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Everything you need to know about Cybersecurity risk assessment

Organisations are exposed to many different types of cybersecurity threats such as malware, phishing, ransomware, insider threats, and many more each day. In order to effectively manage cybersecurity risk, conducting a thorough risk assessment should be the first port of call in every organisation’s cyber security strategy.

Effective risk assessment helps organisations discover threats in advance, minimise dangerous mishaps, and enables them to design and implement a robust cybersecurity strategy to protect themselves from potential attacks.

Conducting an efficient risk assessment regularly is not only important for smooth day-to-day functioning but also saves the businesses’ funds and reputation from being tarnished in the long term.

What is cybersecurity risk assessment? 

Risk assessment in general refers to evaluation of all potential risks, so that you can either eliminate those risks or formulate and implement necessary security measures to manage them effectively when time arrives. 

Similarly, the process of cybersecurity risk assessment involves identification and analysis of risks which an organisation can face as a result of cyberattack. The process can be either carried out by the organisation’s internal IT team or can be outsourced to a third-party vendor. No matter how small or big, any organisation that relies on IT infrastructure should undertake cybersecurity risk assessment.

A one-size-fits-all approach does not work when performing risk assessments since every organisation is exposed to different types of risk depending on the industry it operates in and the data it manages. Thus, anyone who conducts the risk assessment must have a high-level understanding of the process. Without accurate identification and analysis of potential risks, they will not recommend efficient security measures.

Importance of Cybersecurity risk assessment 

Performing a cybersecurity risk assessment gives your organisation a realistic view of how you need to improve and save your business from any embarrassment caused by downtime, data loss, or regulatory issues.

Any kind of disruption can directly impact the day-to-day business activities, and organisations that fail to undertake risk assessment are in a way deliberately leaving themselves vulnerable to potential threats and cyber-attacks.

Cybercriminals update their methods regularly to circumvent the security measures implemented by organisations; therefore, businesses must maintain a risk management framework that successfully spots any new threats and prompts action when required.

How to perform cybersecurity risk assessment?

It is natural to feel confused when presented with a large amount of information from multiple sources about a single topic. Thus, we bring you a simple and easy-to-follow seven-step approach enlisting the most common best practices.

1. Determine the scope of your assessment:

You must first determine which assets need assessment; these will typically include your hardware, software, data, vendors, and clients. Collating a list of your items will help you determine your risk assessment scope, utilise your resources wisely, and ensure you do not overlook anything.

Perform this initial step with caution as missing out on assets critical for the assessment can jeopardise your results. Carefully select assets based on their importance to the organisation by determining how valuable the asset is. To do this, consider whether it can be replicated easily and whether losing the data will negatively impact your reputation.

2. Identify threats:

The next task is to identify threats relevant to your organisation.

A threat can be defined as anything that can interfere or sabotage any activity or asset critical to the business’s operations. There are different types of threats; however, they can be broadly divided into two categories – Adversarial and non- adversarial threats.   

Any action made by a third-party vendor, supplier, or even an employee to cause damage to the organisation’s IT ecosystem is called an adversarial threat. On the other hand, non-adversarial threats are threats that are a result of accidents, human mistakes, breakdowns, or environmental factors such as natural disasters.

Some of the most common threats to look out for include- data loss, authorised personnel misusing information, employees accidentally clicking a malicious link, or even natural calamities like fire, flood, earthquake can cause as much damage as any attacker.

3. Identify vulnerabilities:

Vulnerabilities may be linked to organisation’s hardware, software, or security measures. Your task is to ascertain if you currently have adequate security policies implemented to protect your assets against the identified threats and if not, whether the suggested measures would be enough.

This step helps you understand the extent to which organisation’s processes or systems are vulnerable to threats recognized in the previous step.

4. Estimate the probability that the threat events will be successful:

The next step requires you to estimate the likelihood of the threat occurring successfully and, when it does, how it will impact your organization.

You can use a 3X3-level risk matrix to help you estimate the likelihood and impact of a particular threat on your organisation. Assign a high, medium, or low level to each item in your list, where each group refers to the following.

High– threat has a strong probability of occurring, where you do not currently have adequate security measures to prevent the exploitation of the vulnerability.

Medium– threat has a moderate probability of occurring successfully. But you have security measures that might delay or prevent the vulnerability from being exploited.

Low– threat has a low probability of occurring successfully or you currently have adequate security measures to stop or at least prevent the vulnerability from being exploited.

5. Determine the impacts on your organisation:

This step requires you to assess the impact of the threat on your organisation if it was actually carried out. Similar to the previous step make use of a 3X3-level matrix. Depending on how likely a particular asset would be attacked and the severity of the impact, assign a high, medium, low rating to each threat.

You may not necessarily worry about low-impact threats; nonetheless, you must pay close attention towards high-impact threats and implement strong security strategies.

6. Analyse and implement measures:

Identifying risk signifies you are proactive in your approach and that you want to be prepared for any kind of uncertainty. However, mere identification is not sufficient when it comes to risk mitigation. Controls to eliminate the threats identified may or may not currently exist within organisation hence, there is a need for you to analyse different ways to minimise risk and implement the most appropriate measures.

You can help your organsation stay protected by putting a robust cybersecurity strategy in place. Some of the most common actions organisations can take to secure themselves include- making use of complex passwords, two-factor authentication, installing anti-malware software, and setting up a firewall.

7. Maintain the risk assessment:

The final step is to monitor the risk assessment and keep it up to date since conducting the risk assessment is not a one-time task.

You can’t achieve complete security. One can never eliminate all kinds of risks. However, it is feasible to reduce their probability of occurrence through regular risk assessment and implementation of appropriate security measures. 

Simplify your IT support with F1 Solutions:

Falling victim to a cybersecurity attack can seriously damage your business. F1 Solutions, as an experienced managed service provider, works to protect Australian businesses from security breaches or events, taking swift action in the event of an attack.

Whether working with small and medium-size businesses, corporates or government departments and agencies, we have seen new threats develop and ensure our clients and their stakeholders are kept safe.

Threats are evolving more quickly than ever; our deep level of subject matter expertise can help you remove the risk factor and implement appropriate measures.

Contact us today to discuss your cybersecurity risk assessment. 

Zarthost Boman
Written by: Afifa Qureshi September 2021