How to Perform a Cyber Security Risk Assessment: A Guide for Businesses

2023-03-27 14:03:10

In 2016, ransomware was on track to becoming a $1 billion-a-year crime. Just five years after, it's passed the mark of a billion and is on the pace to doubling its crime worth.

One of the major factors to this is that every 11 seconds, a ransomware attack occurs. Even corporations such as Microsoft couldn't escape the viciousness of malicious attackers.

Yet while breached, the repercussions that they experienced are minimal. This is because they know that while cyber risks are unavoidable, it doesn't mean that they're not manageable. Hence, they invested in strengthening their defence starting with a cyber risk assessment.

Read on to find out what and how to conduct a cyber risk assessment for your protection, too!

What is Cyber Risk Assessment?

Before anything, it's important to distinguish it from relative terms for better understanding. Cyber risk is often confused with cyber vulnerabilities and cyber threats. However, cyber vulnerability refers to the loopholes or weaknesses in an operating system.

When left unresolved, these vulnerabilities can lead to damaging incidents. These negative events and their consequences are what we call cyber threats.

A concrete example of cyber risk is the data breach that Canva and Yahoo encountered. This incident exposed 139 million and 500 million accounts to malicious players, respectively. The likelihood that your business will suffer these incidents is a cyber security risk.

As such, cyber risk assessment is the process of identifying the risks that come with operating systems. This also includes formulating means to remedy the identified cyber vulnerabilities. Specifically, cyber security risk assessment requires identifying IT solutions essential to the realisation of its objectives.


Conducting a Cyber Security Risk Assessment

A cyber security risk assessment can be quite expensive. It'll also take quite some time to finish, depending on the scope of the assessment. It should also be regular to ensure that you can keep up with the fast development in the digital world.

On the upside, one of the greatest benefits of a cyber risk assessment is that when done well from the beginning, it can become a template for future assessment. It also reduces the probability of cyber attacks. Not to mention, it helps lessen the costs associated with settlements and reputation damages.

Now that we've clarified what a cyber security risk assessment is, let's find out how it's performed. We've divided the conduct of cyber risk assessment into four simple steps. Let's tackle them one by one in the following sections.


Step 1: What are You Assessing?

Cyber risk assessment best starts with the identification of the scope of your assessment. Performing an assessment of the organisation as a whole rather than doing it in part is cheaper.

However, general assessments often yield lacking results. Confused? There is no specific target for general assessments hence, the scope it covers is very broad.

Since you're assessing broad fields, you're bound to get general data instead of specific ones. This is a bummer because specific and accurate data is key to an effective cyber solution.

In this light, we encourage you to limit the scope of your cyber risk assessment by deciding on a single scope. It could be your billing system, storage, or even data identification system.

Either way, focus all your attention on one area of your business operations and build up from there. This way, it'll be easier to determine the assets and stakeholders involved.


Step 2: Identify Assets Involved in the Assessment

Create an inventory of all the assets covered by the scope of your risk assessment. Don't just focus on your organisation's crown jewel.

Pay attention to even the most seemingly unimportant assets. These may be a good backdoor for malicious attacks. Some assets to consider listing include your archive, directory server, and communication systems.

Equally important, determine the threats that come with your listed assets. Threats are negative tactics that malicious attackers can use to harm your assets. This task also involves specifying the consequences of the threats you determined.

For instance, you identified a web server as one of your valued assets. You found that hackers can perform an SQL injection on your unpatched web server.

Consequences that follow this threat include having your customer's private information stolen. This can further lead to serious financial repercussions. When you're able to summarise this information, it'll be easier to understand the risk they pose.


Step 3: Analyse the Risks

At this juncture, evaluate the seriousness of the risks you've identified in stage two. Give a score to each risk according to the probability of the risk happening and the impact it has.

The more likely the risk will occur or the more intense the magnitude of harm it can result in, the higher the score. Consequently, risks with high scores should be the top of your priority.

For example, one of your databases contains public information and has medium-level security. Hence, the probability of attackers breaching the database is high.

However, if hackers breach the database, they'd only be grabbing information that is available elsewhere. Thus, the impact his breach may have on your organisation is relatively low. Considering these, it's safe to say that this specific database can be at the lower end of your list of priorities.

Conversely, if you're collecting the e-mail address of your customers, the probability of a breach is low. Even still, the harm that a breach can cause to your organisation can be severe. Thus, it's only reasonable to prioritise this asset when deciding what measure to take.


Step 4: Execute Security Measures

Now that you have identified the risks to your organisation, take action. Consult with concerned stakeholders on how best to approach the problem at hand. Some examples of business IT solutions that you can use include:

  • Network segregation
  • Encryption
  • Password protection protocols
  • Implementing multi-factor authentication
  • Workshop training for employees
  • Firewall configuration
  • Installing anti-malware software

Note that security controls will only help you manage the cyber security risks you identified. They can't permanently stop the risks from happening. No one system is 100% secure as there's a permanent degree of risk for every known system out there.


Business Information Technology Solutions For Your Organisation

Document all the risks, threats, and vulnerabilities that you identified during your assessment. Also, regularly review and update these too for more accurate details. Don't forget to include details on the actions you've taken to mitigate each risk as well as those responsible.

On your journey towards cyber security fulfilment, you'll have to upgrade, if not add, a certain business solution to meet your cyber security and business needs. For such needs, choose to partner with a leading expert supplier and a reliable team.

Remember, we don't just sell products, we sell solutions. Contact us today for a seamless IT solution service like never before!