In the past, a great variety of indicators have been developed to measure cyber-security related aspects. 

Three fields can be differentiated:

  • Firm-level cyber-security indicators
  • Industry-level cyber-security indicators
  • Economy-level cyber-security indicators


Firm-level Cyber-security Indicators

These differ according to the organization’s goals. Some indicators are supposed to measure return on security investments, others have the primary intention to measure security risk or policy compliance. It is observable, however, that the tendency is to find quantitative measures in order to be better able to track security policies in organizations.
There are hundreds of metrics to choose from and an organization’s mission, industry, and size will affect the nature and scope of the task as well as the metrics and combinations of metrics appropriate to accomplish it.
There is an abundance of such indicators and for organizations it is typically difficult to judge on what indicators to use once security policies are to be evaluated. In the area of measurement comprehensive overviews already exist, Table 1 below lists some of them. Overviews are also presented by Mateski at al. (2012) and Swanson et al. (2003), among many others.

Table 1 Some References to Measurement of Cyber-security Aspects

Author Explanation
Herrmann (2007) The author lists more than 900 privacy and security metrics, that measure compliance, resilience and return on investment. The metrics are also scaled by information sensitivity, asset criticality, and risk.
Brotby and Hinson (2013)

In Brotby and Hinson (2013) more than 150 metrics are listed, ranging from risk management metrics to IT security metrics to compliance and assurance metrics. The authors have made the list accessible over the Internet by putting it on their website 

or directly as an XLS on the IPACSO website.



Notes: This literature overview is not meant to be complete, but to provide a starting point of research for the interested reader.

This is an area, where we will witness an expansion of consultancy services in the cyber-security market in future, because the need for improved information security policies is increasing.


IPACSO overview on risk metric lists

While there are areas of overlap (for example with respect to data breaches), privacy metrics are more focused on the subject matter of compliance with data protection laws and the protection of personal data.

More information on privacy metrics.


Industry-level Cyber-security Indicators

At this stage, there are more indicators to choose from at the level of the firm compared to the level of industries. There are, however, now a number of reports on the costs of cyber-crime and data breaches.

IPACSO overview
These reports typically differ in terms of coverage of firms, methodology and region covered (information is given in the Excel file). Most of the reports are surveys of firms with respect to data breaches (e.g. Verizon, Javelin Strategy & Research). Others are using information delivered by threat surveillance networks owned by the publisher (e.g. McAfee, Kaspersky Labs).

More of this type of industry-level data will come from the CERTs.


Economy-level Cyber-security Indicators 

Maybe least researched is the area of economy-level indicators that are supposed to map cyber-security preparedness or resilience of different countries.

Figure 1 Global Cybersecurity Index of ITU-ABIresearch



There is only a small number of institutions providing this kind of information. In the following a short list with references to some organizations that compile such indices is provided.

Examples of Country Ratings:

  1. Global Cybersecurity Index: This index (developed by ITU-ABIresearch) measures the cybersecurity capacities of countries. It uses five categories for its rating: legal measures, technical and organizational measures, capacity building and cooperation. It then ranks countries according to their cybersecurity capabilities (not vulnerabilities). The index is available for a rounded 190 countries (2014).

  2. Cyber Power Index: The Cyber Power Index (developed by Booz Allen Hamilton / EUI) is supposed to map the ability of countries to withstand cyber-attacks (and to deploy secure critical infrastructure). The index uses indicators in four areas, including legal and regulatory framework, economic and social context, technology infrastructure and industry application. It is available for 19 leading economies.

  3. Cyber-security readiness:   This index (published by McAfee and Security & Defence Agenda (SDA) ranks 23 countries on their readiness. This indicator is based upon leading experts' subjective perceptions of a nation's defense system. While no country gets the highest mark (five stars), Israel, Sweden and Finland lead the list of countries being prepared.


There are also other sources that use metrics at the country level. For example in the BSA (The Software Alliance) EU Cybersecurity Dashboard countries are given a status (“Yes”, “No”, “Partial”, or “Not Applicable”) in each criteria used. There is no overall ranking, but policy makers can judge their country on weaknesses.

This is not to be confused with the European Commission’s Digital Agenda Scoreboard, which is primarily devoted to map how advanced in digitalization the European Member States are.


Quoted References:
Brotby, W.K. and G. Hinson (2013). Pragmatic Security Metrics: Applying Metametrics to Information Security, CRC Press,
Herrmann, D. (2007). Complete Guide to Security and Privacy Metrics Measuring regulatory compliance, operational resilience, and ROI, Auerbach Publications,
Mateski, M. C.M. Trevino, C.K. Veitch, J. Michalski, J.M. Harris, S. Maruoka, J. Frye (2012) Cyber Threat Metrics, SANDIA REPORT, SAND2012-2427,
Swanson, M. Nadya Bartol, John Sabato, Joan Hash, and Laurie Graffo (2003). Security Metrics Guide for Information Technology Systems, National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST),


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IPACSO Publications and further links:

Jentzsch, N. (2015) State-of-the-Art of the Economics of Cyber-Security and Privacy, IPACSO - Innovation Framework for ICT Security Deliverable 4.1.

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