By this point in our risk analysis, we have identified controls that address each vulnerability in our list. The next step is to determine whether the costs outweigh the benefits of preventing or mitigating the risks. Recall that we multiply the risk probability by the risk impact to determine the risk exposure. The risk impact is the loss that we might experience if the risk were to turn into a real problem. There are techniques to help us determine the risk exposure.
The effective cost of a given control is the actual cost of the control (such as purchase price, installation costs, and training costs) minus any expected loss from using the control (such as administrative or maintenance costs). Thus, the true cost of a control may be positive if the control is expensive to administer or introduces new risk in another area of the system. Or the cost can even be negative if the reduction in risk is greater than the cost of the control.
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For example, suppose a department has determined that some users have gained unauthorized access to the computing system. Managers fear the intruders might intercept or even modify sensitive data on the system. One approach to addressing this problem is to install a more secure data access control program. Even though the cost of the access control software is high ($25,000), its cost is easily justified when compared to its value, as shown in Table 10-7. Because the entire cost of the package is charged in the first year, even greater benefits are expected for subsequent years.