10 Apr IT Risk Assessments: Why They Matter and How To Perform One
Among the many cybersecurity practices your organization may follow to ensure its success and the security of its employee and customer data, an IT risk assessment plays a crucial role in determining the weaknesses in your network and devices. Without an effective strategy to manage cyber-risks, your defenses won’t stand a chance against modern cyberthreats.
We understand that information security professionals today can feel overwhelmed when carrying out an enterprise-wide IT risk assessment, considering just how expansive a task it can prove to be. To help simplify the process, we’ve marked out a few ways to streamline how your team can best manage an IT risk assessment.
Before delving into how you can conduct an expeditious yet efficacious IT risk assessment, let’s take a quick look at what an IT risk assessment is and why it’s an invaluable cybersecurity practice.
What is an IT risk assessment?
An IT risk assessment is the process of identifying and mitigating cyber-risks and threats that can compromise a company’s IT infrastructure, network, database and the safety of its employees. It helps avoid some of the biggest cyberthreats, like data breaches, which, according to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2022, cost companies an average of 9.44 million dollars in the United States alone.
IT risk assessments cover every facet of your organization’s IT infrastructure, including hardware and software assets and employees. They help your IT security team analyze and identify potential cyber-risks to the network — whether from internal or external sources. A successful assessment can equip your team with valuable, actionable insights about the network’s health, the areas that require attention, network vulnerabilities and existing cybersecurity policies.
It also helps your professionals improve their compliance management practices, enabling the business to avoid unnecessary fines and regulatory penalties.
What is the objective of an IT risk assessment?
Through a successful IT risk assessment, you can gain a comprehensive understanding of all your IT assets and the kind — and value — of data that moves in and out of your network, regardless of whether it travels via on-prem, cloud or remote environments. With this information on hand, measuring the levels of risk a part of the business faces becomes easier, allowing your teams to prioritize their efforts toward handling each issue efficiently.
In short, the objective of an IT risk assessment revolves around enabling the security team to establish a strong IT security architecture, safeguard your IP and employees, reduce exposure to cyberthreats and improve compliance management.
What are the two main types of IT risk assessments?
There are two main types, or methods, of assessments to consider before you begin strategizing your approach to risk management. The first one, called qualitative risk assessment, concerns itself with the information provided by your organization’s people. The second, called quantitative risk assessment, is more specific and calculative, dealing directly with measurable data sets and other factors, such as money. Depending on your security requirements, you can carry out an assessment using either of the two methodologies or a combination of the two.
Qualitative IT risk assessment
The qualitative approach to IT risk assessment involves the participation of your employees and IT professionals, where you understand exactly how a cyberthreat could impair or hinder their productivity. This method of evaluating a risk helps gain a degree of insight into the likelihood of the occurrence of a risk and its impact on operational efficiency, finance, security and compliance.
Qualitative risk assessments can help improve how you architect your security infrastructure to support each department within the organization. However, keep in mind to only act upon the recommendations that promise the most logical results since qualitative assessments depend heavily on people’s opinions, which can often be subject to change based on personal biases.
Quantitative IT risk assessment
Based on hard statistical facts backed by data, quantitative IT risk assessments focus on measuring risk for assets across the company to calculate the negative impact a risk may cause with its probability of occurrence. The findings are typically depicted in monetary terms to help you observe and prioritize how to handle each risk based on its estimated cost to the company.
The quantitative assessment method offers objective information and accurate data, which puts the qualitative approach at a disadvantage. Yet, the biggest issue with this type of assessment is the volume of data to analyze — it’s too low. In order to obtain desirable results from quantitative assessments, collecting and studying as much enterprise data as possible is key.
What is the value of IT risk assessments?
An IT risk assessment brings a whole new level of visibility into your IT infrastructure, enabling you to discern the risk and value of each asset in the organization with more accuracy. Managing risks and known vulnerabilities can become a simpler process when you understand how to prioritize remediation. Moreover, a successful assessment offers an objective set of results that your information security professionals can leverage to handle remediation efforts, or compliance issues, in a manner that perfectly aligns with the company’s business and technology goals.
We’ve listed out the benefits an IT risk assessment can offer below.
An IT risk assessment supports your professionals’ efforts toward hardening the organization’s security. Hardening, in the world of cybersecurity, is the process of reducing the attack surface of any digital asset connected to your network. Doing so curtails a cybercriminal’s ability to launch an attack. Hardening the company’s servers, software applications, databases, network and even operating systems can help significantly improve IT risk management.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Computer Information Security (CIS) Benchmarks and Microsoft have also taken the initiative to set forth system hardening guidelines. These policies are established to encourage organizations to eliminate unnecessary vulnerabilities and security gaps in their IT infrastructure.
IT risk assessments help your team identify why the network’s attack surface is big, thereby creating an awareness of the areas that require immediate remediation to reduce it and fend off any potential cyberthreats.
Accountability and growth
Accountability plays a large role in maintaining the security and compliance of your network. Your employees and collaborators must strictly adhere to the organization’s cybersecurity protocols. Unfortunately, ensuring their accountability for the same is not easy. IT risk assessments can help you bridge the technical gap between all users connected to the network and help them, and your management, take responsibility for the organization’s security. This includes its systems, data and applications.
Through effective IT risk assessments, training all personnel on cybersecurity best practices in simple terms becomes a more refined process, allowing you to inculcate the value of maintaining security into the corporate culture easily.
Operational efficiency and productivity
An extremely important outcome of effective IT risk assessments is their positive impact on enterprise-wide productivity of IT operations, particularly in areas of security and compliance. Every assessment helps measure how much risk various parts of your business may face, allowing you to train individual departments on how they can improve their security practices and conduct self-analyses of existing workflows. When your employees understand where the weaknesses or vulnerabilities in their systems lie, they can address them quickly, avoid unnecessary risks and focus better on their primary revenue-generating responsibilities.
From a monetary perspective, IT risk assessments provide you with actionable insights that help improve your decision-making processes since it pertains to implementing or changing cybersecurity controls across the enterprise. They help you understand what additional security solutions or services best serve your business’s needs and how much they may cost.
Justifying your security investments becomes easier once there’s a clear picture of your organization’s existing — and potential — risks and a robust IT risk assessment strategy helps paint that picture.
How do you conduct an IT risk assessment?
There is no one way to carry out an IT risk assessment. However, we’ve outlined a few steps below to help get you started in the right direction.
1. Identify assets, threats and vulnerabilities
This step is ideally the first toward effectuating an IT risk assessment. It covers a large portion of understanding the health of your IT infrastructure in depth.
- Identify assets: Make an inventory of every digital asset you possess, from every corner of the organization. Every department must do its part in supporting this venture. Collect information on the various applications, systems and devices your HR, sales, IT, finance and other teams leverage to do their jobs.
- Identify threats: With the information you’ve gathered from each department, and the data from the assets, identifying the potential threats that pose serious risks to your business is the next step. Hackers look for weak firewalls, systems with large attack surfaces and social engineering opportunities, such as phishing attacks, to attack the network from the outside and the inside.
- Identify vulnerabilities: You can identify vulnerabilities within your network in many ways. Penetration testing and automated vulnerability scanning with tools like VulScan can help discover network weaknesses and poor security practices across the business. Red, blue, and purple teaming also help gain maximum visibility into your network to identify and remediate vulnerabilities.
2. Analyze controls
Now that you’ve listed your assets, identified threats and discovered network vulnerabilities, your next move involves eliminating existing and potential IT risks. By analyzing and implementing effective security controls, you can significantly reduce the occurrence or impact of a cyberthreat.
Security controls can vary from being technical and non-technical. The former includes software for internal threat detection, like Cyber Hawk, and the utilization of enhanced encryption. The latter deals with improving cybersecurity protocols, employee training and physical controls, such as biometrics and surveillance cameras. It also helps seek out managed security service providers to mitigate IT risks. It can prove to be a cheaper and quicker process owing to their specialized skills in cybersecurity.
3. Assess likelihood and impact
- Likelihood of risk: At this stage of your IT risk assessment, you should have a clear understanding of the risks your organization may be subjected to and certain security controls in place to mitigate them. With this information, it also becomes easier to find out which of the discovered vulnerabilities is most likely to threaten the organization’s IT infrastructure as well as employee and customer privacy and reputation.
- Impact of risk: Discern the level of risk by high, medium and low, and assess the impact each risk category can have on your organization. Use the qualitative and quantitative approaches to IT risk assessment and carry out a comprehensive impact analysis to understand the full extent of risk an incident, or likely incident, poses to your organization.
4. Prioritize risks
This step affects how much time and money you may spend on managing IT risks. With all the data on hand so far along the assessment, it should be a fairly straightforward process to determine which risks you and your team will target and in what order. Chart out a map that helps you place high and likely-to-occur risks as your number one priority and move down the list accordingly.
5. Revise controls
Once you’ve prioritized the risks, the next step is to revise, change or implement new security controls to align with how your information security professionals plan to manage each risk. Whether it’s a technical, administrative, physical or operational control, adapting your controls to meet the needs of the hour can help make your cybersecurity practices more effective and consequently improve how your organization, as a whole, manages risk.
6. Document results
Documenting and creating detailed reports of your findings marks the last leg of your IT risk assessment journey.
These reports justify why and where you allocated resources and why your security policies must be changed or revised. They also help establish a benchmark for future references; this may involve setting new and improved security guidelines and budgets. Moreover, you can design the reports however you see fit. However, the key is to ensure that even non-technical members can easily understand them to help keep the company safe by any means possible.
What are IT risk assessment tools?
An IT risk assessment tool is a software product designed specifically to help your organization identify and act upon existing and potential cyber-risks that threaten the growth and security of your organization and employees. There are many types of IT risk assessment tools, such as vulnerability scanners, penetration testing software, compliance management platforms and internal threat detection tools. They enable you and your peers to understand how effective your security posture stands against a host of cyberthreats and provides the insights you need to actively combat those issues.
More recently, the market has been introduced to many automated IT assessment tools that offer users a whole new dimension of convenience, practically eliminating the need for manual intervention. They are more cost-effective and quicken the risk mitigation process.
While there has been a rise in the number of IT risk assessment tools today, the problems of accessibility and affordability persist. Fortunately, RapidFire Tools understands the demerits of such issues and revolutionizes how an organization approaches IT risk assessment and management.
Perform IT risk assessments with RapidFire Tools
RapidFire Tools offers the market a robust suite of proprietary, purpose-built scanning technology that support both MSPs and organizations in tackling cumbersome cybersecurity issues in the quickest, most affordable manner.
The company currently houses four products, each dedicated to addressing specific cybersecurity issues efficiently. What makes the RapidFire Tools’ product suite so perfectly suited for your network security management needs is how easy it is to integrate into your existing workflows with barely any downtime.
Each tool brings an unparalleled IT risk management experience, where network assessment, vulnerability management, internal threat detection and compliance management become incredibly streamlined, effortless processes.
- Network Detective Pro: Network Detective Pro is an IT assessment and reporting tool that provides real “value-added intelligence” to your IT assessments. RapidFire Tools’ proprietary data collectors compare multiple data points to discover hidden issues, provide fixes, measure risk and track your remediation progress.
It allows you to run non-intrusive assessments on new environments in less than an hour. Unlike any other IT assessment product, Network Detective Pro can perform full, in-depth assessments with nothing to install. Network Detective Pro also empowers you to identify what policies need to be changed or revised to stop repeating problems via automated, pre-scheduled IT risk assessments.
- VulScan: Vulnerability management has never been easier. VulScan enables you to easily scan your network for internal and external vulnerabilities with no limitations on how many scans you want to run. The solution is fully automated, allowing your team to comfortably detect network weaknesses every day and act on regular alerts to safeguard your IT infrastructure.
- Cyber Hawk: Cyber Hawk is an affordable, easy-to-deploy internal threat detection platform that can be used with minimal training. The system performs daily scans automatically and reports back with an alert that can be sent to anyone via email or displayed on an online threat management dashboard. Moreover, the system “gets smarter” over time. It keeps track of each end user to establish trends and benchmarks for their behaviors and sends alerts when suspicious anomalies are detected.
- Compliance Manager GRC: Compliance Manager GRC is a compliance management platform that enables businesses to comply with the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, HIPAA, CMMC and many other IT regulations. It can help you easily achieve your compliance and risk management goals due to its flexibility. The platform can quickly integrate with any IT environment, enabling you to comply with regulations faster, at amazingly affordable prices.
Reach out to RapidFire Tools today and learn how you can enhance your IT risk management capabilities and face the cybercriminals of today head-on.