5 Essential steps for cybersecurity risk assessment
In this era of rapid digitisation, information has become more accessible than ever before. We now operate in a world where data is the new currency. We rely on it for trading, negotiations, business decisions, and confirming our ideas. But what happens when precious data ends up in the wrong hands?
Think about it for a moment; you don’t need to pick a lock and stifle through files to get confidential information anymore - you don’t need to be a computer expert or even have hacking knowledge. The worst part? Many organisations don’t know they have vulnerabilities until it’s too late.
And what’s the best defence against any security problem? Proactive planning. In other words, filling the gap before anyone notices it’s there.
With a cybersecurity risk assessment, you can effectively evaluate your existing security measures and identify vulnerabilities, providing insights to strengthen your future security posture.
What is a cybersecurity risk assessment?
A cybersecurity risk assessment is the process of identifying, assessing, and prioritising risks to your business. It helps you understand the likelihood and impact of potential threats so you can develop appropriate controls to mitigate them.
By conducting these regular assessments, you can identify and address potential problems before they cause significant damage to your organisation.
Risk beyond your business and reputation
Cybersecurity is about more than securing your business and its reputation. You hold valuable data about your employees and customers, so protecting your information also means protecting them.
For example, physical office security measures must be inspected regularly to ensure an up-to-date and functioning security infrastructure. Without these checks, you risk exposing your office to theft and damage. But keep in mind that you aren’t just maintaining it to safeguard assets; you’re also ensuring the safety of yourself and your employees.
You wouldn't allow your employees to work in an environment without a reliable alarm system and access controls. The same applies to cybersecurity risk assessments. You and your business aren't the only occupants at risk. In fact, it's essential to recognise that your cybersecurity measures are closely intertwined with your physical security measures; one simply can't exist without the other.
5 Steps of a cybersecurity risk assessment
Like a security system inspection ensures your infrastructure is safe, reliable, and compliant with regulations, a cybersecurity risk assessment evaluates your organisation’s digital infrastructure, applications, and data security posture.
Five steps involved in a cybersecurity risk assessment include:1. Inspect information assets
Catalogue all your business’s information assets, including your IT infrastructure, software-as-a-service (SaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solutions, and the data processed by these systems.
- Where company data is stored
- The types of information different departments collect
- Where people collect information and where it goes
- The vendors each department engages with and their access
- Authentication methods
- If remote workers can access information and how
- The networks and servers responsible for collecting, transferring, and storing data
- Establish data owners and custodians
As your office building’s interior and exterior are checked for any damage that could compromise its performance, safety, and reliability. Similarly, you need to assess the data and organisational risks your company faces.
This way, you can identify vulnerabilities and prevent breaches that could damage your reputation, finances, continuity, and operations.
- The key systems, networks, and software of your business operations
- Sensitive data or systems requiring availability, confidentiality, and integrity maintenance
- Personal information requiring anonymisation in case of encryption failure
- Devices with a high risk of data loss
- The potential for data corruption
- IT systems, networks, and software that are most at risk of data breaches
Functioning air-conditioning isn’t as crucial as a working alarm. Prioritise the risks you’ve identified and score them based on probability (the likelihood of a breach) and impact (the consequences of a breach). To gauge your risk tolerance, multiply the probability by the impact and determine your response: accept, avoid, transfer, or mitigate.
For example, if the probability of air-conditioning failure is high, but the impact is relatively low because it only affects the temperature inside the office, you may be willing to accept the risk.
However, if there’s an issue with the alarm, you’d likely opt to mitigate the risk by replacing it immediately.4. Implement security controls
Next, define and implement security controls that can help you manage potential risks by either eliminating them or significantly reducing the likelihood of them occurring.
Every risk needs a set of controls which must be applied throughout your business.
Security controls include:
- Network segmentation to isolate data
- Encryption for data at rest and data in transit
- Anti-malware, anti-ransomware, and anti-phishing software
- Firewalls to protect against unauthorised access
- Password protocols
- Multi-factor authentication
- Ongoing workforce training in cybersecurity best practices
- Vendor risk management programmes
Unfortunately, you can’t have a security system installed once and expect it to run smoothly forever. It’s critical to implement an ongoing risk management programme that monitors the IT environment for new threats.
Remember, cyber threats are constantly evolving, and so should your risk analysis and mitigation.