The purpose of a cybersecurity risk assessment is to gain an understanding of vulnerabilities so you can take steps to protect your organization's data and other sensitive information. A cyber risk assessment is a crucial element of an overarching strategy that aims to manage risk.
When executed properly, a cybersecurity risk assessment enables you to identify, understand, and manage any potential risks to cybersecurity your business or agency might be exposed to. In addition, a comprehensive cyber risk assessment also provides strategies for both controlling and mitigating the inevitable risks to cybersecurity.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) states that a cybersecurity risk assessment helps inform decision makers regarding the identification, estimation, and prioritization of risks that could result from using and operating information systems. This process is designed to provide answers to questions such as your organization's most important information technology assets, the impact that a data breach could have, the likelihood of cyber vulnerabilities being exploited, and your organization's comfort level with regard to risk. It focuses on identifying both external and internal vulnerabilities, the threats that are most relevant to your organization and their sources, and which of those threats could impair the functioning of the business itself.
Once those questions are answered, it's easier to know how to focus your resources on what to protect. In order to develop strategies and controls designed to mitigate risks, you'll need to be able to identify exactly which risk you're attempting to reduce and if that risk is the highest priority. Additionally, it's important to ask yourself if the proposed strategy is the most cost-effective method of risk reduction.
Following this process provides you with the information you need to make a sound decision for your organization regarding the protection of its assets. The scope of protection must be weighed against its feasibility to determine what is in the best interest of the organization.
Using a cybersecurity framework as a tool for both managing and reducing cybersecurity risk provides a comprehensive process for your organization to follow. The NIST cybersecurity framework (CSF), for example, is a voluntary collaboration among U.S.-based government entities and industries that developed guidelines, standards, and practices. The standards are designed to be flexible and repeatable while also allowing for the prioritized and cost-effective management of cybersecurity risks.
Though the NIST Cybersecurity Framework is voluntary guidance for risk management, it is based on best practices for identifying and managing risks across a range of industries. It is designed to foster communication across stakeholders of all types. Ultimately, reducing your organization's cybersecurity risk is not only beneficial to your business, but also to the country as a whole.
As a cyber risk management framework, the NIST process provides organizations with a clear, executable, and proven template to use for assessing and managing cybersecurity concerns. The NIST risk assessment checklist comprises three primary components: Core, Implementation Tiers, and Profiles.
Core: The Core contains a collection of cybersecurity activities and their desired outcomes. This is presented in easy-to-understand language so that it can appeal to a broader audience. The purpose of the Core is to provide organizations with a guideline for managing and reducing cybersecurity risks so that existing processes are complemented.
Implementation Tiers: This component of the NIST risk management framework is designed to provide your organization with the context it needs when managing your cybersecurity risks. The Implementation Tiers are a guideline that assists you in determining the best level of protection for your program. They can be used during presentations and other communication opportunities when defining budgets, goals, and risk determination.
Profiles: Using Profiles allows your organization to align the desired outcomes from the Core with its existing appetite for risk, objectives, resources, and requirements. In most cases, Profiles are tools that are used to both identify and prioritize the organization's opportunities for cybersecurity improvement.
Implementing a cybersecurity risk assessment template provides you with a methodical and objective process for determining your organization's cybersecurity risk. Using a cybersecurity risk assessment template in Excel, for example, provides an organized and easily searchable document for the data you collect. Before collecting the data required to complete your cybersecurity risk assessment, you'll want to determine what kind of data you need to collect, how to store it securely, who will have access to the data, and how long you will keep that data.
Use the following security risk assessment steps to determine your organization's cybersecurity risk:
A cyber risk assessment report is the culmination of your cybersecurity risk assessment efforts. It provides an organized and objective document that can be used to support the organization's management as they make budget, procedural, and policy decisions.
In order to be most effective, the cyber risk assessment report should include crucial information in a format that is easy for laypeople to understand. A typical cybersecurity risk assessment report might include a record of changes and a description of the present system being used by your organization, as well as the scope, purpose, and approach used for the risk assessment.
Once the foundation is in place, it's time to move the focus of the cybersecurity risk assessment report to the threats that are relevant to your organization. Detail the type of threat, offer a description, and pinpoint its source. Describe the assessment scale you used, the value assigned to each threat, as well as its impact and level of risk on the organization if it is not addressed properly.
There are a number of cybersecurity assessment services that enable your organization to successfully leverage various cybersecurity risk assessment tools from an objective and professional standpoint. This type of comprehensive assessment identifies the vulnerabilities that exist within the organization so you can understand their relevance to the security of its operations.
In addition, cyber risk assessment companies use this information to detect how vulnerabilities could be used to exploit your organization and how likely these scenarios are. They may also provide solutions designed to mitigate or prevent such attacks.
Cyber risk management services provide management with the insights they need to examine and fund your organization's cyber security risk management strategy. The ability to target time, money, and other resources to those threats that have been deemed most critical elevates your company's risk management posture. Professional cyber risk assessment services ensure compliance with industry and/or best practice standards.
Many organizations believe that their cyber risk comes primarily from external sources such as a hacker gaining access to data via a third-party vendor or some other route that is beyond their control. In reality, though, a classic cyber risk assessment starts with the company itself.
One of the simplest—yet most frequently overlooked—steps that any organization can take to protect itself from cybersecurity threats is to keep its IT operating systems and applications updated with the latest security patches. A similar approach should be taken when it comes to keeping antivirus tools updated. Opting for automatic updates as patches that address various vulnerabilities are released helps streamline the process.
According to a NIST risk assessment example, good risk management is an ongoing process that continuously identifies risks, analyzes their potential impacts, and implements solutions to mitigate those risks, if they meet the parameters set by an organization. A fluid process, risk management must be flexible, customizable, and implementable across multiple levels.