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Developing an information classification method
School of Engineering, Jönköping University, Sweden.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-1436-2980
School of Business, Örebro University, Sweden.
University of Skövde, School of Informatics. University of Skövde, Informatics Research Environment. (Informationssystem (IS), Information Systems)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8607-948X
2021 (English)In: Information and Computer Security, E-ISSN 2056-4961, Vol. 29, no 2, p. 209-239Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to develop a method for information classification. The proposed method draws on established standards, such as the ISO/IEC 27002 and information classification practices. The long-term goal of the method is to decrease the subjective judgement in the implementation of information classification in organisations, which can lead to information security breaches because the information is under- or over-classified. Design/methodology/approach: The results are based on a design science research approach, implemented as five iterations spanning the years 2013 to 2019. Findings: The paper presents a method for information classification and the design principles underpinning the method. The empirical demonstration shows that senior and novice information security managers perceive the method as a useful tool for classifying information assets in an organisation. Research limitations/implications: Existing research has, to a limited extent, provided extensive advice on how to approach information classification in organisations systematically. The method presented in this paper can act as a starting point for further research in this area, aiming at decreasing subjectivity in the information classification process. Additional research is needed to fully validate the proposed method for information classification and its potential to reduce the subjective judgement. Practical implications: The research contributes to practice by offering a method for information classification. It provides a hands-on-tool for how to implement an information classification process. Besides, this research proves that it is possible to devise a method to support information classification. This is important, because, even if an organisation chooses not to adopt the proposed method, the very fact that this method has proved useful should encourage any similar endeavour. Originality/value: The proposed method offers a detailed and well-elaborated tool for information classification. The method is generic and adaptable, depending on organisational needs.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2021. Vol. 29, no 2, p. 209-239
Keywords [en]
Information classification, Information classification method, Information security management, Information security management systems, ISO Standards, Security of data, Design Principles, Design-science researches, Design/methodology/approach, Information assets, Long-term goals, Organisational, Subjective judgement, Classification (of information)
National Category
Information Systems Information Systems, Social aspects Computer Sciences
Research subject
Information Systems
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:his:diva-19309DOI: 10.1108/ICS-07-2020-0110ISI: 000595848200001Scopus ID: 2-s2.0-85097088962OAI: oai:DiVA.org:his-19309DiVA, id: diva2:1508849
Note

Article publication date: 3 December 2020.

Issue publication date: 3 August 2021.

Available from: 2020-12-10 Created: 2020-12-10 Last updated: 2023-05-02Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Supporting Information Security Management: Developing a Method for Information Classification
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Supporting Information Security Management: Developing a Method for Information Classification
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the highly digitalised world in which we live today, information and information systems have become critical assets to organisations, and hence need to be safeguarded accordingly. In order to implement and work with information security in a structured way, an Information Security Management System (ISMS) can be implemented. Asset management is a central activity in ISMS that aims at identifying, assigning ownership and adding protection to information assets. One activity within asset management is information classification that has the objective to ensure that the information receives an appropriate level of protection in accordance with its importance to the organisation. Information classification is a well-known practice for all kinds of organisations, both in the private and public sector, and is included in different variants in standards such as ISO/IEC 27002, COBIT and NIST-SP800.

However, information classification has received little attention from academia, and many organisations are struggling with the implementation. The reasons behind why it is problematic, and how to address such issues, are largely unknown. Furthermore, existing approaches, described in, for example, standards and national recommendations, do not provide a coherent and systematic approach to information classification. The short descriptions in standards, and literature alike, leave out essential aspects needed for many organisations to adopt and implement information classification. There is, for instance, a lack of detailed descriptions regarding (1) procedures and concepts, (2) how to tailor the approach for different situations, (3) a framework that structures and guides the classification, (4) what roles should be involved in the classification, and (5) how information with different granularity is handled.

This thesis aims to increase the applicability of information classification by developing a method for information classification in ISMS that draws from established standards and practice. In order to address this aim, a Design Science Research (DSR) study was performed in three cycles. A wide range of data was collected, including a series of interviews with experts and novices on information classification, a survey, most of the Swedish public sector information classification policies, and observations. There are three main contributions made by this thesis (1) the identification of issues and enablers for information classification, (2) the design principles underpinning the development of a method for information classification, and (3) the method for information classification itself. Contributions have also been made to the context around information classification, such as, for example, 20 practical suggestions for how to meet documented challenges in practice.

Abstract [sv]

I den starkt digitaliserade värld vi lever i idag har information och informationssystem blivit kritiska tillgångar för organisationer och därför måste dessa följaktligen skyddas. För att implementera och arbeta med informationssäkerhet på ett strukturerat sätt kan ett ledningssystem för informationssäkerhet (LIS) implementeras. Hantering av tillgångar är en central aktivitet i LIS som syftar till att identifiera tillgångar, fastställa lämpligt ansvar och bestämma lämplig skyddsnivå för informationstillgångar. En aktivitet inom hanteringen av tillgångar är informationsklassificering som har som mål att se till att information får en lämplig skyddsnivå i enlighet med dess betydelse för organisationen. Informationsklassificering är en allmänt känd och välanvänd praxis för alla slags organisationer, både inom den privata och offentliga sektorn. Dessutom finns informationsklassificering beskrivit som en del av flera standarder exempelvis i ISO/IEC 27002, COBIT och NIST-SP800.

Informationsklassificering har emellertid fått lite uppmärksamhet inom akademin och dessutom kämpar många organisationer med införandet. De underliggande orsakerna till varför det är problematiskt att implementera och använda informationsklassificering är i mångt och mycket oklara. Vidare tillhandahåller exempelvis befintliga standarder och nationella rekommendationer inget sammanhängande och systematiskt beskrivit tillvägagångssätt för att skildra informationsklassificering. De korta beskrivningarna i standarder och vetenskaplig litteratur utelämnar väsentliga aspekter som krävs för att kunna implementera informationsklassificering i en organisation. Det finns till exempel brist på detaljerade beskrivningar avseende (1) förfaranden och begrepp, (2) hur man kan anpassa tillvägagångssättet för olika situationer, (3) ett ramverk som strukturerar och styr klassificeringen, (4) vilka roller som ska vara involverade i klassificeringen och (5) hur information med olika granularitet hanteras.

Denna avhandling syftar till att utveckla en metod för informationsklassificering som bygger på standarder och praxis och som kan användas som en del av LIS-arbetet. För att möta detta syfte genomfördes en DSR-studie (Design Science Research) i tre cykler. Ett brett spektrum av data har samlats in som en del av detta arbete, inklusive en serie intervjuer med experter och nybörjare om informationsklassificering, en enkätundersökning, ett antal observationer samt en insamling av de flesta svenska myndigheters klassificeringspolicyer. Det finns tre huvudsakliga bidrag med denna avhandling (1) identifiering av problem och möjliggörare för informationsklassificering, (2) designprinciper som ligger till grund för utvecklingen av en metod för informationsklassificering och (3) metoden för informationsklassificering. Det har också gjorts bidrag till kontexten kring informationsklassificering. Exempelvis beskrivs och ges 20 praktiska förslag för hur man bemöter väldokumenterade utmaningar inom riskanalys och vid val av skyddsåtgärder.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Skövde: University of Skövde, 2020. p. 310
Series
Dissertation Series ; 33
Keywords
information classification, Information security management, Information security management systems, Information classification method
National Category
Information Systems
Research subject
INF303 Information Security; Information Systems
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:his:diva-18920 (URN)978-91-984918-5-2 (ISBN)
Public defence
2020-09-04, G109, Högskolevägen 1, 09:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2020-08-14 Created: 2020-08-14 Last updated: 2023-07-06Bibliographically approved

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Bergström, ErikÅhlfeldt, Rose-Mharie

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