If you’re concerned with an online data breach, you’re not alone. Businesses of any size should be worried about sensitive data being hacked. Data breaches are reported every week, with about 15 million data records exposed worldwide.

While some industries are at higher risk than others, all enterprises should be keeping their cybersecurity measures up to date. As a business, your online systems are probably storing sensitive data such as customer logins, payment information, and many other items that should be protected at all times. One way to do this is with security metrics.

Data protection and cybersecurity have made huge strides in recent years, with a spend that’s expected to reach over $170 billion. Even so, cyber hackers are still finding ways to get around the moat and into your castle housing sensitive data, increasing security metrics importance .

When it comes to protecting your data, there isn’t a cut-and-dry solution that works for every industry. It’s important to always do your research and figure out the needs of your business to ensure your data is protected properly.

If you have questions, don’t worry! The team at RiskRecon is here to help. So, let’s look at what security metrics are and how to protect your business’s data from cybersecurity threats.

What are security metrics?

Before diving in, it’s important to understand what security metrics are. Security metrics are also known as cybersecurity metrics, since they are protecting your online data. The Gartner security metric definition is:

“Security metrics are quantifiable measurements used to understand the status of systems and services through the collection, analysis and reporting of relevant data. They are based on security objectives that help inform decisions on how to improve the security of all components involved in delivering services and processing data.”

That’s a mouthful, so let’s break it down further. Simply put, security metrics are put in place to protect your data across your business. They are necessary for maintaining cybersecurity compliance. When you have a security metrics system, you’ll be able to monitor incoming data to ensure it’s not a threat to your business. Depending on your needs as a business, you may have different security metrics in place to decrease vulnerability.

It’s important to be aware of cyber threats when you own a business, no matter how big or small. Practicing proper security measures will decrease risk, find known vulnerabilities and help you grow your business while maintaining compliance.

Cybersecurity compliance means that you’re adhering to standards and regulatory requirements set forth by some agency, law, or authority group.

What makes a security metric acceptably efficient?

It can be difficult to define what a good security metric is. After a security analysis, the security team can use tools to find what’s best. Most security metrics follow the SMART structure, which stands for:


The data must be targeted to the exact area being measured.


To be used as a security metric, the data needs to be accurate as well as complete.


Data should be easy to understand so action can be taken as soon as possible.


All metrics being measured should be important to the data being protected.


The data should be available when you need it during an analysis.

Using the SMART formula will allow you to specify impactful metrics to protect your business.

What do security metrics measure?

Knowing what security metrics measure will give you a better understanding of how they can help your security operations benefit your organization. Essentially, cyber security metrics focus on threats to the business.

For example, security metrics will identify any threats to the assets in your business, patterns, find future threats, and collect data. There’s a saying that goes, “what cannot be measured, cannot be managed.” So to keep your data safe, you must be using security metrics.

When it comes to security metrics, it can be difficult to define what is good. Security metrics will analyze any information going in and out of your system to protect it from a data breach. To put it simply, security metrics may measure:

  • Vulnerability metrics

  • Security policies

  • Employee cybersecurity training

  • Amount of data

  • Hiring metrics

  • Tools and services provided

  • Virus metrics

  • Malware metrics

Security metrics can measure many other things, but it’s up to your business needs and security professionals to decide what’s necessary. Effective security metrics should also indicate the degree to which security goals are being met for the organization and how to improve them.

Why are security metrics important?

If you’re not measuring the potential risk of cybersecurity threats, you have no way to manage them. For instance, cybersecurity is not a one-time thing. Cybercriminals are constantly changing their tactics and finding new ways to get around cybersecurity. You must stay on top of it at all times. Having security metrics in place is the surefire way to continuously assess the effectiveness of your security system and potential areas of vulnerability.

When are security metrics relevant?

The short answer to this question is that they are typically always going to be relevant within an organization’s security program. They can identify levels of risk in not taking certain risk mitigation actions. This can help you prioritize for the future.

A security team such as RiskRecon can help you mitigate cyber security risk through a perfected risk rating model. This model will assist you in making risk decisions quickly while navigating the digital ecosystem that can be confusing if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

Consulting with a team of security professionals gets you started with the security metrics process.

What is putting my data security at risk?

Knowing what can put your data at risk is important before choosing security measurements. On average, a data breach can cost about $8 million in the US. Everyone on your team should be familiar with potential security threats, so they know what to look for.

Phishing/Social Engineering Attacks

Phishing is one of the most notorious ways a data breach can happen. It’s a type of social engineering attack that’s used to gain access to private data. It happens to businesses, but also to individuals. Essentially, it involves tricking someone into providing information that will give them access to an account.

On a personal level, many people have experienced social engineering attacks on social media platforms, such as Instagram. The attacker then has access to their account and can do with it what they will.

While getting your Instagram account hacked is a nuisance, phishing can have major consequences for businesses. Phishing is commonly done in the form of email, where a link is provided that can give the hacker access to a corporate network. Employees should be trained on how to spot phishing and how to manage third-party risk. All security issues should also be reported.

Insider Threats

Unfortunately, a data breach can happen due to insider threats. An insider threat is typically an employee who threatens your organization’s security. Sometimes it’s an accident, and sometimes it’s intentional, such as:

  • Malicious insider

    • This is when an employee is actively causing a data breach for personal gain

  • Non-malicious insider

    • Employees can cause harm accidentally, such as through a phishing scheme or improper training on cyber security

  • Comprised insider

    • A compromised insider is someone who didn’t know their account was hacked into


Accidents happen; it’s a part of life. In fact, many data breaches happen purely due to negligence or accidental exposure. The problem is that while it’s unintentional, sensitive data has still been exposed, or access to your network has been given to someone outside of the organization. This is another reason why proper cyber security training and metrics are so important, regardless of your business size.


Another issue that could be putting your data at risk is ransomware. Even if you're running a small business, ransomware is still an issue. Ransomware is a type of malware that can encrypt data. This means that you won’t be able to access it without a decryption key. The person who hacked into it will send a message asking for payment for you to get back in. Hence the term ‘ransomware.’

Most of the time, even if you pay it, you won’t get access to your data back. If you’re operating a large corporation, it can spread quickly to other areas. Security metrics will allow you to detect ransomware and act fast to prevent as much spread as possible.

Which security metrics are the most important?

Once your security team has completed risk mitigation, you must determine which security metrics are most important to your organization. You must figure out your security posture to find effective metrics for your organization.

Your security posture is the overall security status of items your organization uses, including:

  • Hardware

  • Services

  • Networks

  • Information

  • Vendors

  • Service Providers

Typically, the metric used to track security posture is a security rating. When a security posture is measured, it shows you a quantitative metric of your cyber security risk. A security team like RiskRecon can help you with an assessment to figure out your security posture.

Cybersecurity metrics categories

If you’re not tech-savvy, deciphering which security metrics are most effective can be tricky. The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) has created a helpful guide that breaks it down into three categories in The Performance Measurement Guide for Information Security .


Efficiency monitors the results of implemented security control for either single or multiple controls. Efficiency metrics are best suited for well-established businesses that have had security policies and procedures in place for quite a while. The business using efficiency metrics has plenty of data ready to be analyzed, but there’s still room for improvement and changes.

For example, when running efficiency security metrics, the security team may look for unapproved data stored on company equipment (such as laptops).


This category of security metrics is utilized to show the impact of the security program. It’s typically done by quantifying risk reduction or cost-effectiveness of it. Impact metrics are best for a business that has policies and procedures integrated into their security program already.

The organization is already collecting data, so the metrics will have it readily available. An example of impact metrics would be analyzing the data outcome from a power outage in a building, or data exposure from stolen equipment.


Metrics show how the policies and procedures of an organization are being implemented as well as individual security controls. Implementation metrics are best for organizations that are on the newer side. For instance, they likely have cyber security policies and procedures in place, but little data has been collected. Hence, testing the security programs' implementation before the business grows.

An example of this is measuring the percentage increase of how many computers have been scanned by security tools, and collecting data on how well everything is working. That way, computer security issues can be solved before they begin.

How to choose the proper security metrics for your organization

When you’re choosing security metrics for your organization, you should be looking at:


Collecting metrics that are irrelevant to your needs is a waste of time and money for your business and security team. Make sure all metrics that are chosen have a meaning and benefit.


Much like context, metrics should measure controllable processes.


The metrics you choose should support your goals as a business as well as policies and procedures. Their purpose should be to ensure your resources are being used properly, and demonstrate that your business has value.

Data Quality

In order for metrics to be of value, the data being used must be accurate and reliable. Otherwise, the metrics won’t be able to create a precise report to improve information security.

Common security metrics to choose

Number of cyber security incidents reported to the security information team

It’s a fact that no matter the size of your organization, you will eventually face a cybersecurity issue. Your team should be encouraged to report even the most minor issue so it can be analyzed in security metrics.

Unidentified devices connected to the internal network

We’re living in the age of the Internet of Things , which means employees’ personal devices could be connecting to your company network. Home devices, such as TVs with an internet connection, can pose a serious risk to your data, and security metrics can detect them as threats to be removed.

Results of Employee Security Training

Having a security program won’t do much if your employees are not doing well during training. It’s crucial that all employees, at any level, are put through cybersecurity. Metrics can use these results to see where training needs improvement.

Vulnerabilities on Internal Systems

Internal vulnerabilities may seem like they wouldn’t be a threat, but they can be. Security metrics must analyze them to report your overall risk.

Vulnerabilities on External Systems

Security metrics must use external scans to find potential threats that may be able to enter your system.

How is data security connected to the success of my business?

It’s important to understand exactly how data security is connected to the success of your business. Whether you are operating a small local business, or a huge enterprise, security metrics are always important. There are several things to consider from your customers to financial loss.

If your business has customers, you’ll need to build trust. This doesn’t only mean in your product, but in your business as a whole.

Build customer trust

For example, any personal information that your customers give you becomes stored data in your system. A data breach will not only affect your business, but also the customers. If you don’t have security metrics in place, customers aren’t going to want to hand over any of their information.

Being able to confidently tell your customers that you are actively watching security metrics and have an esteemed system behind it will build trust. You could also have a costly lawsuit on your hands if a data breach affects your customer base.

Save money

Data security can also lower business costs. It’s one of the only areas in business that’s more successful when nothing happens. As long as you’re managing your security metrics properly, data breaches shouldn’t occur and there will be no loss.

Put executives at ease

Cybersecurity metrics will also put executives and other people high up in the organization at ease. The people running the show want to see data and numbers, and that’s exactly what you get with security metrics. You will be able to hand over an analysis and report of your security programs for them to see what’s working and what isn’t.

How can RiskRecon help me with security metrics?

It’s important to be prepared before implementing security metrics into your organization. Your security team may need assistance, and RiskRecon, a Mastercard Company is here to help! We’re here to find risks in your vendor ecosystem and your own IT infrastructure that you may not have known were there to begin with, and improve your overall cybersecurity hygiene.

Not only that, but we will customize a plan to fit your needs and be with you every step of the way. Contact us for a RiskRecon demo , today!