What you should know about Risk Assessment in Cybersecurity
Did you know that November 30 is celebrated as International Computer Security Day? Started as a day to commemorate the cyber-attack on ARPANET in 1988, the day is used to raise awareness about cybersecurity. With social media networks and the internet itself blended into the day-to-day lives, cybersecurity is much more significant now than it was thirty years ago. One of the basic prerequisites to an effective cybersecurity strategy is the awareness of how vulnerable or safe your organisation is. How do you do that? Cybersecurity Risk Assessment. Over the years, we have come across many clients in Western Australia who were taken aback when we presented their organisation’s cyber audit results. They were not even aware that they were in a vulnerable position. While a few data security steps can help you, a business needs much more than that to prevent and recover from a security incident. Our cyber ninjas from Perth explain all you need to know about cybersecurity risk assessments and how they help foolproof your cybersecurity strategy.
What are Cyber Risks?
Cyber risk is defined as the potential exposure of an organisation’s database, application or operation that could lead to a data breach. They could cause disruptions in the functioning of a business, lead to financial losses and reputation damage. Cyber risks are also called security threats.
The most common examples of such threats include:
What are Cyber Risk Assessments?
In simple terms, a risk assessment analyses an organisation’s threats and risks. A cybersecurity risk assessment identifies and classifies the vulnerabilities, risks and threats associated with your organisation and implements the necessary security controls. It aims to prevent security vulnerabilities from being exposed. The primary objective of a risk assessment is to gather information on the critical weak points and inform the stakeholders so proper resolutions can be carried out.
Generally, risk assessments answer the following questions:
- What are the critical assets?
- What are the vulnerabilities in the cybersecurity infrastructure?
- Can all sources for potential threats be identified?
- How will the identified threats affect the IT resources?
- What are the cyberattacks the business could face and deal with?
The Benefits of Performing a Cyber Security Risk Assessment
Performing cyber security risk assessments offer you multiple benefits. They include:
1. Helps you identify vulnerabilities
As already mentioned, risk assessments are crucial in discovering, analysing and prioritising cyber threats that could undermine your organisation’s safety and credibility. Whether it’s a weak password policy or repeated attempts to break into your networks, prevention is always better than cure when it comes to cyber risks.
2. Check if your organisation is compliant
Governments and industries around the world have a set of guidelines to ensure the safety of sensitive information. For example, the Privacy Act 1988 contains Australian Privacy Principles that regulate how personal data is handled. Performing risk assessments will ensure your cybersecurity strategy is up-to-date with the regulations and that your brand remains compliant.
3. Track your progress
Through annual risk assessments conducted by experienced professionals, you’ll be able to track the efficacy of your cybersecurity strategy over the years. You can see how you’ve dealt with the vulnerabilities and created the best possible plan. These assessments will also prove to your clients and investors that you regard the protection of their data with utmost sincerity and thus earn their trust. Risk averted equals less downtime equals money saved.
4. Gain insights about your ability to deal with threats
Risk assessment specialists will be able to find vulnerabilities in spots you never thought to look in. Using their resources and experience, they’ll be able to let you know how your organisation would fare if a vulnerability was exposed and exploited. You can then discuss with your administrative board to create decisions to strengthen your cybersecurity strategy.
The Steps in a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment
Among the factors that affect a cybersecurity risk assessment, the organisation’s size, resources and growth rate are the most prominent. Depending on these factors, the depth and the time required vary. There are mainly six steps in every cybersecurity risk assessment. They are:
1. Determine the value of an asset
The first step in a cybersecurity risk assessment is to determine the value of the assets involved. Each asset is classified as critical, major or minor depending on its importance. The answers to the following questions help in the classification:
- Will losing this asset impact your productivity?
- Will the exposure of this information cause penalties?
- Can the asset be misused by a competitor?
- How long will it take to make this asset again?
2. Identify the risks
Hackers and cyberattacks are just two risks that could affect your business. There are many other potential risks to cybersecurity, including:
- System failure- If your IT systems aren’t made of high-quality equipment or aren’t up-to-date, your cybersecurity could be compromised. A broken system will cause adverse effects on your productivity as well as security.
- Natural disasters- When natural catastrophes such as floods, earthquakes or hurricanes happen, you can lose your servers and equipment. A risk assessment identifies whether your on-premise servers are kept in secure locations. Cloud-based servers are beneficial for businesses that are based on locations prone to natural disasters.
- External and internal threats- This class of threats include suppliers, third-party vendors, insiders and other adversarial threats that could leak sensitive information.
- Human error- Phishing and social engineering tactics often become successful due to human errors. Ensure your employees receive cybersecurity awareness training before they’re integrated into your systems.
3. Analyse vulnerabilities
A vulnerability is a weakness in your cyber systems that can be exploited to modify, delete, or expose sensitive information. Identifying such vulnerabilities is one of the most crucial steps in a cybersecurity risk assessment. For example, is proper patch updates being performed?
4. Create new controls for security systems
Once you have enough information about the risks and vulnerabilities of your IT infrastructure, the next step is to analyse existing security controls and implement new ones if necessary. There are both hardware and software controls that minimise the impact of risks and vulnerabilities. Encryption, MFA, security policies, proper and timely patch updates and keycard access are examples of security controls.
5. Calculate the impact of potential annual threats
While a sound cybersecurity strategy can reduce potential threats, the chances of your organisation never having to face a cyber threat are nearly zero. This step of a risk assessment identifies the probability of potential threats and their success so you can determine what you should do to mitigate them.
6. Document the results of the cybersecurity risk assessment
The last step of a cybersecurity risk assessment is to create a detailed report. The report will describe the risk, vulnerabilities and financial investments associated with each asset and the control recommendations. You can use this report to make decisions regarding the budget and policies for cybersecurity.
Does your Business need a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment?
If your business uses IT and is connected to the internet, you need a cybersecurity risk assessment. There are multiple reasons why a professional cybersecurity risk assessment is a must for your business. You’ll be able to gain more knowledge about your own organisation’s strengths and weaknesses- through risk assessments. By dealing with the vulnerabilities and threats on time, you’ll be able to reduce long-term costs and reputational damage. Cybersecurity risk assessments reduce the fear of downtime and data loss. When you perform a risk assessment every time there’s a significant change in your business, you can reduce the number of potential threats. A professional cybersecurity team will always be aware of the latest threats and have the experience of assessing multiple businesses in your industry.
Cybersecurity risk assessments are crucial to the smooth working of any digital business. The Computing Australia Group is an industry leader in cybersecurity. Our cybersecurity team offers efficient services to analyse, monitor and safeguard your IT systems. If you are searching for a professional risk assessment team in Perth, contact us today!
ARPANET: The Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was a computer network used by the US ARPA that is considered the predecessor to the internet.
Encryption: It is the process of converting information into a code decipherable only by those who have the authority to do so.
MFA: Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a technology that allows a user to access an application or system once they pass two or more identity verification tests.