05 Jul Security Assessments: Everything You Need to Know
In an ever-evolving threat landscape where cybercrooks are constantly at work to exploit any loophole, a security assessment can save businesses a lot of unnecessary headaches.
According to the IBM Security Cost of a Data Breach Report 2021, businesses typically incur losses between $1 million to over $5 million following a cyberattack — and that’s excluding fines, penalties or legal fees.
What are security assessments?
Let’s first understand what a security assessment is and how security risk assessments can help mitigate or prevent a data breach.
The Computer Security Resource Center (CSRC) defines a security assessment as “the testing and/or evaluation of the management, operational and technical security controls to determine the extent to which the controls are implemented correctly, operating as intended, and producing the desired outcome with respect to meeting the security requirements for the system.”
In other words, a security assessment is an incident prevention audit aimed at identifying and resolving vulnerabilities before they can be exploited by a hacker.
What is the purpose of a security assessment?
To develop a security plan, you must first be able to identify network vulnerabilities. The primary objective of an IT security assessment is to evaluate an organization’s defense measures against vulnerability threats (both internally and externally) that can be exploited by intruders.
Implementing a regular security risk assessment is imperative to prevent a business from being targeted by cyberattackers. The security risk assessments are part of the compliance requirements listed in the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).
Why are security assessments important?
While there is no such thing as blanket protection, a security assessment is the first step organizations should take to build a robust cybersecurity policy. A security audit helps you prepare a blueprint of your entire system as it exposes ineffective setups and frameworks, which then can be fixed.
By neutralizing a single attack at the root, organizations successfully avert disruptions, downtime, loss of integrity, and reputational and financial loss.
How do you perform a security assessment?
Every security assessment audit is different since there are various security risk assessment methodologies. The results, therefore, tend to vary depending on the methodology adopted.
While there are no set parameters on how a security assessment is carried out, you will generally investigate various aspects of your company’s systems. The goal is to find loopholes that can be exploited.
These security audits will then analyze and evaluate threats and work on identifying solutions.
What is included in a security assessment?
In general, a security assessment includes five elements:
- Define scope and requirements: Scoping is one of the most crucial elements undertaken during a security risk assessment process. During the scoping process, you identify people, processes and technologies that could compromise the security of the network.
- Identify risks: Risk assessment helps an organization implement an efficient risk management measure. It involves testing the IT infrastructure to identify loopholes and weaknesses.Once the scope of the security risk assessment has been established, the next step is to identify risks. IT security experts will pinpoint assets that are critical to the organization and are likely to be a cyberattacker’s target. However, it is crucial to also include other assets, such as Active Directory, communication systems or even picture archives, that could be exploited.A network architecture diagram containing all the assets is the easiest way to explain the potential threat and loopholes in the systems, which can be presented to the security team to implement measures that address the risk.
- Analyze risks: In the risk analysis stage, various risk scenarios and how their occurrence would impact the organization are evaluated and studied. The assessment helps in prioritizing risks by establishing a most-to-least-critical importance ranking. These insights from the risk assessment are helpful in allocating resources. Input from stakeholders and security experts is crucial in this stage since risk assessment is subjective in nature.
- Evaluate and mitigate risks: The organization can use a risk matrix to determine the course of action in each threat scenario based on an agreed-upon tolerance level. Mitigating risks involves deploying a set of security measures that reduce the impact of an attack.
- Document risks: A master risk list documenting all identified risk scenarios should be maintained. It should be reviewed and updated periodically to ensure up-to-date documentation of ever-evolving cybersecurity risks.
What are the types of security assessments?
Security assessments are carried out as part of the cybersecurity protocol to map the risks of various cyberthreats. Some businesses may conduct security audits to meet compliance requirements while others might opt for a security assessment to gain certain industry certifications. These assessments are critical for organizations of all sizes (SMB or large enterprises) to discourage attacks and ensure operational continuity.
There are several types of security assessments. Let’s review seven assessments that can help a business evaluate its security and mitigate vulnerabilities.
A vulnerability assessment helps map the weaknesses and vulnerabilities within an IT framework. The testers look for loopholes in the network that can be exploited. Possible recovery measures and scenarios are also discussed.
The vulnerability assessment produces a list of issues with priorities, which then can be addressed.
A penetration test is usually undertaken to meet requirements associated with compliance or other regulations. A penetration test exploits listed loopholes found during the vulnerability assessment to evaluate a business’ security.
There are three approaches to performing a penetration test.
- Black-box penetration testing: Testing is carried out from the perspective of a cyber thief who has no internal access to the network or the data.
- White-box penetration testing: Testing is executed as if an insider (such as a malicious employee) could access data to cause harm.
- Gray-box penetration testing: The tester carries out exploits with partial or limited access to internal information and data.
Network security assessment
A network security assessment helps an organization secure its network, devices and critical data from unauthorized access.
A network security assessment is usually carried out as a regulatory requirement.
Physical security assessment
A physical security assessment is something that organizations of any size should undertake. Vandalism, theft, rogue or mentally unstable employees, and even terrorism, are real-life scenarios that must be considered.
Application security assessment
Application security testing (AST) is the process of testing software or applications for loopholes or vulnerabilities that could be exploited.
Cloud security assessment
A cloud security assessment evaluates and analyzes the cloud infrastructure of an organization to ensure it is protected from security risks and threats.
Vendor security assessment
Most organizations have an internal cybersecurity defense posture but may overlook the risk that comes with using a third-party vendor’s product or service. A hacker may exploit a loophole in a third-party vendor’s product or service and compromise your organization’s data and reputation.
A vendor security assessment helps organizations identify potential vulnerabilities in a third-party vendor’s product or service.
What is a security assessment framework?
A security assessment framework may not tell you how to best secure your cloud or on-premises assets. However, it offers you a set of “best practices.”
The compliance requirements set by governments and enterprises should be part of the security assessment framework since they are comprehensive and battle-tested.
Here is a list of major regulations and compliance standards that can be adapted to create a robust security assessment framework:
- NIST CSF — National Institute of Standards Technologies Cybersecurity Framework
The NIST Cybersecurity Framework published by the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) offers guidelines, standards and best practices against cybersecurity risks.
- ISO 27000 — International Office of Standardization Family of Standards
Published by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), the ISO/IEC 270001 family of standards, also known as the ISO 27000 series, helps organizations improve their information security.
- CMMC — Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification
Implemented by the U.S. Department of Defense, the CMMC standardizes cybersecurity preparedness.
- SOC 2 — Service Organization Control
The SOC 2 reporting standard helps companies standardize internal controls related to organizational structure, IT, human resources and third-party management.
- HIPAA — Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act
HIPAA is a U.S. federal law that protects sensitive patient health information from unauthorized access. It lays down standards that offer complete privacy of health data from being misused.
- PCI-DSS — Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard
PCI-DSS defines policies and procedures that optimize and protect financial transactions carried out using credit, debit and cash cards.
- GDPR — General Data Protection Regulation
GDPR is a regulation drafted and passed by the European Union that gives citizens increased control over their personal data. As per the regulation, the onus is on the businesses to protect the personal data and privacy of EU citizens for transactions that occur within EU member states.
- NERC-CIP — North American Electric Reliability Corporation Critical Infrastructure Protection
The NERC CIP standards define the security standards applicable to entities that own or manage facilities that are part of the U.S. and Canadian electric power grid.
- FERPA — Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
A U.S. federal law, FERPA gives parents the right to access their child’s school records. It allows parents to have the records amended and provides some control over personally identifiable information (PII) from being disclosed. When a student turns 18 years old, or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student.
- FISMA — Federal Information Security Management Act
FISMA requires federal agencies and contractors implement a mandatory set of information security to eliminate unauthorized access or malicious use.
- CIS — Center for Internet Security
The CIS sets high standards of safeguards to thwart cyberattacks against networks and suggests improvements in the framework to mitigate evolving threats.
- COBIT — Control Objectives for Information Technology
COBIT is a framework of the best procedures for IT management and governance to help organizations minimize their IT risks using available resources.
Comprehensive security assessments with RapidFire Tools
Security assessments are crucial in a business’s everyday operations and help discover issues hidden from agents and other security systems.
Network Detective Pro provides “value-added intelligence” to your IT Assessments to protect networks and users better, whether you’re an IT professional or MSP.
Network Detective Pro also gives you access to brandable reports, which you can customize to deliver personalized documentation to your internal team or clients.
Here are a few of the reports you can produce:
- Anomalous login report: Identify anomalous user logins through a comprehensive report that systematically analyzes login history and flags potential unauthorized access.
- Health report: This report details the overall risk to the IT security environment measured by the number of issues detected.
- External vulnerabilities scan detail report: Essential for many standard security compliance reports, this document can help you make critical network security decisions.
- Security policy assessment report: Get access to detailed security policies on both a domain-wide and local machine basis.
Schedule a demo to see the power of Network Detective Pro for yourself.