyber security incident from escalating, restore any impacted system or information, and preserve any evidence.

Security Control: 0043; Revision: 3; Updated: Sep-18; Applicability: O, P, S, TS
Systems have an incident response plan that covers the following:

  • guidelines on what constitutes a cyber security incident
  • the types of incidents likely to be encountered and the expected response to each type
  • how to report cyber security incidents, internally to the organisation and externally to the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC)
  • other parties which need to be informed in the event of a cyber security incident
  • the authority, or authorities, responsible for investigating and responding to cyber security incidents
  • the criteria by which an investigation of a cyber security incident would be requested from a law enforcement agency, the ACSC or other relevant authority
  • the steps necessary to ensure the integrity of evidence relating to a cyber security incident
  • system contingency measures or a reference to such details if they are located in a separate document.

Continuous monitoring plan

A continuous monitoring plan can assist organisations in proactively identifying, prioritising and responding to security vulnerabilities. Measures to monitor and manage security vulnerabilities in systems can also provide organisations with a wealth of valuable information about their exposure to cyber threats, as well as assisting them to determine security risks associated with the operation of their systems. Undertaking continuous monitoring activities is important as cyber threats and the effectiveness of security controls will change over time.

Three types of continuous monitoring activities are vulnerability assessments, vulnerability scans and penetration tests. A vulnerability assessment typically consists of a review of a system’s architecture or an in-depth hands-on assessment while a vulnerability scan involves using software tools to conduct automated scans. In each case, the goal is to identify as many security vulnerabilities as possible. A penetration test however is designed to exercise real-world targeted cyber intrusion scenarios in an attempt to achieve a specific goal, such as compromising critical system components or information. Regardless of the continuous monitoring activities chosen, they should be conducted by suitably skilled personnel independent of the system being assessed. Such personnel can be internal to an organisation or a third party. This ensures that there is no conflict of interest, perceived or otherwise, and that the activities are undertaken in an objective manner.

Security Control: 1163; Revision: 6; Updated: Jun-20; Applicability: O, P, S, TS
Systems have a continuous monitoring plan that includes:

  • conducting vulnerability scans for systems at least monthly
  • conducting vulnerability assessments or penetration tests for systems at least annually
  • analysing identified security vulnerabilities to determine their potential impact and appropriate mitigations based on effectiveness, cost and existing security controls
  • using a risk-based approach to prioritise the implementation of identified mitigations.

Security assessment report

At the conclusion of a security assessment for a system, a security assessment report should be produced by the assessor. This will assist the system owner in performing any initial remediation actions as well as guiding the development of the system’s plan of action and milestones.

Security Control: 1563; Revision: 0; Updated: May-20; Applicability: O, P, S, TS
At the conclusion of a security assessment for a system, a security assessment report is produced by the assessor and covers:

  • the scope of the security assessment
  • the system’s strengths and weaknesses
  • security risks associated with the operation of the system
  • the effectiveness of the implementation of security controls
  • any recommended remediation actions.

Plan of action and milestones

At the conclusion of a security assessment for a system, and the production of a security assessment report by the assessor, a plan of action and milestones should be produced by the system owner. This will assist with tracking any of the system’s identified weaknesses and recommended remediation actions following the security assessment.

Security Control: 1564; Revision: 0; Updated: May-20; Applicability: O, P, S, TS
At the conclusion of a security assessment for a system, a plan of action and milestones is produced by the system owner.