Can your business afford to lose $200,000?
No? Well, it’s time to run a risk assessment for cybersecurity. That crazy sum of money is how much companies lose (on average) as a result of cyberattacks, so it’s never been more important for you to prepare for the worst.
The tricky part’s knowing how to do it…
After all, IT issues remain a mystery for most business owners- many of whom may have relied upon old-school analog systems until very recently. With no experience in cybersecurity, running a comprehensive risk assessment can be a challenge.
Know the struggle and want some help with the task? You’re in the right place.
Here’s an in-depth look at how to do a cybersecurity risk assessment.
Set the Parameters
The first part of this process involves deciding on how extensive you want the cybersecurity risk assessment to be.
Will you assess the entire company? Or, to limit the workload, will you stick to a particular part of the organization, like a certain unit or location? Another option would be to assess a single aspect of the business, such as your mobile application or cloud storage system.
No matter which route you take, make sure you seek the buy-in of everyone the assessment will impact. Having this stakeholder support is crucial to success. Without their input, you won’t have enough information to a) identify the risks, b) prioritize them, and c) make appropriate decisions to mitigate them.
Another key thing to do at this stage is to ensure everyone understands the terminology you’ll be using. If they don’t, you could end up operating with different ideas on matters of risk impact, likelihood, and so on.
Identify Assets and Threats
They say what you don’t know can’t hurt you. Yet that couldn’t be further than the truth when it comes to security audits!
When it comes to identifying risks, knowledge is power. You have to identify your assets to know what needs protecting and identify the possible risks so you know what to protect them from.
Keeping the pre-established scope of your risk assessment in mind, start by drawing up an inventory of everything you own that could, in theory, suffer from a cyberattack. Be thorough. Assets include everything from systems that are fundamental to your business staying open to “lesser” assets, such as the communications system.
Next up, it’s time to identify the methods, tools, and tactics a cybercriminal could use against those assets. This could be tricky if you lack experience in the IT field, or are yet to employ managed IT services, like GenIX (visit their website to learn more about them), to handle your security systems. Thankfully, there are various resources, such as the MITRE ATT&CK Knowledge Base, to enlighten you.
Specify Potential Problems
By this stage of the risk assessment process, you’ll have a sense of where you’re most vulnerable to attack. But now it’s time to drill down into the specifics of what might go wrong. Ask yourself:
What would the consequences be if disaster struck and the threats you just found became a reality?
For instance, the threat might be a phishing attack that installs ransomware; your vulnerability might be lack of employee awareness. The at-risk asset could be your web server and the consequence could be theft of your customers’ private data.
Being this specific serves two main purposes.
First, having these sorts of summaries of the risks will improve the stakeholders’ understanding of what they’re up against. And second, your security teams will be able to find a suitable response to the problem.
Assess the Likelihood and Possible Impact
You know the potential risks, but how likely are they to eventuate? That’s the question you have to answer at this stage. However, don’t base your answer upon past occurrences of each threat!
Because the landscape of cybersecurity changes all the time, you can’t draw inferences from the historical frequency of issues.
Instead, you have to look at how reproducible each threat is and how exploitable they are, as well as how discoverable they are. From there, you can set them on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is rare and 5 is highly likely.
You’d then rank their impact in a similar way. Defined as the degree of damage each threat can cause, 1 would be “negligible” and 5 could be “very severe”.
It’s important to note that this part of the process isn’t objective.
There’s no table you can turn to or graph you can analyze to determine the likelihood and impact of each threat! You rely on the subjective opinion of stakeholders and IT pros in your team.
Determine Priorities and Document Everything
The penultimate step is to create what’s called a “5×5 risk matrix” to classify each risk. Imagine a graph with your likelihood scale on the X-axis and Impact scale on the Y-axis. On the graph, you’d then multiply impact by likelihood to reveal a score at each point.
For example, if a certain threat was deemed “rare” and its impact “negligible”, its score would be 1 (1 multiplied by 1). You’d classify the risk for this threat as “low”. By comparison, if the threat was “likely” and its impact “severe” it’d receive a score of 16 (4 multiplied by 4), making it high-risk.
Once you’ve classified every threat to your business, you’d then decide what to do about it if it crossed a certain threshold. Finally, you’d write everything down into an official risk assessment document and share it with the workforce!
Run a Risk Assessment for Cybersecurity!
In today’s digital world, it’s pivotal for business owners to a) understand the risk of cyberattack and b) take the initiative to protect themselves against it. By staying aware of the danger and employing sensible strategies to avert it, you should steer clear of trouble. We hope the insights on running a risk assessment for cybersecurity in this post will help you do exactly that.
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