Today, organizations in nearly all industries rely on information technology to conduct business. While modern technology is extremely helpful in most regards, it comes with certain threats that can put a company at risk for financial losses and disruptions in operation.
Why Perform Cybersecurity Risk Assessments?
A cybersecurity risk assessment is used to identify an organization’s most important devices and data and how a hacker could potentially gain access to a secured system. An assessment can also identify how vulnerable a business is as a target and what risks could arise if secured data were to fall into the wrong hands.
Steps to Performing a Cyber Risk Assessment
It is important to consider the purpose and scope of the assessment, priorities or constraints that could affect the assessment and the existing risk model used for risk analysis. Once these parameters have been established, a business can then go through the steps involved in a cyber risk assessment. These include:
1. Determining the Value of Information
Most businesses are not able to put unlimited funds towards cyber risk management. Therefore, it is important to pinpoint the most business-critical assets to save both time and money. When determining value, consider the following:
- Possible financial or legal penalties associated with cyber risks
- The value of the information to competitors
- The ability to recreate the information if it was lost
- The impact of the loss on day-to-day operations
- How a cyber threat could affect revenue
- How much damage the IT threat would do to the business
2. Identification & Prioritization of Assets
To identify assets, a business must first evaluate and determine the scope of the cybersecurity risk assessment. Assessments should be performed on all buildings, employees, vehicles, office equipment and electronic data. For each asset, important information should be gathered, including information about hardware, software, data, IT security policies and architecture, network topology, information flow, and other key information that may be applicable.
3. Threat Identification
Threats include any type of vulnerability that could be exploited to steal data or cause harm to an organization. Of course, IT security threats are not the only type of risk that can affect a business. Other common risks include system failure, natural disasters, human error and adversarial threats from insiders, suppliers or third-party vendors. An organization may also face unauthorized access from attackers or malware, misuse of information by authorized users, loss of data, data leaks or disruptions in service.
4. Vulnerability Identification
The next step in a cybersecurity risk assessment involves determining what could happen to an organization if vulnerabilities are exploited. Vulnerabilities refer to any weakness that a threat to a business could exploit with intent to breach security, steal sensitive data or harm an organization. Organizations can better identify vulnerabilities by performing a vulnerability analysis. It is also important to remember that there are physical vulnerabilities that could affect an organization, such as the wrong person gaining access to a keycard.
5. Analyzing Current Controls and Implementing New Controls
Every business has certain controls in place designed to minimize or eliminate the chance of certain threats coming to light. Some of these controls are non-technical, such as locks, keycard access and security policies. Others use technology, such as security software, hardware encryption or two-factor authentication methods. During a cybersecurity risk assessment, businesses should take the time to analyze their current controls and if necessary, implement new ones.
6. Risk Prioritization
An organization’s risks can change on a year-to-year basis. A risk that a business faces today may not impact them in years to come, or vice versa. It is important for businesses to undergo risk assessments on a regular basis to determine what risks are possible based on existing conditions. Prioritize risks based on their risk level, whether high, medium or low.
7. Documentation of Risks
The final step in a cybersecurity risk assessment involves documenting the results of the research performed in a comprehensive report. For each threat found, the report should describe the risk in detail, as well as its value and vulnerabilities. The document should also outline the impact and likelihood of the threats, and any control recommendations. By documenting business risks, businesses can better understand their most valuable data and how they can best operate and secure their organization.
Learn More About Cybersecurity Risk Assessments
In today’s digital world, cybersecurity is an essential component of running a successful business. Securing information assets, data and business facilities should be a priority for all organizations. Cybersecurity risk assessments can help businesses identify the unique cybersecurity risks that they face which is the first step in mitigating these threats. For more information about cybersecurity risk assessments, schedule a consultation with the IT consultants at Hartman Executive Advisors.