8 Steps for a Successful Security Risk Assessment

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In a world where cyberattacks happen on a daily basis, a detailed and complete security risk assessment is vital for managing a business in any industry. A security risk assessment takes a close look at your networks, systems, and data storage to identify the potential for a breach. A complete assessment will also provide you with solutions and procedures to follow to minimize the damage done should an attack occur.  

Done correctly, an information technology (IT) risk assessment will not only help your company achieve and maintain greater security but also increase customer confidence and reduce the potential for significant financial losses. These assessments should be done on a regular basis, at least once a year. They should also be done whenever changes are made to your company’s structure or processes. 

Risk assessments can be done internally by your own IT team or through the use of an outsourced firm. Either way, there may be significant costs involved, but it is a necessary investment in the future success of any modern company. 

There are several different types of security risk assessments. The first step to a successful one is determining which type you need. 


Types of Security Risk Assessments 

There are many types of security risk assessments, and each can be tailored to fit your company’s exact needs. Frequently, a combination of these assessments is required to be sure all areas of potential breach are checked. Some examples of common risk assessment types are: 

  • Cloud security assessment: These are run to check the security of your cloud-based networks. The cloud is a vital part of many business models. It also opens the door to many potential risks. The cloud is an ever-changing landscape, with new technologies and threats appearing daily. Keeping it secure requires frequent risk assessments of the networks and the personnel who access them. 

  • Threat assessment: This type of assessment views your networks and their threats from the vantage point of potential attackers. It attempts to bring vulnerabilities to light and create solutions to them before hackers get a chance to take advantage of these weak spots. 

  • Ransomware readiness assessment: Ransomware attacks have become more prevalent and are difficult to prevent completely. A ransomware readiness assessment should include a simulated attack. This will test the effectiveness of your company’s preventative measures and give you a chance to ascertain the ability of your technology and your personnel to follow containment procedures and implement recovery actions. 

How Can a Company Run a Successful Security Risk Assessment? 

Regardless of whether you choose to manage your own security risk assessments or bring in a third party to do them for you, there are eight steps to planning and implementing an assessment successfully. 


1. Set Goals 

Before beginning a security risk assessment, your company needs to know where the greatest risks lie and how the knowledge obtained in a risk assessment will benefit the company. Once you know these things, you can set clear goals for your assessment. 

Many companies choose to find an outsourced firm to help them determine the exact goals of their risk assessments. A fresh set of eyes can give you a new perspective and present you with some goals that you missed. 


2. Survey Assets 

Before you begin the assessment process, you will need to take stock of all of your company’s network and data assets. This list should include all hardware, software, and applications as well as a complete listing of the data you need to secure. This includes user data ― both internal and external ― and any proprietary or sensitive data that may be at risk. 


3. Determine Your Risk 

Unless you’re an expert in the multiple ways that a cyberattack can occur, it may be best to leave the enumeration of your exact risks to those who are. The process of identifying and rating risks is a complex one, especially when you consider how rapidly the method of attack can change.  

A third party, one that is staffed with people who have a deep understanding of the methods and technologies used by cybercriminals, may be your best solution to determining the risks your company faces. 


4. Identify Your Need 

All companies, large or small, are at risk of a cyberattack, and there is no reason to believe that the upward trend in the number and methods of cyberattacks is going to stop anytime soon. Still, the risk of a damaging cyberattack varies depending on the nature of the business. For example, a company that uses or stores sensitive personal data faces a much different risk level than a company that manufactures dog toys. 

Understanding the nature of the risks your company faces and the potential damage an attack may do to your reputation or bottom line will help you to identify exactly what you need from your security assessment and how much of your budget should be devoted to it. 


5. Develop Controls 

A good security assessment will help you to develop the best procedures to control the level of risk and recover after an attack. These controls should include factors like updated or new software, better encryption protocols, and enhanced safety policies for your employees. 


6. Create an Implementation Plan 

The implementation of new security protocols presents its own risks. Creating a plan in conjunction with your IT team or third-party experts can minimize this risk by bringing the plan into play during the assessment. 


7. Oversee Plan and Monitor Success 

Document the implementation of your new security plan and monitor its success. This information will be a great help when planning for your next security assessment. 


8. Get Feedback 

After the assessment and implementation of your plan is complete, take the time to gather and study feedback from your employees and clients. This will highlight any areas where the process did not go smoothly and help you to refine your approach the next time around. 


Partner With a Third-party Risk Management Company 

The process of planning and completing a successful IT security risk assessment is time-consuming and requires a fair amount of up-to-date expertise about cybersecurity. For many companies, the right decision is to partner with a reputable and experienced third-party risk management company. 

Cyber Defense Group (CDG) is such a company. Experts in protecting data, CDG allows cloud-dependent businesses to thrive and grow. CDG starts the process with a security assessment and continues to offer advice, training, and programs to minimize the risk of a cyberattack and help you to recover in the event of one. Contact CDG today to begin your journey to enhanced cybersecurity. 

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