All the industries today are heavily reliant on the digitization of their business operations. Where the technology increases efficiency, speed, and business profitability, the emerging cybersecurity threats threaten business sustainability and existence. Digital security risks such as malware, cyberattacks, data breaches, ransomware, DDoS, etc, and skilled cybercriminals are forcing businesses to explore next-generation cybersecurity solutions that are capable of identifying, mitigating, and reporting modern security threats. In their quest to strengthen their cybersecurity infrastructure, companies are leveraging different types of threat and risk assessments. Conducting such types of IT security risk assessments allows organizations to identify and patch security weaknesses in their current business processes, operations, systems, applications, and overall business infrastructure.
Threat and risk assessment
IT security assessments, cybersecurity assessments, IT risk assessments, or vulnerability risk assessments are critical for finding security vulnerabilities in your organization. Without a security risk assessment, a security and recovery program is incomplete and ineffective. Conducting regular vulnerability assessments can lower the risks of security disasters and potentially prevent your organization to face the legion of consequences accompanying a security breach. Understanding the importance of security risk assessments and conducting them often can not only improve your organization’s security posture but can also help you maximize your business continuity, profitability, and growth.
Deciding what type of security risk assessment is best suited for your organization can depend on many factors such as the size of your business, the efficiency of deployed security parameters, your end goals, and so on. However, to help you decide, here are 5 different types of IT security risk assessments and when to apply them.
Organizations throughout the planet are dealing with a flurry of cybersecurity threats on a daily basis. Digital attack vectors and techniques of cybercriminals are becoming more sophisticated and powerful than ever - making security risk assessments critical for businesses. Cybersecurity risk assessments allow businesses to identify, contain, and mitigate different types of cyber risks while identifying and patching security vulnerabilities in their current information technology and information systems and overall business infrastructures.
What is cyber risk?
Cybersecurity risks, digital threats, internet security risks, data security risks, etc. are all some of the interchanging terms used to describe security risks that threaten the safety of intellectual property, data/information, digital gadgets, IT equipment, and other critical assets of an individual or an organization. Common cyber risks include data breaches, identity theft, financial frauds, phishing, ransomware, and many other types of malicious cyberattacks.
What is a cyber risk assessment and why is it important?
As technology evolves, the digital attack vectors and techniques of cybercriminals also continue to evolve and change. Traditional cybersecurity solutions are becoming obsolete as modern security threats emerge. Organizations need to continuously analyze, test, maintain and innovate their security parameters to ensure protection from existing cyber threats while also strengthening their cybersecurity infrastructure to cope with future security risks. Below are some of the primary reasons why conducting risk assessments for companies is important.
Many organizations are not aware of the security vulnerabilities present in their information systems and overall business infrastructure. Such overlooked security vulnerabilities can allow malicious cybercriminals and hacktivist groups to compromise the deployed security parameters of the organization, ultimately allowing hackers to cause irreversible damage to organizational assets. Cyber risk assessments allow organizations to find security vulnerabilities and patch them before these weaknesses are exploited by hackers.
Regulatory standards like PCI DSS, HIPAA, and ISO 27001 prescribe recommendations for protecting data and improving information security management in businesses. Organizations require compliance with such security standards to ensure cybersecurity in their processes, operations, overall business infrastructure. Security risk assessments help companies to find all the weak areas that can be improved to achieve various security and regulatory compliances.
One of the core reasons why organizations conduct risk assessments is to prepare against future cybersecurity threats. The security parameters that an organization may have in place can easily fell short against advanced future digital threats. Security risk assessments allow organizations to analyze, test, innovate and upgrade their weak security parameters to cope with current and future security risks.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a cybersecurity framework to provide a base for risk assessment practices. However, below 6 steps summarize the essence of NIST risk assessment practices.
Step 1: Identification & Characterization
The first step in a security risk assessment is to critically identify and categorize all the processes, functions, operations, and applications of your organization. This categorization can be done by taking into account different aspects that can help you determine risks. These aspects can include asking questions like:
Step 2: Identify risks
Every risk assessment includes the identification of different types of security risks. The identification of possible risks can allow your organization to prepare appropriate defensive mechanisms. Such security risks can include but are not limited to the following:
Step 3: Determine Inherent Risk & Impact
After identifying potential security vulnerabilities and risks in your organization’s systems, processes, applications, and operations, the next step in the risk assessment is prioritization and classification of the identified risks. The risks can be classified into three categories based on their feasibility and impact level. These classification categories are:
Step 4: Analyze the Control Environment
An organization can have a plethora of access and controls in place to secure and manage different aspects of the business. Analyze all the available organizational access and controls to determine any weaknesses and their relationship to the identified security risks. Examples of organizational controls can include:
After identifying the security gaps in your organizational controls and their relationship with identified security risks, classify the organizational controls into the below control assessment categories to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of the deployed controls.
Step 5: Determine a Likelihood Rating
In this step, critically assess the likelihood of a security breach or incident taking place leveraging the identified security risks and vulnerabilities in the business infrastructure and security controls. Use likelihood ratings to list down all the security risks and their likelihood of occurrence. Examples of likelihood ratings are:
Step 6: Calculate The Risk Rating
There are many factors that contribute to increasing or reducing risks. However, a simple universal formula to calculate risk and derive risk rating is:
Impact (if exploited) * Likelihood (of exploit in the assessed control environment) = Risk Rating
Some examples of risk ratings are:
Regular risk assessments play a critical role in protecting an organization from a wide range of security threats. Organizations that do not conduct security risk assessments are more likely to overlook security vulnerabilities present in their cybersecurity infrastructure - ultimately leading to security breaches and other complications. Conducting regular cyber risk investigations can allow your business to identify, assess, mitigate, and prevent current and future security risks.