When it comes to cybersecurity, an organization has just one responsibility — to always be prepared. Business owners can never know when, how or why their networks may be breached, but they will inevitably have to shoulder the blame due to their inability to handle the incident properly. The fines and reputational damage that follow make it extremely difficult to recover, leaving the business and its people at major risk.
There are a handful of ways to ensure an organization’s safety in today’s rapidly evolving threat landscape, and carrying out a cybersecurity risk assessment is the first step in that direction.
But how does a cybersecurity risk assessment improve a company’s chances of eliminating cyber-risks? Before we answer that, let’s first understand what a cybersecurity risk assessment is and its significance to businesses in this current hyperconnected world.
What is a cybersecurity risk assessment?
As the name implies, a cybersecurity risk assessment is any form of systematic test or evaluation of a business’s IT security that gauges how well — or poorly — it may fare against various cyberattacks. A thorough assessment reveals the kinds of vulnerabilities and cyber-risks an IT network is exposed to and helps address them by prioritizing and remediating each risk on the basis of severity.
A cybersecurity risk assessment touches upon every internal policy, digital asset, and security and compliance process employed by an organization to safeguard its intellectual property (IP), business-critical data, stakeholders and customer information.
What is the importance of risk assessment in cybersecurity?
The value of a well-defined cybersecurity risk assessment is immeasurable, especially against the growing threats of modern cybercriminals. The data collected after an assessment enables organizations to identify and mitigate potential cyberthreats, like hidden vulnerabilities, insider threats and breaches, that may harm their IT infrastructure.
More elaborately, a cybersecurity risk assessment helps information security professionals gain granular insights into exactly where the gaps in their security systems and practices lie. They can also estimate the probability of an attack and its impact on the business, allowing them to make informed decisions about allocating resources and implementing effective cybersecurity measures to stave off threats.
It is also important to mention that cybersecurity risk assessments help companies stay compliant with their respective regulatory authorities. Regardless of industry, every organization is required to carry out regular or frequent IT risk assessments to maintain the highest levels of cyber hygiene possible.
Why do companies conduct cybersecurity risk assessments?
Cybercriminals do not care whether an enterprise is large or small. There are multiple ways they can benefit from breaching an organization’s database and stealing only a handful of customer information. And the means by which they can access an organization’s network are not limited to sending phishing emails to unsuspecting, non-technical employees.
For instance, an employee at FT Labs of the Financial Times who maintains significant technical expertise fell prey to a well-crafted phishing email, which resulted in a data breach. This case study displays how even those who otherwise maintain healthy cyber hygiene can become victims of a creative cybercriminal.
Companies need to carry out routine cybersecurity risk assessments to avoid such instances at all costs. Some of the main benefits of a comprehensive cybersecurity risk assessment are listed below for more clarity:
- Identifying vulnerabilities: An organization can identify and proactively work towards quickly remediating vulnerabilities that lurk within its network, avoiding unnecessary costs and disruptions to daily business operations.
- Improving risk management: Prioritizing the severity of risks becomes a much easier process, which further simplifies the development of a risk management strategy.
- Meeting compliance requirements: Cybersecurity risk assessments help streamline a business’s audit and compliance management practices. They provide evidence of the company’s efforts to conform to its mandated cybersecurity framework, steering clear of hefty fines and reputational damage.
- Strengthening incident response: Risk assessments help organizations strengthen their incident response capabilities. After all, assessments only report on issues; fixing them requires the expertise of qualified IT professionals. However, risk assessment reports show how professionals can better handle incidents, empowering them to establish new or revise security procedures to respond efficiently, minimize the impact of an attack and expedite recovery.
- Boosting stakeholder confidence: Conducting routine IT risk assessments depicts an organization’s cyber awareness and dedication to ensuring its data, partners, customers and stakeholders are protected from any liabilities — legal or otherwise. The image the company creates by taking such proactive measures positively influences its standing in its respective marketplace.
What are the components of a cybersecurity risk assessment?
There are four main components of a cybersecurity risk assessment. Let’s discuss each of them in detail.
This step is typically the initial dive into a cybersecurity risk assessment that involves discerning an organization’s assets, the cyberthreats it may be exposed to, network vulnerabilities and the efficacy of its existing security and compliance controls. Information security professionals are tasked with taking inventory of every asset that reserves the privilege to access the company’s IT infrastructure. This includes any software, hardware and data that moves in and around its digital environment.
At this stage, every identified cyber-risk is evaluated to determine the threat it poses to the organization. Performing an in-depth risk analysis and ranking, or quantifying, of each threat helps security professionals better understand the condition of their company’s security posture.
This seemingly self-implied step requires a lot of heavy lifting and careful execution due to the enterprise-wide engagement it involves. After assessing the potential cyberthreats an organization may face, launching an implementation strategy requires much attention. It involves incorporating several new security controls and countermeasures to reduce the number of identified vulnerabilities. Implementing new security policies, technical safeguards and employee training programs is crucial in this step.
Lastly, the final step is to document the complete risk assessment process, including the identified risks, their analysis and the implemented controls. Comprehensive documentation ensures transparency, provides a baseline for future assessments and aids in maintaining compliance with an organization’s regulatory requirements.
How to perform a cybersecurity risk assessment?
By carefully following the steps mentioned below, businesses everywhere — irrespective of their size — can conduct a cybersecurity risk assessment that delivers highly reliable results, promising a safer IT environment.
1. Determine scope and informational value
Clearly define the scope of the cybersecurity risk assessment and the aspects of the business it aims to evaluate. This includes its devices, networks and data. Doing so makes it easier to identify the informational value of each asset to measure risk and develop an effective remediation game plan.
2. Identify and prioritize assets
Information security professionals at this stage should inventory and categorize assets, such as hardware, software, data and IP, based on their pertinence and value to the organization. Using this information now helps better prioritize them as it relates to business operations.
3. Identify threats and vulnerabilities
This step deals with identifying all potential threats to the identified assets and gaps in the network that cybercriminals may exploit. Understanding the threat landscape is a major part of this process, where learning about external threats, like hackers and malware, and internal risks, like employee negligence and lack of proper IT security training, is the most common and effective way to begin.
4. Assess risks and potential impacts
Evaluating the likelihood and possible impact of identified cyberthreats on an organization’s assets improves how accurately IT security professionals measure risks. They can now better gauge the probability of occurrence and the consequences of an incident.
5. Analyze and implement security controls
After step four, prioritizing risks for mitigation should be a very streamlined process, which then bleeds into analyzing existing security controls and revising them for enhanced protection or compliance management. Information security professionals can now develop and implement the ideal security controls — that align with their business and regulatory criteria — to mitigate identified risks. Typical security controls include technical safeguards, policies and employee training.
6. Document risks and results
Documentation today has come to be incredibly important in the world of IT. The results of the entire cybersecurity risk assessment process, including the threat identification, risk analysis and the implementation of controls, should be recorded and reported. Keeping track of every vulnerability, prioritized risk and the recommended actions taken to mitigate them will serve as a reference point to carry out more effective assessments in the future and strengthens compliance management by providing evidence with high-level details.
What are cybersecurity risk assessment tools?
In the simplest terms, cybersecurity risk assessment tools are powerful pieces of software that assist an organization’s IT team in bolstering its risk management competencies. These solutions are built to discover, analyze and evaluate the various vulnerabilities and cyberthreats a business may be exposed to. They provide IT professionals with exhaustive amounts of actionable insights to help them make informed decisions for the best security outcomes.
Some of these software solutions come with highly desirable features, like vulnerability scanning automation, report generation, risk prioritization and remediation guidance. Each of these functionalities supports IT security teams to face cyberthreats with more confidence and convenience knowing that they’re doing their part in safeguarding their organization and people.
Assess your cybersecurity risk with RapidFire Tools
If you’re an organization looking to strengthen your IT infrastructure’s security posture in the most flexible and affordable way possible, RapidFire Tools has all the solutions you need to accomplish your cybersecurity goals.
Fully dedicated to helping IT professionals master IT risk management, RapidFire Tools offers a robust suite of products purpose-built to discover, mitigate and report on every cyberthreat that poses a risk to your network. Its tools feature intelligent automation to help professionals prioritize remediation and track risk reduction progress. They also generate comprehensive, easy-to-digest risk assessment reports for stakeholders.
- Network Detective Pro:Network Detective Pro is an IT assessment and reporting tool that provides real “value-added intelligence” to your IT assessments. The proprietary data collectors of RapidFire Tools 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 upon the 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 will send 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.
Schedule a personalized demo of RapidFire Tools suite of IT risk management products and improve your cybersecurity to better manage risk in today’s ever-evolving threat landscape.