Example of Secure System Engineering Policy


XXX applies information system security engineering principles in the specification, design, development, implementation, and modification of the information system.


XXX apply security engineering principles primarily to new development information systems or systems undergoing major upgrades. For legacy systems, organizations apply security engineering principles to system upgrades and modifications to the extent feasible, given the current state of hardware, software, and firmware within those systems. Security engineering principles include, for example

  • developing layered protections;
  • establishing sound security policy, architecture, and controls as the foundation for design;
  • incorporating security requirements into the system development life cycle;
  • delineating physical and logical security boundaries;
  • ensuring that system developers are trained on how to build secure software;
  • tailoring security controls to meet organizational and operational needs;
  • performing threat modeling to identify use cases, threat agents, attack vectors, and attack patterns as well as compensating controls and design patterns needed to mitigate risk; and
  • reducing risk to acceptable levels, thus enabling informed risk management decisions.


Top management at XXX understands that principles for engineering secure systems should be established, documented, maintained and applied to any information system implementation effort. To this end XXX has produced this secure system engineering principles policy to ensure that the Company:

Produces principles that will be applied to in-house information system engineering activities

– Ensures that security will be designed into all architecture layers balancing the need for security with that of accessibility

  • Ensures that new technology is analysed for security risks
  • Ensures that the design is reviewed against known attack patterns
  • Ensures that Principles are reviewed to ensure their effectiveness in contributing to enhanced standards of security within the engineering process
  • Ensure that Principles are reviewed to ensure they remain up-to-date in terms of combating any new potential threats and in advances in technology

Top management also understand that certain suppliers may have inadequate information security management and will, in such cases, identify and apply controls necessary to ensure security is maintained. It will use
confidentiality agreements

  • non-disclosure agreements and
  • second party audits where appropriate.
  • The Company will also take into account any Data Protection regulations and will be aware of all legal and contractual responsibilities in the area.
  • Application development procedures will also apply secure engineering principles when developing applications for both input and output interfaces.
  • Responsibility for upholding this policy is truly company-wide under the authority of the Managing Director who encourages the personal commitment of all staff to address information security as part of their skills.

Principle for Engineering secure system

Security Foundation

Principle 1: Establish a sound security policy as the “foundation” for design.
A security policy is an important document to develop while designing an information system. The security policy begins with the organization’s basic commitment to information security formulated as a general policy statement. The policy is then applied to all aspects of the system design or security solution. The policy identifies security goals (e.g., confidentiality, integrity, availability, accountability, and assurance) the system should support and these goals guide the procedures, standards and controls used in the IT security architecture design. The policy also should require definition of critical assets, the perceived threat, and security-related roles and responsibilities.

Principle 2: Treat security as an integral part of the overall system design.
Security must be considered in information system design and should be integrated fully into the system life-cycle. Experience has shown it to be both difficult and costly to introduce security measures properly and successfully after a system has been developed, so security should be implemented in the design stage of all new information systems, and where possible, in the modification and continuing operation of all legacy systems. This includes establishing security policies, understanding the resulting security requirements, participating in the evaluation of security products, and in the engineering, design, implementation, and disposal of the system.

Principle 3: Clearly delineate the physical and logical security boundaries governed by associated security policies.
Information technology exists in physical and logical locations, and boundaries exist between these locations. An understanding of what is to be protected from external factors can help ensure adequate protective measures are applied where they will be most effective. Sometimes a boundary is defined by people, information, and information technology associated with one physical location. But this ignores the reality that, within a single location, many different security policies may be in place, some covering publicly accessible information and some covering sensitive or confidential information. Other times a boundary is defined by a security policy that governs a specific set of information and information technology that can cross physical boundaries. Further complicating the matter is that, many times, a single machine or server may house both public-access and sensitive information. As a result, multiple security policies may apply to a single machine or within a single system. Therefore, when developing an information system, security boundaries must be considered and communicated in relevant system documentation and security policies.

Principle 4: Ensure that developers are trained in how to develop secure software.
Ensure that developers are adequately trained in the design, development, configuration control, integration, and testing of secure software before developing the system.


Principle 5: Reduce risk to an acceptable level.
Risk is defined as the combination of (1) the likelihood that a particular threat source will exercise (intentionally exploit or unintentionally trigger) a particular information system vulnerability and (2) the resulting adverse impact on organizational operations, assets, or individuals should this occur. Recognize that the elimination of all risk is not cost-effective. A cost-benefit analysis should be conducted for each proposed control. In some cases, the benefits of a more secure system may not justify the direct and indirect costs. Benefits include more than just prevention of monetary loss; for example, controls may be essential for maintaining public trust and confidence. Direct costs include the cost of purchasing and installing a given technology; indirect costs include decreased system performance and additional training. The goal is to enhance mission/business capabilities by mitigating mission/business risk to an acceptable level. (Related Principle: 6)

Principle 6: Assume that external systems are insecure.
The term information domain arises from the practice of partitioning information resources according to access control, need, and levels of protection required. Organizations implement specific measures to enforce this partitioning and to provide for the deliberate flow of authorized information between information domains. The boundary of an information domain represents the security perimeter for that domain. An external domain is one that is not under your control. In general, external systems should be considered insecure. Until an external domain has been deemed “trusted,” system engineers, architects, and IT specialists should presume the security measures of an external system are different than those of a trusted internal system and design the system security features accordingly.

Principle 7: Identify potential trade-offs between reducing risk and increased costs and decrease in other aspects of operational effectiveness.
To meet stated security requirements, a systems designer, architect, or security practitioner will need to identify and address all competing operational needs. It may be necessary to modify or adjust security goals due to other operational requirements. In modifying or adjusting security goals, an acceptance of greater risk and cost may be inevitable. By identifying and addressing these trade-offs as early as possible, decision makers will have greater latitude and be able to achieve more effective systems. (Related: Principle 4)

Principle 8: Implement tailored system security measures to meet organizational security goals.
In general, IT security measures are tailored according to an organization’s unique needs. While numerous factors, such as the overriding mission requirements, and guidance, are to be considered, the fundamental issue is the protection of the mission or business from IT security-related, negative impacts. Because IT security needs are not uniform, system designers and security practitioners should consider the level of trust when connecting to other external networks and internal sub- domains. Recognizing the uniqueness of each system allows a layered security strategy to be used – implementing lower assurance solutions with lower costs to protect less critical systems and higher assurance solutions only at the most critical areas.

Principle 9: Protect information while being processed, in transit, and in storage.
The risk of unauthorized modification or destruction of data, disclosure of information, and denial of access to data while in transit should be considered along with the risks associated with data that is in storage or being processed. Therefore, system engineers, architects, and IT specialists should implement security measures to preserve, as needed, the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of data, including application software, while the information is being processed, in transit, and in storage.

Principle 10: Consider custom products to achieve adequate security.
Designers should recognize that in some instances it may not be possible to meet security goals with systems constructed entirely from commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products. In such instances, it may be necessary to augment COTS with non-COTS mechanisms.

Principle 11: Protect against all likely classes of “attacks.”
In designing the security controls, multiple classes of “attacks” need to be considered. Those classes that result in unacceptable risk need to be mitigated. Examples of “attack” classes are: passive monitoring, active network attacks, exploitation by insiders, attacks requiring physical access or proximity, and the insertion of back doors and malicious code during software development and/or distribution.


Principle 12: Where possible, base security on open standards for portability and interoperability.
Most organizations depend significantly on distributed information systems to perform their mission or business. These systems distribute information both across their own organization and to other organizations. For security capabilities to be effective in such environments, security program designers should make every effort to incorporate interoperability and portability into all security measures, including hardware and software, and implementation practices.

Principle 13: Use common language in developing security requirements.
The use of a common language when developing security requirements permits organizations to evaluate and compare security products and features evaluated in a common test environment. When a “common” evaluation process is based upon common requirements or criteria, a level of confidence can be established that ensures product security functions conform to an organization’s security requirements. The Common Criteria (CC; available at http://www.commoncriteriaportal.org/) provides a source of common expressions for common needs and supports a common assessment methodology. Use of CC “protection profiles” and “security targets” greatly aids the development of products (and to some extent systems) that have IT security functions. The rigor and repeatability of the CC methodology provides for thorough definition of user security needs. Security targets provide system integrators with key information needed in the procurement of components and implementation of secure IT systems.

Principle 14: Design security to allow for regular adoption of new technology, including a secure and logical technology upgrade process.
As mission and business processes and the threat environment change, security requirements and technical protection methods must be updated. IT-related risks to the mission/business vary over time and undergo periodic assessment. Periodic assessment should be performed to enable system designers and managers to make informed risk management decisions on whether to accept or mitigate identified risks with changes or updates to the security capability. The lack of timely identification through consistent security solution re-evaluation and correction of evolving, applicable IT vulnerabilities results in false trust and increased risk. Each security mechanism should be able to support migration to new technology or upgrade of new features without requiring an entire system redesign. The security design should be modular so that individual parts of the security design can be upgraded without the requirement to modify the entire system.

Principle 15: Strive for operational ease of use.
The more difficult it is to maintain and operate a security control the less effective that control is likely to be. Therefore, security controls should be designed to be consistent with the concept of operations and with ease-of-use as an important consideration. The experience and expertise of administrators and users should be appropriate and proportional to the operation of the security control. An organization must invest the resources necessary to ensure system administrators and users are properly trained. Moreover, administrator and user training costs along with the life-cycle operational costs should be considered when determining the cost-effectiveness of the security control.


Principle 16: Implement layered security (ensure no single point of vulnerability).
Security designs should consider a layered approach to address or protect against a specific threat or to reduce vulnerability. For example, the use of a packet-filtering router in conjunction with an application gateway and an intrusion detection system combine to increase the work-factor an attacker must expend to successfully attack the system. Add good password controls and adequate user training to improve the system’s security posture even more. By using multiple, overlapping protection approaches, the failure or circumvention of any individual protection approach will not leave the system unprotected. Through user training and awareness, well-crafted policies and procedures, and redundancy of protection mechanisms, layered protections enable effective protection of information technology for the purpose of achieving mission objectives. The need for layered protections is especially important when COTS products are used. Practical experience has shown that the current state-of-the-art for security quality in COTS products does not provide a high degree of protection against sophisticated attacks. It is possible to help mitigate this situation by placing several controls in series, requiring additional work by attackers to accomplish their goals.

Principle 17: Design and operate an IT system to limit damage and to be resilient in response.
Information systems should be resistant to attack, should limit damage, and should recover rapidly when attacks do occur. The principle suggested here recognizes the need for adequate protection technologies at all levels to ensure that any potential cyber attack will be countered effectively. There are vulnerabilities that cannot be fixed, those that have not yet been fixed, those that are not known, and those that could be fixed but are not (e.g., risky services allowed through firewalls) to allow increased operational capabilities. In addition to achieving a secure initial state, secure systems should have a well-defined status after failure, either to a secure failure state or via a recovery procedure to a known secure state. Organizations should establish detect and respond capabilities, manage single points of failure in their systems, and implement a reporting and response strategy. (Related: Principle 14)

Principle 18: Provide assurance that the system is, and continues to be, resilient in the face of expected threats.
Assurance is the grounds for confidence that a system meets its security expectations. These expectations can typically be summarized as providing sufficient resistance to both direct penetration and attempts to circumvent security controls. Good understanding of the threat environment, evaluation of requirement sets, hardware and software engineering disciplines, and product and system evaluations are primary measures used to achieve assurance. Additionally, the documentation of the specific and evolving threats is important in making timely adjustments in applied security and strategically supporting incremental security enhancements.

Principle 19: Limit or contain vulnerabilities.
Design systems to limit or contain vulnerabilities. If a vulnerability does exist, damage can be limited or contained, allowing other information system elements to function properly. Limiting and containing insecurities also helps to focus response and reconstitution efforts to information system areas most in need. (Related: Principle 10)

Principle 20: Isolate public access systems from mission critical resources (e.g., data, processes, etc.).
While the trend toward shared infrastructure has considerable merit in many cases, it is not universally applicable. In cases where the sensitivity or criticality of the information is high, organizations may want to limit the number of systems on which that data is stored and isolate them, either physically or logically. Physical isolation may include ensuring that no physical connection exists between an organization’s public access information resources and an organization’s critical information. When implementing logical isolation solutions, layers of security services and mechanisms should be established between public systems and secure systems responsible for protecting mission critical resources. Security layers may include using network architecture designs such as demilitarized zones and screened subnets. Finally, system designers and administrators should enforce organizational security policies and procedures regarding use of public access systems.

Principle 21: Use boundary mechanisms to separate computing systems and network infrastructures.
To control the flow of information and access across network boundaries in computing and communications infrastructures, and to enforce the proper separation of user groups, a suite of access control devices and accompanying access control policies should be used. Determine the following for communications across network boundaries:

  • What external interfaces are required
  • Whether information is pushed or pulled
  • What ports, protocols, and network services are required
  • What requirements exist for system information exchanges; for example, trust relationships, database replication services, and domain name resolution processes

Principle 22: Design and implement audit mechanisms to detect unauthorized use and to support incident investigations.
Organizations should monitor, record, and periodically review audit logs to identify unauthorized use and to ensure system resources are functioning properly. In some cases, organizations may be required to disclose information obtained through auditing mechanisms to appropriate third parties, including law enforcement authorities. Many organizations have implemented consent to monitor policies which state that evidence of unauthorized use (e.g., audit trails) may be used to support administrative or criminal investigations.

Principle 23: Develop and exercise contingency or disaster recovery procedures to ensure appropriate availability.
Continuity of operations plans or disaster recovery procedures address continuance of an organization’s operation in the event of a disaster or prolonged service interruption that affects the organization’s mission. Such plans should address an emergency response phase, a recovery phase, and a return to normal operation phase. Personnel responsibilities during an incident and available resources should be identified. In reality, contingency and disaster recovery plans do not address every possible scenario or assumption. Rather, focus on the events most likely to occur and identify an acceptable method of recovery. Periodically, the plans and procedures should be exercised to ensure that they are effective and well understood.


Principle 24: Strive for simplicity.
The more complex the mechanism, the more likely it may possess exploitable flaws. Simple mechanisms tend to have fewer exploitable flaws and require less maintenance. Further, because configuration management issues are simplified, updating or replacing a simple mechanism becomes a less intensive process.

Principle 25: Minimize the system elements to be trusted.
Security measures include people, operations, and technology. Where technology is used, hardware, firmware, and software should be designed and implemented so that a minimum number of system elements need to be trusted in order to maintain protection. Further, to ensure cost-effective and timely certification of system security features, it is important to minimize the amount of software and hardware expected to provide the most secure functions for the system.

Principle 26: Implement least privilege.
The concept of limiting access, or “least privilege,” is simply to provide no more authorizations than necessary to perform required functions. This is perhaps most often applied in the administration of the system. Its goal is to reduce risk by limiting the number of people with access to critical system security controls (i.e., controlling who is allowed to enable or disable system security features or change the privileges of users or programs). Best practice suggests it is better to have several administrators with limited access to security resources rather than one person with “super user” permissions. . Consideration should be given to implementing role-based access controls for various aspects of system use, not only administration. The system security policy can identify and define the various roles of users or processes. Each role is assigned those permissions needed to perform its functions. Each permission specifies a permitted access to a particular resource (such as “read” and “write” access to a specified file or directory, “connect” access to a given host and port, etc.). Unless permission is granted explicitly, the user or process should not be able to access the protected resource. Additionally, identify the roles/responsibilities that, for security purposes, should remain separate (this is commonly termed “separation of duties”).

Principle 27: Do not implement unnecessary security mechanisms.
Every security mechanism should support a security service or set of services, and every security service should support one or more security goals. Extra measures should not be implemented if they do not support a recognized service or security goal. Such mechanisms could add unneeded complexity to the system and are potential sources of additional vulnerabilities. An example is file encryption supporting the access control service that in turn supports the goals of confidentiality and integrity by preventing unauthorized file access. If file encryption is a necessary part of accomplishing the goals, then the mechanism is appropriate. However, if these security goals are adequately supported without inclusion of file encryption, then that mechanism would be an unneeded system complexity.

Principle 28: Ensure proper security in the shutdown or disposal of a system.
Although a system may be powered down, critical information still resides on the system and could be retrieved by an unauthorized user or organization. Access to critical information systems must be controlled at all times. At the end of a system’s life-cycle, system designers should develop procedures to dispose of an information system’s assets in a proper and secure fashion. Procedures must be implemented to ensure system hard drives, volatile memory, and other media are purged to an acceptable level and do not retain residual information.

Principle 29: Identify and prevent common errors and vulnerabilities.
Many errors reoccur with disturbing regularity – errors such as buffer overflows, race conditions, format string errors, failing to check input for validity, and programs being given excessive privileges. Learning from the past will improve future results.


Principle 30: Implement security through a combination of measures distributed physically and logically.
Often, a single security service is achieved by cooperating elements existing on separate machines. For example, system authentication is typically accomplished using elements ranging from the user- interface on a workstation through the networking elements to an application on an authentication server. It is important to associate all elements with the security service they provide. These components are likely to be shared across systems to achieve security as infrastructure resources come under more senior budget and operational control.

Principle 31: Formulate security measures to address multiple overlapping information domains.
An information domain is a set of active entities (person, process, or devices) and their data objects. A single information domain may be subject to multiple security policies. A single security policy may span multiple information domains. An efficient and cost effective security capability should be able to enforce multiple security policies to protect multiple information domains without the need to separate physically the information and respective information systems processing the data. This principle argues for moving away from the traditional practice of creating separate LANs and infrastructures for various sensitivity levels (e.g., security classification or business function such as proposal development) and moving toward solutions that enable the use of common, shared, infrastructures with appropriate protections at the operating system, application, and workstation level. Moreover, to accomplish missions and protect critical functions, organizations have many types of information to safeguard. With this principle in mind, system engineers, architects, and IT specialists should develop a security capability that allows organizations with multiple levels of information sensitivity to achieve the basic security goals in an efficient manner.

Principle 32: Authenticate users and processes to ensure appropriate access control decisions both within and across domains.
Authentication is the process where a system establishes the validity of a transmission, message, or a means of verifying the eligibility of an individual, process, or machine to carry out a desired action, thereby ensuring that security is not compromised by an untrusted source. It is essential that adequate authentication be achieved in order to implement security policies and achieve security goals. Additionally, level of trust is always an issue when dealing with cross-domain interactions. The solution is to establish an authentication policy and apply it to cross-domain interactions as required. Note: A user may have rights to use more than one name in multiple domains. Further, rights may differ among the domains, potentially leading to security policy violations.

Principle 33: Use unique identities to ensure accountability.
An identity may represent an actual user or a process with its own identity, e.g., a program making a remote access. Unique identities are a required element in order to be able to:

  • Maintain accountability and traceability of a user or process
  • Assign specific rights to an individual user or process
  • Provide for non-repudiation
  • Enforce access control decisions
  • Establish the identity of a peer in a secure communications path
  • Prevent unauthorized users from masquerading as an authorized user

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