The Problem With Heat Maps

Some of you are likely inclined to dismiss that idea outright. Traditionally, organizations that use a heat map for risk assessments aren’t known for their stellar risk management programs.  

There are often systemic issues with how those organizations assess and categorize risks. Instead of relying on data analysis and critical thinking, they choose intuition and guesswork. This is ineffective at best, and actively harmful at worst. 

One problem with these organizations is that they assign too much importance to cybersecurity heat maps. They are not meant to serve as the foundation for an organization’s risk management strategy, nor are they meant to define risks on their own. Their intended purpose is and always has been as data visualization tools. 

A risk management heat map is a template for communication, and that’s where it truly shines. 

It’s important to note, however, that enterprise risk management heat maps cannot convey accurate threat data if an organization does not have a strong risk analysis model in place. Without the necessary processes and frameworks, it is far too easy to assign risk scores subjectively or arbitrarily. But what’s involved in laying this groundwork, exactly? 

The Problem With Heat Maps

Building a Strong Risk Management Process

Before you begin planning a risk management strategy, the first step is to map your attack surface. You’ll need a clear idea of not just your internal network, but your entire ecosystem. This includes:

  • In-office staff
  • Remote employees
  • Software infrastructure
  • Hardware infrastructure
  • Processes and policies
  • Vendors, partners, and suppliers

Next, note the standards and frameworks to which your organization must adhere. This will help you determine the specific controls and mechanisms to apply in your risk assessments. It will also give you an idea of both what systems and data must be prioritized and the nature of your most significant threats. 

Then, with all of the above information in mind, answer the following questions: 

  • What are my most critical systems and assets? 
  • For each asset, what are the potential consequences should it be compromised? 
  • What is my organization’s risk tolerance?
  • What is my organization’s risk appetite? 
  • What existing security solutions do I have in place? 
  • Who is responsible for coordinating my risk management strategy

Finally, you’ll need a means of continuously measuring, monitoring, and assessing risk across your entire threat surface. Again, the sheer scope of even a mid-sized business’s threat surface means manually performing this task is beyond even the most skilled risk analyst. An automated GRC solution that can collect, orchestrate, and analyze both internal and third-party threat intelligence is the ideal option.

With all of the above in place, there’s just one last thing to consider. How does your organization calculate risk? The traditional approach is to simply look at a particular threat’s CVSS score and weigh that against perceived business impact. 

The problem is that every organization’s risk profile is unique. A threat that may be severe for one business could be minor for another. You need to prioritize risks based on your own business by accounting for:

  • The criticality of assets that may be exposed 
  • The likelihood that these assets will be exposed
  • The reported severity of the threat
  • The controls or systems in place to mitigate or remediate that threat
  • The impact on your business in the worst-case scenario

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See for yourself how the Centraleyes platform exceeds anything an old GRC
system does and eliminates the need for manual processes and spreadsheets
to give you immediate value and run a full risk assessment in less than 30 days

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How A Heat Map Can Guide Your Risk Management Strategy

So how exactly do heat maps fit into any of this? 

First and foremost, they allow your analysts to visualize and conceptualize your organization’s risk profile in several different ways:

  • By priority based on a combination of impact and probability. 
  • By risk group — the impact of a particular risk on different business areas, for instance. 
  • Mapped alongside IT assets to help determine which assets represent the most significant risk. 

Risk maps also make it easier for analysts to share key insights about your organization’s risk profile with non-technical stakeholders. Instead of requiring them to sit through a series of charts and graphs, your team can simply provide a visual demonstration. This, in turn, can help secure executive buy-in for remediation efforts. 

Making the Case for Heatmaps in Your Risk Management Strategy

Threat actors have evolved, as have their tactics. 

The traditional approach to risk management and remediation is no longer sufficient. Spreadsheets cannot accurately convey the dynamic, ever-changing nature of modern attack surfaces. Risk analysts cannot afford to waste countless hours collecting and sifting through a massive volume of threat intelligence. 

To keep pace and prevent analyst burnout, your organization needs to automate. Through an automated GRC solution, you transform your risk management processes to become more streamlined, digestible, and ultimately effective. And through risk management heat maps, you ensure a more precise, focused, and strategic approach to risk.

Start Getting Value With
Centraleyes for Free

See for yourself how the Centraleyes platform exceeds anything an old GRC
system does and eliminates the need for manual processes and spreadsheets
to give you immediate value and run a full risk assessment in less than 30 days

See Centraleyes’s cutting edge Heat Maps in action
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