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Define the Information Security Risk Tolerance Level

Your best guess at what’s needed doesn’t cut it anymore.

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Your Challenge

  • Most organizations make risk decisions informally, based on individual understanding of corporate culture or what they think is best.
  • Many security professionals are put in an impossible situation – to meet the risk reduction target without a clear understanding of what that target is.
  • Rarely are security risks analyzed in a consistent manner, let alone in a systematic and repeatable method to determine project risk as well as overall organizational risk exposure.

Our Advice

Critical Insight

  • Don’t think about threats or vulnerabilities. We cannot control what threats or vulnerabilities are out there, so to build the security program around something so unpredictable will not lead to good results.
  • Rather, think about business impact – regardless of what causes it, there are certain severe business impacts we will always want to avoid, and other less severe events that we would accept up to a certain frequency. These factors can be reliably identified and provide critical insight for effective risk-based decisions.
  • All risks can be quantified. Security, compliance, legal, or other risks can be quantified using our methodology.
  • Consider all impact. Think about more than just informational impact – consider functional and recoverability impact as well.

Impact and Result

  • Define an executive risk function.
  • Determine organizational risk culture.
  • Create a defensible risk tolerance level for your organization.
  • Leverage quantified risk tolerance level of broader risk management activities.

Research & Tools

Start here – read the Executive Brief

Read our concise Executive Brief to find out why you should define an information security risk tolerance level and understand Info-Tech’s methodology to support you in completing this project.

1. Define the risk executive function

Define our risk-framing responsibilities and accountabilities.

2. Assess the risk culture

Perform a lightweight assessment of management and employee risk culture.

3. Define risk assumptions

Define the organizational understanding of risk, assess risk scenarios, define your overall risk tolerance, and manage your macro risk exposure.

Guided Implementations

This guided implementation is a seven call advisory process.

Guided Implementation #1 - Define the risk executive function

Call #1 - Review project steps and deliverables and confirm project methodology appropriateness.
Call #2 - Customize and complete the risk executive RACI chart.

Guided Implementation #2 - Assess the risk culture

Call #1 - Assess your organizational risk culture.
Call #2 - Perform a cursory assessment of management risk culture.

Guided Implementation #3 - Define risk assumptions

Call #1 - Evaluate risk scenarios.
Call #2 - Optimize the sensitivity of your screening test.
Call #3 - Define risk tolerance level.

Onsite Workshop

Discuss This Workshop

Book Your Workshop

Onsite workshops offer an easy way to accelerate your project. If you are unable to do the project yourself, and a Guided Implementation isn't enough, we offer low-cost onsite delivery of our project workshops. We take you through every phase of your project and ensure that you have a roadmap in place to complete your project successfully.

Module 1: Assess the Risk Culture and Responsibilities

The Purpose

  • Discuss the general business requirements and obligations towards risk.
  • Understand and agree on risk responsibilities and duties.
  • Define and discuss security assumptions for frequency/impact.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Clear understanding of risk language and responsibilities across the organization
  • Defined risk statement and IT mandate




Define the security executive function RACI chart.

  • Defined IT mandate

Assess employee and management risk culture.

  • IT and Business Leadership Alignment Report

Standardize impact and risk assumption terminology.

  • Information Security Risk Statement

Define risk requirements and risk frequency/impact thresholds.

  • Business Leadership Communication and Reporting Plan

Module 2: Define Risk Tolerance

The Purpose

  • Use risk definitions and understanding to define micro risk tolerance.
  • Define and discuss organizational risk tolerance for collective macro risk, and high-level strategy for macro risk management.

Key Benefits Achieved

  • Quantified definition for micro risk tolerance
  • Quantified methodology for risk impact analysis
  • Understanding and management method for macro risk




Perform risk scenario assessment.

  • Risk Tolerance Determination Tool

Define and discuss organizational micro risk tolerance.


Define and discuss macro risk tolerance and macro risk management methodology.