1 Introduction

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1.1 Purpose

The purpose of these requirements is to:

  • provide a common set of definitions and a consistent approach to categorising security risks and impacts across government
  • help agencies to consistently assess business impacts across New Zealand government responsibilities
  • provide a structured approach to determining the impacts of the loss or compromise of information, people and/or assets
  • assist agencies to manage security risks by informing the identification of appropriate controls and providing assurance when information is shared between agencies. 
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1.2 Audience

The audience of these requirements is personnel within the New Zealand government responsible for defining the Business Impact Levels (BILs) relating to the security of government assets, including information and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) systems, including:

  • New Zealand government security management staff
  • contractors to the New Zealand government providing security advice and services
  • any other body or person responsible for the security of New Zealand government people, information or assets.
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1.3 Scope

The New Zealand government needs standardised and scalable security-focused BILs that can be associated with assets of different sensitivity and trust levels.

Common definitions will allow agencies to effectively share the implications of particular risks with their partners.

These requirements relate to protective security measures:

  • within New Zealand government facilities
  • within other facilities handling New Zealand government information and assets
  • where New Zealand government personnel are located.

Where legislative requirements are higher than controls identified in these requirements the legislative controls take precedence and should be applied.

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1.4 Compliance requirements

A control with a ‘must’ or ‘must not’ compliance requirement indicates that use of the control is mandatory. These are the baseline controls unless the control is demonstrably not relevant to the respective agency and can be clearly demonstrated to the agency head or accreditation authority.

A control with a ‘should’ or ‘should not’ requirement indicates that use of the control is considered good and recommended practice.  Valid reasons for not implementing a control could exist, including:

  1. a control is not relevant because the risk does not exist
  2. or a process or control(s) of equal strength has been substituted.

Agencies must recognise that not using a control without due consideration may increase residual risk for the agency.  This residual risk needs to be agreed and acknowledged by the agency head.  In particular an agency should pose the following questions:

  1. Is the agency willing to accept additional risk?
  2. Have any implications for All of Government security been considered?
  3. If so, what is the justification?

A formal auditable record of this consideration and decision is required as part of the governance and assurance processes within an agency.

The PSR provides agencies with mandatory and best practice security measures.

The controls detailed above describe if and when agencies need to consider specific security measures to comply with the mandatory requirements.

Also refer to the Strategic Security Objectives, Core Policies, and the Mandatory Requirements for Agencies

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2 Using Business Impact Levels (BILs)

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2.1 Impacts of confidentiality and security classifications

Where a protective marking has been applied to an asset, agencies should refer to the BIL to help determine the criticality of agency assets, including people, information and assets.

As part of applying the BIL, agencies should be able to articulate the impact resulting from the compromise of confidentiality, loss of integrity or unavailability of agency assets they hold or generate.

The BIL scale ranges from 1 (low) to 6 (catastrophic) impacts.

Refer to Annex A, which provides a framework that allows agencies to assess the BIL for compromises of the confidentiality, integrity or availability of individual or aggregated information, ICT systems and assets.

Using a BIL is part of an agency’s risk assessment and should include consultation on the agency classification policy, the Information Security Management Protocol and the New Zealand Government Security Classification System.

At times there may be a relationship between security classification of official information and BILs. Refer to figure 1 for more information.

Agencies should consider all factors when applying a BIL. A protective marking alone does not determine the impact level, nor does the impact level alone determine the protective marking.

Figure 1 demonstrates possible impact levels in relation to security classifications.

Figure 1: Likely relationship between protective markings and BILs

Individual document markingBIL
Unclassified (may not be marked) 1 Low
SECRET 5 Extreme
TOP SECRET 6 Catastrophic


In addition to considering classifications when assessing impact levels, agencies should also take into account:

  • the impact of aggregated information
  • the impact that the loss or compromise of an asset or information would have on the agency or government.

Agencies should identify when impact levels will change due to changes in an asset's importance or change in circumstance, for example, at the conclusion of a project. 

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2.2 Benefit to agency collaboration

BILs will vary greatly between agencies based on their functions and size. Security risks relating to an asset held by one agency may be assessed with different impact levels than the same type of asset at a different agency.

The same is true for financial implications resulting from a loss of confidentiality, integrity or availability. 

The ability to share commonly understood terms regarding assessed risk allows for proper negotiation between agencies over the risk controls or mitigations that should be employed.

Agencies must consider inter-agency or partner consultation when assessing the BILs of collaborative work. 

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2.3 Relationship to security risk management

Agencies must ensure the BILs used indicate the true implications of a security risk event for that agency.

BILs provide agencies with a common understanding of the resulting consequences for national security, the New Zealand government, individuals and organisations, to aid them in performing effective risk assessments and analysis.

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The New Zealand government needs standardised and scalable security-focused BILs that can be associated with assets of different sensitivity and trust levels. 

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Last modified: 18 December 2014

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