What is a Security Risk Assessment?
Security risk assessments give you a hacker’s eye view of your organization’s cyber security program. Insights gained from annual assessments can help you shore up your defenses and stay one step ahead of the bad guys.
Have you ever wondered what your organization’s cybersecurity defenses look like from a hacker’s perspective? That’s exactly what a security risk assessment provides. This specialized assessment takes a comprehensive look at your organization’s digital and physical security and then seeks to identify gaps and vulnerabilities for remediation. Conducting routine risk assessments plays a major role in any organization’s risk management process. The information and professional insights from a risk assessment allow managers to make better-informed decisions regarding resource allocation and security control implementation.
What is a Security Risk Assessment?
Security risk assessments are conducted in several important phases to maximize their effectiveness:
- Identify and categorize assets: First, we’ll take stock of your organization’s technology infrastructure and core assets. This may include the physical space, servers, network equipment, and more. We’ll also consider your organization’s current security procedures and data storage and risk management policies. Once we have a clear picture of your assets, we can evaluate them against potential risks.
- Identify threats and vulnerabilities: Threats come in various shapes and sizes – internal and external, malicious or accidental. Threats can also relate to technology, processes, or physical assets. A comprehensive security risk assessment will look at the full picture and identify all potential vulnerabilities, from a computer network lacking adequate malware protection to a server room with an unlocked door.
- Analyzing the impact of potential risks: Once we understand your organization’s threats and vulnerabilities, we’ll determine potential risks and impact. This includes how likely an incident is to occur on a scale from high to low. Ranking issues by potential risk is an excellent way to prioritize remediation efforts.
- Recommendations and prevention: The final step is to make insightful and actionable recommendations based on our findings. These recommendations will strengthen your organization’s security controls to minimize threats, vulnerabilities, and future attacks.
Types of Security Risk Assessments
Overview of the different types of Security Risk Assessments, including:
Asset-based Risk Assessment:
This type of assessment identifies and evaluates risks to your organization’s assets. These can include physical assets like equipment, buildings, infrastructure and intelligible assets like data and intellectual property. An asset-based risk assessment will start by identifying and classifying your assets based on a few key factors: value, importance, and vulnerability. Next, the assessment will determine what kind of risks the assets are vulnerable to, how likely a risk is to occur, and what potential impact the risk can have on the asset. The results of an asset-based risk assessment are valuable when it comes to informing and developing risk management plans.
Threat-based Risk Assessment:
Your organization’s assets are vulnerable to various threats, from cyber attacks to natural disasters and criminal mischief. A threat-based risk assessment identifies and evaluates potential sources of harm to your assets. Like the asset-based risk assessment, risk-based assessments begin by cataloging your assets based on value, importance, and vulnerability. Once your assets are classified, the next step is to identify potential threats, their likelihood, and their potential impact. The results of this assessment can help your organization better understand what specific types of threats it's vulnerable to and what preventative actions should be taken.
Compliance-based Risk Assessment:
This type of assessment evaluates how well your organization adheres to regulatory compliance requirements. Taking a holistic approach, this risk assessment will identify your organization’s compliance duties, including state, national, and international laws, regulations, and industry standards. By comparing this information to your organization’s existing compliance program, you’ll have an opportunity to close any gaps so you don’t get on the regulator’s bad side.
Benefits of a Security Risk Assessment
From strengthening your cybersecurity controls to saving on costly data breaches, security risk assessments yield valuable benefits for your organization.
Identifying potential security vulnerabilities
Cybercriminals are constantly snooping around for trap doors that provide easy access to your organization’s network and data. Security assessments will identify those access points so you can wall them off before a wiley criminal finds them and takes advantage. And while doing an internal assessment can be beneficial, you’ll get the best insights and recommendations from a professional security firm. Firms employ trained experts, up-to-date on the latest threats, and can effectively identify even the subtlest issues. They can also provide expert recommendations on how to remediate virtual and physical security issues.
Improving security posture
Security risk assessments go above and beyond simply identifying vulnerabilities. Assessments also include recommendations for enhancing an organization’s controls, policies, and procedures to maximize security and minimize threats. Recommendations include patching old software to strengthen incident response protocols or requiring anyone visiting your building to wear ID badges.
Compliance with industry regulations and standards
Depending on the industry, your organization may have a range of laws, regulations, and standards to adhere to. Banking, finance, healthcare, and education are just a few industries requiring strict regulation adherence. A security risk assessment will determine how well your organization’s security controls match industry regulations. This allows you to shore up any gaps before you run afoul of regulators.
Cost savings from addressing security risks proactively
Data breaches are steep in terms of both financial costs and reputational damage. A Forbes Insight Report discovered that 46% of companies victimized by data breaches suffered damage to their reputation and brands. This type of fallout can cause loyal customers to turn to competitors and make it harder to attract new ones to take their place. Fortunately, you can greatly reduce your risk of suffering a data breach with routine security assessments.
Challenges of Conducting a Security Risk Assessment
Conducting a security risk assessment isn’t without challenges, but your security assessment team will ensure the process is smooth, effective, and doesn’t disrupt your daily business operations.
Gathering accurate and complete information
Thanks to cloud and IoT technology, we have a wealth of data at our fingertips – but the sheer quantity and variety of that data can create an embarrassment of riches. This can make it challenging to gather comprehensive data and sort through it promptly. Overall, this process is most effective when the risk assessment team fully cooperates with your internal IT staff. This includes sharing information like log-ins and permissions so the team has all the information they need to get started immediately.
Balancing security needs with business needs
Some organizations hesitate to conduct security risk assessments because they’re seen as disruptive to day-to-day business operations. Stakeholders may not see immediate value in a risk assessment in other cases. Risk assessments are minimally invasive and shouldn’t cause any problems. As for hesitant stakeholders, they may not understand the urgency that cyber threats pose to the organization. Emphasizing the sense of urgency and committing to making actionable remediations post-assessment can help ease their concerns.
Keeping up with evolving threats and vulnerabilities
While no security system is 100% bulletproof, continuous assessment and testing will keep your organization as defensible as the latest technology allows against various threats and bad actors. Hackers are constantly evolving their techniques, which can make it challenging – not to mention frustrating – to keep up with them. When you perform an annual security assessment, you’ll have up-to-date information on gaps in your current security controls.
Cost and time constraints
Performing risk assessments on an annual or semi-annual can also add up, leading some organizations to shy away from committing to routine assessments. However, the cost of a security risk assessment pales compared to the average cost of a data breach, which hovered around a whopping $4.35 million per incident in 2022 (Security Magazine).
Implementing Recommendations from a Security Risk Assessment
A security assessment will accurately identify gaps between your organization’s current security controls and any threats or vulnerabilities lurking in the shadows. With this information in hand, you can create a plan of action to address these vulnerabilities. We recommend starting with high-priority items representing your organization's biggest potential threats. Solutions can be virtual or physical, such as setting up firewalls, patching outdated software, or hiring security guards.
A cornerstone of your organization’s cyber defense strategy
Conducting a security risk assessment is one of the most effective ways to get to know your organization’s weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Regarding cybersecurity, the best approach is to be proactive and vigilant. A risk assessment gives you the opportunity to shore up weak points in your security controls long before the bad guys sniff them out. Not only that, but you can also feel confident that your organization is in compliance with your industry’s regulations and standards.
When you’re ready to assess your organization’s security risks, the team at Sprocket Security has the skills and expertise to get the job done right.
Security Magazine, $4.35 million — The average cost of a data breach
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