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Student Grading System Security: Describe mechanisms to be used for IT system user authentication by the organization.

Scenario: Student Grading System Security

Remarkable University is implementing a new student grading system. The system needs to be developed and implemented to ensure that it is both fit for purpose and secure from identified threats.

The student grading system’s core components include:

a front-end web/application server which is used by students, academics and administrative staff

a database which holds students’ grades

The system will need to be built and managed to ensure that the servers are deployed securely and remain secured against common automated and simple manual attacks. Dedicated, targeted attacks are difficult to protect against, however simple measure can be taken to protect against most automated attacks. Identified threats against the system include:


  • Grade hacking/modification, e.g. students who may wish to modify their own results or view or modify the results of others
  • Privacy concerns, e.g.:
    • internal users such as staff or students who may wish to view or modify results; and
    • external users who may wish to gain access to or modify results or other personal information
  • Malicious code such as worms
  • Automated scanning and exploit tools
  • Targeted exploit attempts
  • Phishing attempts


The grading system application needs to remain secured, use appropriate access controls, enforce least privilege, and ensure that information flowing to and from the system is protected. The application needs to be developed in a secure manner and be protected against common attacks, and the database needs to be protected against common automated attacks and use appropriate access controls.


All components of the systems, and in particular the application and database, need to have appropriate access controls in place to ensure that only authorized users can access and update the system, and that access is tied to the role of each user. All access to the system should be logged, regardless of whether the access is by a user or administrators, and regardless of which component of the system is being accessed.

IT Security Plan Template

1.          Introduction

Outline the importance of the plan and its relationship with the organisation’s Security Policy.

2.          Scope

This section should establish the organisational context and relevant IT assets (organisational risk profile and key IT assets, as per the case scenario). 

3.          Risk Assessment

This provides a summary and analysis of the risk assessment. Identify risks to key assets (threats, threat sources, vulnerabilities), by thinking about the different security areas (User Authentication and Access Control, Server Security, Software Security…) and how breaches in those can affect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the key assets. Analyse those risks (likelihood, consequence, resultant risk), and summarise your findings in a Risk Register.

The following structure and headings are recommended

List all the security areas and for each area, choose some asset(s) to which the area may be applicable and identify the risks to confidentiality and/or integrity and/or availability of that asset. It is not required that you go through all assets for each area, but each asset should appear under at least one area.

User Authentication and Access Control
Risks Confidentiality Integrity Availability
IT Asset 1      
IT Asset 2      

Server Security

Software Security

Network Security

Other Risks

Risk Register (or Implementation Plan)

4.        Security Strategies and Actions

This section should outline security strategies and recommended controls, based on estimated cost/benefit analysis. Develop a security Implementation Plan. Classify the selected treatments as management, operational, and/or technical controls.

The same structure and headings as Section 3 are recommended

5.        Residual Risks

By definition, the residual risks are those that remain after all possible (cost-effective) mitigation or treatment of risks.  Estimate, describe, and rate these residual risks to guide the priorities for ongoing monitoring of risks.

6.        Resources

This section should detail the resources (e.g., hardware, software, and human resources) for implementing the recommendations outlined in the earlier section on Strategies and Actions.

7.        Maintenance and Training

Outline the recommended maintenance of the security mechanism and training for the relevant personnel.


Security Plan Ideas

User Authentication and Access Controls

Describe mechanisms to be used for IT system user authentication by the organization. Given the outcomes of the risk assessment, you should identify whether these mechanisms would be an appropriate control to improve its security posture.

Also you should describe the categorization of users into groups that may then be used for access control decisions to IT resources. Describe the access control mechanism in detail. This can be described on the level of application or database access control, i.e., restriction of certain aspects of the application (e.g., admin functionality) or of certain piece of data (e.g., sensitive and confidential data).


Server Security

Describe the management and security configuration of key servers for the organization.  Detail the server’s security requirements, identifying:

  • what information it contains, and how sensitive that information is
  • what applications it runs, how they manipulate the information stored, and how critical their availability is
  • who has access to the system, and what type of access they have
  • who has administrative access to the system, and how this is controlled
  • what change management procedures are used to manage its configuration


You can also detail its basic operating system and patching process to provide a suitable level of security on this server. You can research ways of hardening the O/S, as well as key applications used, to suit the server’s security requirements.


Software Security

Describe whether the organization uses critical software which is exposed to possible external attacks, such as software running on an externally visible web server to handle responses to forms or other dynamic data handling.


Network Perimeter Security

Describe the organization’s network perimeter security arrangements, that is, their use of firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems etc. You can describe what access policy is being used for network traffic, detailing the network services allowed to or across the network perimeter.

You should then suggest an appropriate firewall settings (e.g., inbound and outbound), with details justifying its selection

End User PC Security

Given the known problems with import of malware onto client PC’s or workstations, you can desribe mechanisms to be used to configure and update such systems in the organization, and identify any anti-virus, anti-spyware, and personal firewall products to be used. Suggest whether you believe the current mechanisms should be improved, stating your reasons.


[1] Griffith Information Security Policy: http://policies.griffith.edu.au/pdf/Information Security Policy.pdf

[2] Griffith Information Security Policy Schedule: http://policies.griffith.edu.au/pdf/Information-Security-Policy-Schedule-A-Roles-Standards-Operational-Procedures.pdf

[3] Information Security Policy Templates: https://www.sans.org/security-resources/policies/

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