5 threat and risk assessment approaches for businesses in 2021


5 Threat And Risk Assessment Approaches For Businesses In 2021 (1)

5 threat and risk assessment approaches for businesses in 2021


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.

  1. Vulnerability assessment
    Your organization does not stand a chance against modern and advanced persistent threats (ATPs) unless you identify security gaps in your security infrastructure and patch them before they are discovered and exploited by cybercriminals. Conducting vulnerability risk assessments allows you to find potential security gaps in your systems, devices, security solutions, operations, applications, and processes - providing you valuable time to patch them.
    This assessment type is best suited for your organization if you intend to test and validate the accuracy and efficiency of the deployed security measures within the organization. Timely identification and remediation of vulnerabilities will lower risks of security intrusions and will boost your business’s security and productivity.
  2.  Penetration testing
    Penetration testing or pen testing is the next step forward to deploying and testing the effectiveness of security parameters to find vulnerabilities. Pen testing enables you to test the defense capabilities of your cybersecurity infrastructure. Pen testing usually includes an authorized security team leveraging modern hacking techniques, tools, and attack vectors to
    break and bypass the deployed security parameters to determine the protection capabilities of the deployed security measures.
    Conducting pen-testing assessments is suitable for organizations that are looking to take their cybersecurity to the next level. If you aim to fortify your organization against traditional and modern security threats - pen testing can help!
  3. IT Audit
    Conducting an IT audit means analyzing the current organizational security posture to determine if it meets the regulatory security compliance standards. IT audits include analysis of digital assets, technical structure, and documentation to identify lacking areas. IT audit assessments also include analysis of how well the organizational staff understands the security risks and whether they perform their daily basis of work duties while implementing best security practices and making security-conscious decisions.
    This assessment is best suited for your organization if you intend to achieve compliance with certain regulatory security standards. The IT audit should allow you to identify and strengthen weak areas in your organization to achieve the required compliance.
  4. Red Team assessment
    Red team assessment includes two competing security teams. The red team usually is an external cybersecurity expert hired to compete against the blue team that consists of the internal security team of an organization. The red team leverages modern attack methods to breach the security parameters set by the blue team. The goal of the red team is to identify the weaknesses in the security parameters set by the blue team so the lacking areas can be improved. This assessment is best suited for your organization if you need high-level security for your organizational networks.
  5. IT Risk Assessment
    IT risk assessment include preparation against both current and future cybersecurity risks. This risk assessment includes an organization-wide qualitative and quantitative risk assessment that measures the risk of security incidents happening in the near future. The end goal of this risk
    assessment includes the creation of a priority list with potential threats. Based on the likelihood and impact area of certain threats, security teams work to remedy the most critical threats.
    Just like vulnerability assessment, IT risk assessment also includes the identification of the security gaps in your security infrastructure and patch them before they are discovered and exploited by cybercriminals.
    You can leverage these different types of security risk assessment to improve your organizational security posture regardless of your business size and industry. The key to remaining, reputed, operational, and sustainable in today’s hostile cyber world is to continuously innovate and improve your defense parameters.​

How to perform a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment?

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.

  • Identification of Cybersecurity Weakpoints

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.

  • Compliance with Industry Regulations

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.

  • Preparation Against Future Security risks

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.

Security vulnerabilities in your organizational infrastructure might put your business at risk. Luckily, NGN International is here to help! Let our industry experts identify security gaps in your organizational security posture and recommend customized solutions that will not only increase your organizational security but will also improve business efficiency and productivity.

6 steps to performing an effective cyber risk assessment

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:

  • How does a specific organizational process, function, or application work?
  • What is the data flow?
  • Where does the information go?
  • What kind of data does it use?
  • Who uses the system?
  • What are the internal and external interfaces that may be present?
  • Who is the vendor?

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:

  • Unauthorized access due to a hacking attack, malware infection, or internal threat
  • Misuse of information/privilege/credentials by an authorized user
  • Data leakage/theft
  • Loss of data due to corruption, equipment failure, or cyberattack

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:

  • High – Impact could be substantial.
  • Medium – Impact would be damaging, but recoverable, and/or is inconvenient.
  • Low – Impact would be minimal or non-existent.

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:

  • User Authentication Controls
  • User Provisioning Controls
  • Data Center Physical & Environmental Security Controls
  • Organizational Risk Management Controls
  • Continuity of Operations Controls
  • Infrastructure Data Protection Controls
  • Administration Controls

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.

  • Satisfactory
  • Satisfactory with Recommendations
  • Needs Improvement
  • Inadequate

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:

  • High – The threat-source is highly motivated and sufficiently capable, and controls to prevent the vulnerability from being exercised are ineffective.
  • Medium – The threat-source is motivated and capable, but controls are in place that may impede successful exercise of the vulnerability.
  • Low – The threat-source lacks motivation or capability, or controls are in place to prevent, or at least significantly impede, the vulnerability from being exercised.

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:

  • Severe – A significant and urgent threat to the organization exists and risk reduction remediation should be immediate.
  • Elevated – A viable threat to the organization exists, and risk reduction remediation should be completed in a reasonable period of time.
  • Low – Threats are normal and generally acceptable, but may still have some impact to the organization. Implementing additional security enhancements may provide further defense against potential or currently unforeseen threats.

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.