Analysing information security in a bank using soft systems methodology

Damenu Temesgen Kitaw, Chris Beaumont

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
835 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose –This paper explores the use of Soft Systems Methodology (SSM) to analyse the socio-technical information security issues in a major bank. Design/methodology/approach – Case study research was conducted on a major bank. Semi-structured interviews with a purposive sample of key stakeholders in the business, comprising senior managers, security professionals and branch employees were conducted. Findings – SSM was particularly useful for exploring the holistic information security issues, enabling models to be constructed which were valuable analytical tools and easily understood by stakeholders, which increased the receptiveness of the bank, and assisted with member validation. Significant risks were apparent from internal sources with weaknesses in aspects of governance and security culture. Research limitations/implications – This research uses a single case study and whilst it cannot be generalised, it identifies potential security issues others may face and solutions they may apply. Practical implications - Information security is complex and addresses technical, governance, management and cultural risks. Banking attacks are changing, with greater focus on employees and customers. A systemic approach is required for full consideration. SSM is a suitable approach for such analysis within large organisations. Originality/value – Demonstrates how important benefits can be obtained by using SSM alongside traditional risk assessment approaches to identify holistic security issues. A holistic approach is particularly important given the increasing complexity of the security threat surface. Banking was selected as a case study since it is both critical to society and is a prime target for attack. Furthermore, developing economies are under-represented in information security research, this paper adds to the evidence base. Since global finance is highly interconnected, it is important that banks in such economies do not comprise a weak link and hence results from this case have value for the industry as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-258
JournalInformation and Computer Security
Issue number3
Early online date31 Jul 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Jul 2017


  • Information Security Management System (ISMS)
  • Soft Systems Methodology (SSM)
  • Socio-technical Risks
  • Banking Security
  • Security Governance
  • Information Security Culture.


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