The Advantages of Performing Cybersecurity Risk Assessments

Due to the increasing number of security breaches in the last few years, cybersecurity has become a persistent business risk. As companies evolve from security to cybersecurity risk management, information security professionals often struggle with identifying and prioritizing cybersecurity-related risks. According to information security experts, in most cases, security controls are reactive due to the fact that they are deployed after a security incident.

This is an indication of a lack of a clearly-defined cyber risk management approach to identify the organization’s risk appetite and implement the appropriate security controls. So the question becomes: How do you know what security controls are required to protect your organization’s information assets if you don’t know the threats you are facing?

Cybersecurity controls are the practices and processes used to protect assets, infrastructure, and information by implementing preventive, detective, and corrective controls to mitigate the risk. A cyber security risk assessment is necessary to identify the gaps in your organization’s critical risk areas and to determine actions to close those gaps. Some industries, such as banks and financial institutions, are now required to perform a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment* to monitor and maintain sufficient awareness of cyber threats and vulnerability information.

Cybersecurity Risk Assessments will help maintain a strong security posture and will certainly help you assess the risks in order to determine if risks can be controlled or mitigated.

The following are some tips and best practices to help you build a strong Cybersecurity Risk Management program:

  1. Identify and classify information assets Identify your organization’s information assets (hardware, software, including applications, versions and patch levels, data, etc.) and classify them in order of criticality. This will give you a better perspective to help you determine what assets are the most critical to your organization, and therefore, should be given the highest priority when developing your risk management strategy.
  1. Conduct a baseline risk assessment Take a ‘‘snapshot’’ of the organization’s current state by performing a risk assessment to determine if current controls are adequate and effective, and/or if additional compensating controls to address the risk are necessary. There are simple processes and tools to help in this process. Champion Solutions Group has developed a risk assessment survey tool (Security Risk Assessment Survey) that will help you prioritize and address information security risks.
  1. Identify Threats and Threat Agents It is always important to understand which threats present a risk to your organization. Remember, each threat presents a unique challenge. Therefore, performing a thorough analysis to include vulnerabilities, impact and likelihood will be helpful to help you map threats to assets and vulnerabilities.
  1. Review your security controls Now that you have identified your critical assets, potential weaknesses, and have a better understanding of threats and vulnerabilities, it is time to review and enhance the security controls. This step of the process will help you determine if preventive, detective, and/or corrective controls need to be strengthened to enhance the efficacy and effectiveness.
  1. Re-assess on an ongoing basis As the threat landscape changes, it is important to develop a process to periodically re-assess and evaluate your program in order to enhance your cyber security risk management posture.

*New banking regulations require financial institutions to perform periodic cybersecurity risk assessments. The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (“FFIEC”) released a tool kit in July 2015 to aid financial institutions in evaluating their cybersecurity risk profile and determining their level of cybersecurity preparedness, and maturity level. This is the result of the Executive Order 13636 titled “Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity” signed by president Obama in February 2013.

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