How To Approach Cybersecurity Risk Assessment: 4 Actionable Steps

Digitization has made both our personal lives and business workflows more convenient and efficient than ever, but it’s also introduced significant cybersecurity risks. 

In our personal lives, it’s normal to watch our credit card statements and credit reports for fraud and identity theft. For businesses, it’s no different.

Cybersecurity has become a key topic amongst business leaders because of the increasing number of data breaches making headlines and impacting large enterprises seemingly every month. Risk is simply an accepted reality for most businesses today, but with competition at an all-time high, sacrificing the digital experience isn’t an option.

Fortunately, there are ways to mitigate risk. Risk assessment for cybersecurity has become one of the best ways to do this. Today, you have to take the time to protect your internal processes, applications, and servers from hackers looking to access your sensitive corporate data.

How To Approach Cybersecurity Risk Assessment 4 Actionable Steps

A cybersecurity risk assessment program differs depending on the needs, scope, and complexity of the organization. Let’s talk about risk mitigation and how you can develop the right approach for your firm.

What Is Digital Risk?

What exactly is at stake when you don’t pay enough attention to cybersecurity? There are actually several different types of risk that the business sector needs to be aware of.

  • Loss of trust amongst your customers and business partners.
  • Poor strategic decisions that fail to fall in line with your overall objectives.
  • Disruptions in internal operations.
  • Problems with delivering products and services properly.
  • Incompliance with governmental rules, regulations, and standards.

Cybersecurity risks can come from threats like computer viruses, malware, phishing attacks, data breaches, ransomware, insider attacks, and non-compliance. These threats are usually prioritized by the business in terms of how high the risk is (i.e. how vulnerable the internal system is and what the consequences might be in the event of a successful attack).

What Is Cybersecurity Risk Assessment?

Any organization that uses information systems performs risk assessment to identify and prioritize digital risks so that stakeholders can stay informed and make preparations accordingly. Once the risks have been identified, the next step is to find out the most cost-effective way to reduce them.

But why would you go through the trouble of doing all these steps? The benefits of a cybersecurity risk assessment are:

  • Cost-savings: The work you put in today will save you in the long run. Cybersecurity incidents are always expensive to clean up, and the lasting effects usually never go away.
  • Increased awareness: An assessment is also an opportunity to gain knowledge about how your organization handles its defenses and where you can improve in the future.
  • Informed employees: Staff members will be more knowledgeable about cybersecurity in general and will help you patch up gaps in your defenses. That’s why over two-thirds of organizations have formal cybersecurity training in place.
  • Regulatory compliance: Don’t get fined or sanctioned because you couldn’t hold up to governmental standards. Various regulations like the health industry’s HIPAA or the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard for those using credit cards.

But let’s back up and see what undergoing a risk assessment entails. The following is a generic approach that a specific company might modify to its own needs.

Step 1: Know What You’re Doing First

What should the assessment cover? Ask yourself a few questions before starting off to know where you’re headed.

  • What is the purpose and scope of the assessment?
  • What should be prioritized first?
  • What stakeholders will I need to contact for the task?
  • Where do you keep your sensitive data, and what can be done to protect it?

Since you’re bound not to cover absolutely everything yet, prioritization ensures that you at least cover what matters most. What assets do you have that pose the largest threat to cybersecurity: Assets can include anything from sensitive data to software solutions to other parts of the IT architecture.

Step 2: Find the Threats

Discover what vulnerabilities would, if exploited, cause significant harm to your business. You might lose data to system failures, natural disasters, and human error, but let’s focus on the cyberthreats:

  • Unauthorized access from a potentially malicious third party or even a misuse of privileged access by an authorized user.
  • Data leaks, whenever information is exposed by accident. Leaks can happen if you ever lose an encrypted hard drive or accidentally send information to the wrong recipient.
  • Service disruptions that result in lost revenue from downtime.

Once you have a list of vulnerabilities, consider building a cybersecurity risk assessment matrix to help prioritize them. Also known as an impact matrix, this chart assists in risk evaluation by showing the probability that a vulnerability becomes exploited and the potential amount of damage that could occur if it does.

Step 3: Administer Controls

The next step is to take action and mitigate or remove entirely the digital threats. Examples of countermeasures are:

  • Encryption
  • User authentication  (such as 2-factor authentication)
  • Intrusion detection
  • Keeping software and hardware up-to-date
  • Physical barriers like keycard access

Placing down controls is also about finding out how they fit in with the overall workflow of the company. Consider factors like:

  • How feasible is it to administer these controls?
  • What implications do they have for your reputation?
  • Are they safe and reliable?
  • How effective are they?
  • Is there any uncertainty?

We’ll discuss later how cybersecurity risk assessment tools can be used to identify, prioritize, and mitigate cybersecurity risks in a way that fits in with how the business does its work.

Step 4: Document a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment Report

A report is designed to support the changes you’re planning on implementing for the sake of risk mitigation. This document must detail the budget, procedures, and value of patching up each vulnerability.

Writing a report also forces you to re-evaluate your risk assessment process and find out what you can do better next time. What else can you do to improve the security posture of your workflow, and what other risks might need to be addressed in later years?

Speed Up the Process With a Cyber Risk Management Platform

More and more global brands are starting to trust automation in risk management, a modern look at how we can use software to speed up compliance and risk mitigation for even complex enterprises.

Risk management is a data-driven workload that requires intricate integrations with your internal systems. Whether you work in retail, energy, finance, or another industry, Centraleyes automated vendor risk assessment platform is designed for companies in all industries. 

Are you looking for a better approach to cybersecurity risk management? Book a demo with one of our cyber risk specialists to learn more.

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