What Is OCTAVE and OCTAVE Allegro?

OCTAVE allegro featured

The importance of risk management cannot be overstated… and yet, many enterprises struggle with the practice due to a lack of standardization or expertise. And while the challenges that businesses face implementing risk management are understandable, they are no longer acceptable. 

This article will provide an in-depth overview of OCTAVE Allegro, a framework developed to help small and mid-sized businesses effectively approach risk management. Whether you are an IT professional, security analyst, or business owner, understanding the capabilities of OCTAVE Allegro can help you better protect your organization from cyber threats.



Operationally Critical Threat, Asset, and Vulnerability Evaluation (OCTAVE) is a risk assessment methodology developed by the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute (SEI). It is designed to help organizations identify and prioritize information security risks across a comprehensive set of assets, including data, people, and equipment.

The OCTAVE methodology is based on a risk management process that involves identifying, analyzing, and systematically addressing risks. The methodology consists of three phases:

  • Phase 1: In this phase, the organization identifies assets and determines their importance to its business goals. The assets can be any piece of information, role or person, or location critical to the organization’s operation, such as people, technology, and data. The organization then identifies the threats to these assets and develops profiles.
  • Phase 2: In this phase, the organization assesses the vulnerabilities in its infrastructure that the identified threats could exploit. This includes identifying weaknesses in the organization’s physical, technical, and administrative controls.
  • Phase 3: In this phase, the organization develops a security strategy and implementation plan to address the identified risks. The plan includes prioritizing risks based on their impact on the organization and developing a roadmap for managing them.

    The OCTAVE methodology is designed to be flexible to meet the needs of different organizations. By using OCTAVE, organizations can better understand their information security risks and develop effective strategies for mitigating those risks.

    What is OCTAVE Allegro, and Why Did Carnegie Mellon Develop it?

    Carnegie Mellon University’s SEI created OCTAVE Allegro to address the specific needs of small and medium-sized organizations with limited resources and expertise in information security.

    Prior to the development of OCTAVE Allegro, many risk assessment methodologies were designed for large enterprises with significant budgets and dedicated security teams. Small and medium-sized organizations often need more resources and expertise to implement these methodologies effectively, leaving them vulnerable to information security threats.

    OCTAVE Allegro streamlines the OCTAVE risk assessment methodology to make it more accessible to SMBs. It focuses on identifying and mitigating the most critical risks to an organization’s assets while recognizing the limitations of the organization’s resources.


    What’s Different in OCTAVE Allegro?

    The main changes in OCTAVE Allegro compared to the original OCTAVE methodology are:

    • Simplified Process: OCTAVE Allegro’s risk assessment process is more straightforward than the original OCTAVE methodology. It involves fewer steps and is designed to be more accessible to organizations with limited resources and expertise in information security.
    • Reduced Scope: OCTAVE Allegro has a narrower scope than the original OCTAVE methodology. It focuses on identifying and prioritizing the most critical risks to an organization’s assets rather than conducting a comprehensive assessment of all risks.
    • Reduced Resource Commitments: OCTAVE Allegro focuses on controls and assessment methods that are less difficult to use, easier to implement, require less data manipulation, and streamline identification and mitigation efforts (especially those around documentation and analysis).
    • Repeatability: OCTAVE Allegro’s emphasis is to use repeatable methods and practices such that smaller organizations can more readily implement them in ongoing risk management programs.
    • Consistency: Regardless of reduced scope, resources, or complexity, the goal is that the outputs from risk assessments are consistent across the enterprise.

        Overall, the changes in OCTAVE Allegro reflect a focus on simplicity, practicality, and ease of use. These are critical for small and medium-sized organizations that may lack the resources and expertise to implement a more complex risk assessment methodology.


        What is OCTAVE Strategic (OCTAVE-S)?

        OCTAVE-S is a variant of the OCTAVE risk assessment methodology designed to help smaller teams identify and prioritize strategic-level risks to their mission and business objectives. OCTAVE-S is a more strategic approach to risk assessment than the original OCTAVE methodology. It focuses on the organization’s mission, business objectives, and critical assets rather than just its information technology assets. 

        The methodology consists of 3 phases:

        • Phase 1: In this phase, the team creates threat profiles that can define evaluation criteria, organizational assets, and organizational practices. This is completed solely by an IT security team with little or no outside data gathering, with the understanding that the team has sufficient, or near-sufficient, knowledge to complete the task. 
        • Phase 2: The team undertakes a high-level IT and computing infrastructure review in this phase. This includes understanding how the organization uses the technology and how users and other parties integrate security into their practices. 
        • Phase 3: Finally, the team identifies risks and creates plans to respond to them, including mitigation and recovery strategies. 

          Generally speaking, the publication timeline stems from foundational OCTAVE standards (for enterprise organizations) into OCTAVE-S, which contains many of the same steps as OCTAVE but targets small, loose organizations. This, in turn, applies to smaller internal security or IT strategy teams with a deep knowledge of the organization that can take a self-directed approach to risk assessment. These organizations may be less hierarchical, if not completely flat, and have less need for top-down assessment directives. 

          Finally, OCTAVE Allegro is the more comprehensive approach to risk assessment that is still streamlined for SMBs while addressing the needs of a more complex and hierarchical organizational structure.


          Seeking to Adopt OCTAVE Risk Management Standards?

          Lazarus Alliance can audit and support organizations seeking to align their risk management standards with the OCTAVE framework. Contact our experts today.

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