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October 27, 2021

How often should businesses conduct cybersecurity assessments?


‌The advancement and widespread adoption of digital technologies has led to increased cyberattacks. Each advancement that improves the efficiency and productivity of the workforce, brings new ways that a company can become vulnerable to a breach. 

A forward-thinking business owner should already have protections in place to safeguard their company’s network, and a plan of action should they fall victim to a cyberattack.

The average financial cost of a malware attack on a business is $2.5 million dollars, and the global cost of cybercrime is expected to continue to rise at an estimated 15 percent per year. Cyberattacks can result in devastating losses for businesses of any size, and, ransomware attacks result in temporary shutdowns, or even permanent closures.

From 2019 to 2020, the number of ransomware attacks spiked up by 62 percent globally. North America alone has been hit particularly hard by this form of breach, with a staggering 158 percent increase in ransomware attacks in the same time period. The average ransom demanded sits at $100,000 — and is expected to grow quickly.

If you run a small to mid-sized company, you may think that cybercriminals will pass you by in search of bigger payouts. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Over 40 percent of reported cyberattacks happen to small businesses, and the average cost of these attacks totals roughly $25,000.

Your only defense against cyberattacks is a comprehensive plan that continuously monitors your system and assesses threats. But no matter how good your network security is, effective cyber defense is not a “set it and forget it” process. Hackers are constantly coming up with new ways to breach systems and fool employees. To combat this, your company must be regularly informed and educated on the best ways to prevent these attacks before they can happen.

All cybersecurity plans should include regularly scheduled cybersecurity risk assessments to vet your network for vulnerabilities and make sure your team is prepared to deal with a breach should one occur.

What Is a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment?

A cybersecurity risk assessment is used to evaluate all the security measures in place across an entire network. The assessment identifies vulnerabilities in a network’s security and determines the level of risk created by those weaknesses. The risk to each individual team or department should be considered, as well as how vulnerable the company is as a whole.

Some of the areas that should be evaluated include:‌

  • Applications, especially those that are critical to the functionality of your business 
  • Protected data, including the personal information of customers and employees as well as information that must be kept secure for the health of your business, such as trade secrets and negotiation tactics
  • Improper or unsecured use of devices, including cell phones, tablets, and laptops 
  • Threats from human error 

A good cybersecurity risk assessment should do more than just alert you to current problems with network security; it should also help predict possible outcomes if issues are not addressed, as well as provide solutions to take action on.

How Often Should Cybersecurity Risk Assessments be Done?

The recommendation for how often cybersecurity assessments should be carried out varies between companies and industries. The risk of a cyberattack is great for every industry, but for some industries that handle sensitive data, such as healthcare and finance, the stakes are often higher.

For most small to mid-sized companies, an annual checkup of their cybersecurity is probably enough. However, technology changes rapidly and so do the threats to network security, so some flexibility regarding risk assessment schedules should be considered.

What Are the Benefits of Having a Regular Risk Assessment?

There are several concrete ways that a complete and high-quality cybersecurity risk assessment may help your business.  

1. Identify Weaknesses Before the Hackers Do 

‌Hackers and other cybercriminals are constantly on the lookout for ways into any poorly guarded network. A risk assessment will identify those weak areas, whether they be in the software, hardware, or due to the human component. 

2. Develop Solutions 

‌Once potential problems have been identified, you have the opportunity to fix the issues before they can be exploited. Whether the issue is outdated software or inadequately trained staff, you now have the chance to make things right and prevent a breach.

While prevention of a cyberattack is the ultimate goal, no system can be entirely untouchable, so the information gleaned from a risk assessment should be used to help you and your staff make a plan to address a cyberattack if it occurs. By highlighting weaknesses in your employee readiness or software, a risk assessment gives you the opportunity to retrain your staff and reset cybersecurity protocols.

3. Enhance Awareness Across Your Entire Workforce 

‌Many of your employees may believe that cybersecurity is the responsibility of the IT team. While the IT team certainly plays a large role in keeping your network safe, the reality is that every member of your workforce must be on the alert for threats.

A risk assessment can show all of your employees the dangers that face your company on a daily basis. Armed with this information, and aware of the difference they can make, all employees can make cybersecurity hygiene part of their daily duties.

4. Financial Savings

‌Protecting the budget is at the heart of almost every decision a business owner makes. Every expenditure has to be weighed against the benefit it will bring.

In light of this, spending money on a cybersecurity risk assessment, particularly if your company has been lucky enough to avoid a cyberattack, may seem like it isn’t a pressing need. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Cyberattacks can be devastating for companies in many ways. Not only is there the real cost of having to shut down temporarily, repair the damage, and possibly pay a ransom, but there is also the cost to your reputation to consider.

In the digital era, every company has the potential of being a global player. This also means that every consumer has a multitude of companies to choose from when in search of a particular service or product. If a cyberattack creates a situation in which your customers are displeased, either because of delays, subpar production, or worst of all, a breach of their private information, it’s quite likely they will look to your competitors for future purchases.

The potential financial and reputational cost of a cyberattack is much higher than the cost of good cybersecurity — and that starts with a holistic risk assessment.

What a Financial Investment in Cybersecurity Looks Like

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to how much you need to spend to keep your company free from the threat of cyberattacks. For the average company with an average amount of risk, it is recommended that 15 to 20 percent of your IT budget be devoted to cybersecurity.

If this seems like a large investment in something that will only be noticeable if it fails, remind yourself that that is exactly the point. Cybersecurity is not a one-and-done deal. It requires constant vigilance by a team of experts to prevent cyberattacks and detect when one occurs.

If you cannot afford a full-time team of IT security professionals, you may want to consider outsourcing the work to a firm whose sole purpose is to protect its clients from cyberattacks.

A regularly scheduled cybersecurity risk assessment is an integral part of any comprehensive security plan. Considering the potentially devastating cost of a cyberattack, there should be no question that investing now in an effective cybersecurity plan is well worth the money.‌

‌Ready to Invest in Cybersecurity?

If you’re looking for more guidance on how to move your cybersecurity program forward, CDG can help. Founded in 2016 by cybersecurity expert Lou Rabon, Cyber Defense Group was designed to address the growing demand for experienced cybersecurity consulting for innovative cloud-native and cloud-reliant organizations. 

Our unique combination of Fortune 500 leadership experience, deep knowledge of cloud security and incident response, and commitment to Outcomes-Based Security enable CDG to fully protect our clients’ security posture while delivering desired business outcomes in an agile environment. Get in touch, and see what results are possible for your organization.

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