Dependencies and Critical Success Factors


On return from your meeting, it’s time to quickly put together a proposed plan of work and a response for PeopleSharz. Given the nature of your assignment with PeopleSharz, an urgent response and work-plan is required that outlines your approach and methodologies to:
(1) Assessing what went wrong – how might the hacker have compromised the PeopleSharz environment and stolen the user information?
(2) How does PeopleSharz ensure it does not happen again?
At present, no other assumptions need to be made about the actual security issues/breach. This assignment is focused upon seeing if you, the student has built up an awareness of how security in Internet Websites can be assessed and analysed to assist businesses in improving their overall security position.
By being able to outline how you would go about reviewing the security breach outlined in the PeopleSharz case study and making recommendations on improving security practices and the
appropriate controls that need to be put place to reduce the risks to an acceptable level, the markers will be able to assess your level of knowledge learned in this course and the additional research you have undertaken to complete this Assignment.


Executive Summary

In recognition to the importance of proactive cyber security management of a social networking website PeopleSharz, we have tried to lay down a risk-based cyber security framework that is a set of industry standards and best practices in the field of managing cyber security risks. The voluntary guidance provided here offers the capability to customize and enhance the quality adjustments to the cyber security programs that utilize cost effective security controls and the various techniques regarding risk management. The employees of the organization should have a sound understanding as to how the basic security is to be provided for the computer systems and networks. This report also provides cost-effective approach to secure the computer system platforms as per the business needs.
The key points of this report are that it provides an essential organization-wide cyber security plan, the utilization of different methodologies for data collection, the effective and efficient ways with which the threats could be analyzed, the information regarding different forms cyber security threats and their utilization by the hackers, the effective use of threat metrics and threat models in the analysis of the security threats of the organization and finally, the key success factors and valuable recommendations for the cyber security threats. 

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Background and Problem Analysis

A website has various important elements that make it function properly and, therefore, these elements are needed to be working in sync. Today, millions of users frequently visit thousands of social networking websites without any idea that their accounts are at the mercy of potential hackers. So, once information is posted in a social networking platform, it is not a private information any longer and the more information is being posted, the more vulnerable it gets. The IT infrastructure houses various web servers, which in turn houses Domain Name System with which various websites are registered to. Thus, a complex ecosystem is created that has numerous interconnected nodes around the internet. Most of these features are provided by service providers that make it relatively easy for the businesses to make an online presence. These service providers also provide hosting space that makes operating of websites easy. 
In the present scenario, firstly we have to analyze that whether the problem is at the server side or client side. So, as per the facts of the case, at the very outset, the vulnerability seems to be at the client side. The hackers of a social networking website have various methods by which they break into users’ account and steal crucial information from there. The SQL injection is the most common server-side vulnerability that allows the hackers to inject the code into the database of a website (Al Hasib, 2009). There are other vulnerabilities such as Remote Code Execution (RCE) as well at the dispensation of attackers, which enables the hackers to interact with the system directly. Most probably, the hackers of PeopleSharz might have used Trojan horses, malwares, logic bombs, computer worms, snipping tools, phishing tools and a wider spectrum of other sources. This attack must have been a coordinated one as they might have been successful in locating flaws in network topologies as well as bugs and defects in software configuration. These days, with the help of Netspionage, it is relatively for the attackers to access highly sensitive information from the accounts of the social media users.
There is an equal possibility that the hackers have utilized Server Side Request Forgery (SSRF) that might have enabled them to read all the files and raw tables of the database of PeopleSharz. The technique of phishing must have been used in this case, where the hackers had targeted PeopleSharz with a keen focus on the vulnerabilities as well as used social engineering tricks. Also, there are certain techniques meant for the authorization bypass. The other possible attacks are Cross Site Scripting (XSS) attacks and Broken Authentication and Session Management attacks. The hackers must have sent file packet to the web browser and bypass the validation process. It causes the user’s session ID to be sent to the attacker’s website, allowing the hacker to hijack the user’s current session (Tankard, 2011). The website was attacked in such a manner that the relevant information was scrapped directly from the database. The following report contains a thorough analysis of threats faced by PeopleSharz, dependencies on critical success measures followed by the recommendations.          

Threat Analysis

Being an IT security consultant and analyst, my job is to delve deeper and deeper to probe PeopleSharz security and also to determine potential entry points that could have exploited by the hackers. It should be noted that the social media websites are needed to take extra caution for the cyber security threats, so the possibilities also are that PeopleSharz had spared no expense regarding cyber security system. I can expect that the administrators had been conscientious about ensuring that all the security patches and antivirus updates had applied to their processes. It can be said that someone would be impressed with the level of security that this website had put in place (Gao, Hu, Huang, Wang, & Chen, 2011). However, after the extensive assessment, it will certainly be revealed that PeopleSharz was still extremely vulnerable to a security breach.
In order to analyze, the cyber security breach, I will perform data collection and vulnerability analysis. While the Scope will provide information as to what needs to be included and what needs to be excluded in the process of analysis. So, in case of cyber security, the items that will be considered will be those aspects of PeopleSharz that must be protected and they will be identified first.

Data Collection

In almost all the social media companies there are certain kind of policies and procedures that are required to be identified for the compliance purposes. In actuality around one-fourth security mechanisms that the organizations have, miserably fail to fulfill minimum security standards. So, the first step will be to collect the detailed information regarding the security breach. Such as URLs to virus links, phishing email header and content, malicious command and controls and domain names and IP addresses etc. As an analyst, it is very important for me to get unrestricted access to data for transforming it into intelligence. My sources of information will be knowledge of intrusion incidents, detection system logs, firewall logs, reverse engineering of malware, open source links, honeypots so on and so forth. Once all of this data is collected, the examination and examination will be done as to whether they match the compliance level in the organization (Ralston, Graham, & Hieb, 2007).
The different types of vulnerabilities that are needed to be tested in this case are as follows:
Injection and Cross-site Vulnerabilities: these are the two most severe flaws that occur in web applications and all of these work by sending malicious data to an application in the form of command and query. In SQL injection, the hackers utilize data from the websites that generate SQL queries by using user-supplied data without ensuring that it is valid. Thereafter, the hackers submit malicious SQL queries and transfer commands directly to the database. While, in Cross-site scripting, the attackers target the website’s users by injecting code, particularly JavaScript into the output of a web application. When that page is being viewed, the browser executes the code that allows the hacker to redirect users to a malicious site.
Broken authentication and session management: of many important purposes of web applications, user authentications is one of the most prominent in order to keep track of users’ request as http. Now, if a hacker discovers that a user did not log out, then he uses XSS to hack his account (Greitzer, & Frincke, 2010). So, the company is required to perform code review and penetration tests as well.
Security misconfiguration: the platform that supports web applications constitutes complicated variety of devices as well as software such as servers, firewalls, databases, operating systems and application software. All these different components are required to be securely configured as well as maintained. So, a poor management of web applications may be caused by never undergoing the necessary training. The poor application designs can also be the source of cyber security breach in organizations.

Vulnerability Analysis

This stage is very vital as I will have to test the gathered information so that the level of exposure would be determined. It will give us a fair idea as to whether the current defenses were solid enough to remove threats in terms of their availability, confidentiality and integrity. In this we will evaluate whether the existing procedures, policies and security measures were adequate. It should be highlighted that threat analysis, especially in the Social networking sites such as PeopleSharz, is a continual process that should be reviewed once in a while to ensure that all safeguard mechanisms are working properly. So, the evaluation of risks is an integral part of the organization’s overall lifecycle (Kuhl, Kistner, Costantini, & Sudit, 2007).
So, on the basis of vulnerability and risk assessment, we have to determine as to what security measures will be needed to be taken and also remove the ineffective ones.
Threat Metrics: the effective threat measurement facilitates analysis with the help of improved understanding of how software anomalies occur. The imminence of certain forms of vulnerabilities and connecting missing links between potential threats and possible consequences will be crucial in threat analysis. In light of this, my abilities of analysis will be greatly enhanced by using unambiguous and clear metric. It will improve our ability to understand the threat as well as control and defend against it to a certain extent (Knapp, 2009). For example, a quantitative assessment about the number of cyber-attacks per month and the pattern and count of these attacks would reveal the hackers’ capability and intent.
Threat Models: if in case the metrics are not sufficient to address the complex systems, then the measurement framework can also be used. So, the uniform threat models promote consistency and apart from that, they reduce the negative effects of preconceived notions. The index of success rate strengthened as the time goes by, so, it is important for us to store threat reports in a continuous manner and to build up a reference database that could be used by other experts. Also, a generic threat matrix focuses on the features of a threat that could help us to identify the type of threat based on its overall nature. It will effectively allow us to describe the threat’s complete spectrum.

The following different questions will be helpful for threat analysis:
Technical personnel – What is the total number of individuals the threat is using to further its ends?
Knowledge – What is the level of skill that propels the threat?
Access – How effective is the threat to compromise and infiltrate the system?


(Vertical)     Firewalls    databases    Application Architecture    Physical Security    Insecure Wireless    Internet Based Service    Total score
Intrusion (Hacking, password attacks)    7    4    7    8    9    5    40
Insider Attacks    6    4    5    6    3    2    26
DDoS    5    1    8    2    4    4    24
Theft of Hardware    1    2    1    8    3    0    15
Table 1. An example of Threat Matrix

Dependencies and Critical Success Factors

The various dependencies about the job of the assessment and proposals regarding the security breach in PeopleSharz are the proper communications with the stakeholders and employees. The key employees of PeopleSharz as well as HotHost 1 consists of the cyber security team and the expert code developers of different software modules of the organization. It will be very important to interview these important people as to what were the possible glitches that could have culminated into such a huge attack. It is certainly not known yet as where was the problem PeopleSharz or HotHost1. But the fact that the webservers of both the companies are to be investigated into. So these employees will be an important source of information for analyzing the threats and laying down recommendations in case future threats are concerned (Xie, et al, 2010).

Key Success Factors

It is not suffice for the organizations to undermine the necessity of developing and executing effective as well as efficient cyber security measures. Which is why, it is very pertinent to incorporate a Cyber security Management Program (CMP) that will affect virtually each and every employee and group in the organization (PeopleSharz). So, it is also very important that the overall cyber security program will be able to meet everyone’s needs. Therefore, if the Peoplesharz apply the following measures, it is highly likely that it will achieve a highest probability of successful development and implementation of CMP:

  1. Identifying and obtaining support and commitment from the concerned members of the Senior Leadership Team for effective implementation of cyber security program.

  2. Developing an overall organization wide charter regarding cyber security program, which essentially should include effective cyber security strategies for PeopleSharz. This charter should be submitted to the sponsor of CMP for the purpose of socialization with the SLT and endorsement by the CEO.

  3. Developing a cyber-security work plan whose primary task would be to develop the policies regarding cyber security. In bigger organizations, however, there are multiple project managers as per the need.

  4. Establishing and mandating a review process of the documents as well as version management system in order to provide a support for the ongoing management of cyber security documentation (Torres, Sarriegi, Santos, & Serrano, 2006).

  5. The strategic components regarding the Cyber security Management Framework should be completed first. However, it is also the case that more and more number of components will be required to develop in parallel, particularly when there are very few dependencies between the components.

  6. Identifying and treating the key components as high-priority developmental efforts that have organization wide impacts. For example organization related components as well as core components that form a crucial foundation for other components.

  7. Dedicating time and efforts I order to develop consistent, congruent and easily understood documentation responsible for all the actions required by the cyber security program. 

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After the thorough analysis and evaluation of different threats and their impacts, it is very important for PeopleSharz to implement the following recommendations:

  1. Identify the weakest areas in the cyber security infrastructure: The process of plugging holes in the overall security infrastructure is a time-taking but necessary evil. So, to start with, it is really important to identify as to where the weakest point of the entire chain is. What are the areas where the network data could be compromised? It is precisely what hackers do.  With the help of patch management tools, we can succeed by strengthening the chain link. The vulnerability scanners and application control could limit the possibility of threat.

  2. Implementation of network segmentation and application of firewalls: The network segmentation is process of IT assets, data and people into specific groups and restricting the access to these groups so that the compromise of one area should not be translated into the compromise of the whole system. This process can be done by isolating them completely from one another. Also, by using firewall will help in filtering incoming and outgoing information. It reduces the number of pathways into the network and uses security protocols on the existing pathways. So, creating boundaries and segments enhances the security ("Best Practices to Reduce Exploitable Weaknesses and Attacks", 2015).

  3. Use secure remote access methods: The remote connection to a network has made it convenient for the users, however, the security is at a great risk if the remote connection is made without a virtual private network. The VPN is basically an encrypted data channel for the purpose of securely sending and receiving data through internet. So, with the help of VPN, we can be able to remotely access some of the internal assets such as files, printers, databases and websites as if they are directly connected to the internet. Reducing the number of IP addresses can also be helpful.

  4. Establish Role-Based Access Controls and Implement System Logging: The primary function of role-based access control is limiting the ability of individual hackers so that the important parts of the system should not be accessed by them. So, defining the permissions based on the level of access each job function needs an effective strategy. Also, the implementation of a logging capability helps in monitoring the system activity. With the help of this, the organizations conduct root cause analysis.

  5. Maintain Awareness of Vulnerabilities and Implement Necessary Patches and Updates: It is always a diligent process to develop patches for identified vulnerabilities. However, even after all this, the systems remain vulnerable because the organizations do not implement these fixes. In order to protect the organizations from the opportunistic attack of massive levels, a system of monitoring and application of patches and updates are needed to be implemented. Also, it would be helpful to auto-update the system software in order to avoid missing critical updates (Lehrman, 2010).

  6. Develop and Enforce Cyber Security Policies on Mobile Devices: The growing use of laptops, tablets and smartphones in the work stations can pose considerable security challenges. The obvious mobile nature of these devices amounts to their potential exposure to the external malicious environment. Thus, it is very important to make policies regarding reasonable limit on the mobile devices being used at work places. These policies should be strongly enforced on all the employees and other stakeholders of the organization. Failing to do so, the organizations will be attracting numerous hackers to get access    to the restricted networks. These devices are at constant risk of getting infected.

  7. Implement an Employee Cyber security Training Program: The fact that if the employees wouldn’t get themselves involved in cyber security, not only could the vulnerabilities and threats go unchallenged but the employees themselves could become for the execution of attacks. Therefore, they should get periodic cyber-security training (Ngoma, 2012).

  8. Implement Measures for Detecting Compromises and Develop a Cyber security Incident Response Plan: The intrusion detection systems can greatly help to detect compromises in the early stages and servers should be monitored signs of infections. Whereas, the incident response plan is highly critical component of emergency purposes. It can limit the damage, increase the confidence of partners and customers and reduce time and costs.


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  • Best Practices to Reduce Exploitable Weaknesses and Attacks. (2015). Retrieved 21 October 2016, from

  • Gao, H., Hu, J., Huang, T., Wang, J., & Chen, Y. (2011). Security issues in online social     networks. IEEE Internet Computing, 15(4), 56-63.

  • Greitzer, F. L., & Frincke, D. A. (2010). Combining traditional cyber security audit data with     psychosocial data: towards predictive modeling for insider threat mitigation. In Insider     Threats in Cyber Security (pp. 85-113). Springer US.

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  • Xie, P., Li, J. H., Ou, X., Liu, P., & Levy, R. (2010, June). Using Bayesian networks for cyber     security analysis. In 2010 IEEE/IFIP International Conference on Dependable Systems &     Networks (DSN) (pp. 211-220). IEEE.

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