Taxonomy of technological risks: when things fail badly

"A Taxonomy of Operational Cyber Security Risks" by CMU's James J. Cebula and Lisa R. Young is a year-old paper that attempts to classify all the ways that technology go wrong, and the vulnerabilities than ensue. Fascinating reading, a great primer on technology and security, and as a bonus, there's a half-dozen science fiction/technothriller plots lurking on every page.
This report presents a taxonomy of operational cyber security risks that attempts to identify and organize the sources of operational cyber security risk into four classes: (1) actions of people, (2) systems and technology failures, (3) failed internal processes, and (4) external events. Each class is broken down into subclasses, which are described by their elements. This report discusses the harmonization of the taxonomy with other risk and security activities, particularly those de- scribed by the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publications, and the CERT Operationally Critical Threat, Asset, and Vulnerability Evaluation (OCTAVE) method.
A Taxonomy of Operational Cyber Security Risks (PDF)


    1. Watch your self-reference, there.
      2 possibilities.
      1) There are no such failure modes, in which case there is no reason to include point 5.
      2) There are failure modes not found in 1-4. In this case 5. means these failure modes *are* on the table, in 5. So again, 5. indicates an empty set.

      Maybe you should say “5. Other failure modes.” instead.

    1. An error is when you leave something out. A mistake is when you forget to include it.

      I hope this clarifies all of 1.1 for you.


        1. 1.1.1 mistake—individual with knowledge of the correct procedure accidentally taking incorrect action
          1.1.2 error—individual without knowledge of the correct procedure taking incorrect action
          1.1.3 omission—individual not taking a known correct action often due to hasty performance of a

          I wonder what failure to RTFM falls under.

  1. Hmm, I had a science teacher in 7th grade who was fond of peppering us with his favorite koan-like aphorisms. If a kid questioned an equation or something on the board, Mr. Archer would run through the exact steps that one takes to arrive at the equation. Or he would list the history of the evolution of the topic in question, all at the speed of a machine gun wielded by a soldier who really knows how to use his gun, firing in controlled bursts. Then he would conclude with “My mistake, your error.”

    We all loved him very much (including the jocks who hated every teacher) and feared him as well. Actually, it’s more accurate to say that we were in awe of him. In other words, he was an excellent teacher.He was a phenomenal man: 4′ 10” on a good day and he wore lifts and Cuban Heels (with a lab coat), quite the dandy, he sported a 17th century Dutch small spade beard and luxurious, auburn, highly waxed moustaches. He also had a blazing, dessicate wit. His phrase puzzles me to this day.What on earth was he trying to say?

    (edit: I think perhaps Little John’s offering helps me a bit.)

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