Conducting An Effective IT Security Risk Assessment
No business is safe from cyberattacks and a basic approach to the security of your system would not work. Threats to critical data are growing every day and allocating a budget to securing your system’s vulnerabilities should be included in your business plan.
What is Risk Assessment in IT?
Risk assessment in IT is the process of recognizing and evaluating assets, threats, vulnerabilities, and impacts to guide your business’ security strategy. The purpose of an IT risk assessment is to help the IT department detect events that could adversely affect an organization. As your organization relies on information technology to operate, the risks involve rises.
There are three factors involved in a basic risk assessment:
- Importance of assets at risk
- The vulnerability of the system
- The criticality level of threats
This gives us a formula: Risk = Asset x Threat x Vulnerability
For example, if you were to assess the risk related to a threat to your operating system. If this system has a specific vulnerability that is easily exploitable and you have no security measure in place, and you have valuable assets stored in it, your risk would be high.
However, if you have implemented a good defense such as firewalls and anti-virus solutions, your vulnerability score is low, and your risk will be medium.
Risks to a business can come in different forms, internally, through employees’ actions or business procedures. Externally, it can be from other factors that are beyond the control of the company. Keep in mind that risk implies uncertainty and if something is guaranteed to happen, then it’s not considered a risk.
Why your Business needs an IT Security Risk Assessment?
There are a few reasons why you want to carry out a security risk assessment. One, it will save your organization money and the cost of reputational damage once you have identified potential threats and find solutions to mitigate them.
Second, you’ll have a deep understanding of which parts of your organization needs improvement and prevent data breaches that will cause a massive financial impact.
Third, you’ll be able to minimize application downtime that affects productivity and efficiency. And lastly, avoiding data loss due to theft within the organization.
How to Conduct an IT Security Risk Assessment
Before starting with your risk assessment, you need to have a good understanding of the data your business currently has, your system infrastructure, and the assets you are trying to secure. It’s best recommended to conduct an IT audit to evaluate the security, and confidentiality of the information within the system, and if the system is reliable and accurate.
Then, proceed to take the following steps in conducting a thorough IT Security Risk Assessment:
Step 1: Identifying valuable assets
Determining the scope of your assessment will you allow to prioritize which assets to assess. Not all organizations have a huge budget for risk assessment so you will need to develop a standard for identifying an asset’s level of value. Criteria can be its monetary value and its significance to the organization. Work with management and create a list of your valuable assets and gather the following information where it is applicable:
- Functional requirements
- IT security policies
- IT security architecture
- Network topology
- Information storage protection
- Technical security controls
- Physical security controls
- Environmental security
Step 2: Identifying Threats
Threats are not limited to hackers and malware; it is anything that could cause damage to your organization.
- System Failure: If you own old equipment, the chances of failure are higher. It all depends on the quality and age of your hardware.
- Natural disasters: Fire, earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters can destroy not only your data, but also your hardware, system, and other devices.
- Human Error: Without proper knowledge and training, employees can click on malicious links within an email. Also, anyone can accidentally delete an important file or forgot to back it up. Even as simple as spilling liquids (juice or coffee) in the machine can cause damage.
- Malicious behaviors are also considered a threat, someone can steal a computer, consciously delete data, or misuse another person’s credentials.
Step 3: Identifying Vulnerabilities
A vulnerability is a weakness that a threat could take advantage of to gain access to your system, steal critical data and damage your organization. These vulnerabilities can be identified through audit reports, analysis, incident response team, the NIST vulnerability database, and software analysis.
Don’t just think about the software vulnerabilities. Physical vulnerabilities should also be identified. For example, your server room should be accessed by an authorized person, and security measures should be in place, otherwise, anyone can enter anytime, and chances of data theft are high.
Step 4: Analyzing Controls
Technical controls can be encryption, two-factor authentication, and other identification solutions. Non-technical controls include keycard access, security policies, and other physical mechanisms. Analyzing these controls will enable you to reduce or eliminate the possibility of a threat.
These controls can be classified into two categories: preventative or detective. Preventative controls foresee and cease an attack. Detective controls are used to uncover threats that have happened such as intrusions or audit trails.
Step 5: Determining the probability of an event and assess the impact of a threat
In this step, you have to identify how likely these risks will occur and their impact when it happens. It’s not just about the probability of it happening but also the success rate. Once you have all the information, you can then calculate the cost to alleviate each of your identified risks.
To analyze the impact of the threat, it includes different factors such as the mission of the assets, the value, and the sensitivity of the asset. To get this information, you can conduct a business impact analysis (BIA).
Step 6: Prioritize the Information Security
Determine the level of threat to the IT system based on the following:
- The possibility that the threat will make use of the vulnerability.
- The effect of the threat that has successfully exploited the vulnerability.
- The suitability of the information system security controls for eradicating the risks.
You can use the risk-level matrix to estimate risk. It can be calculated by multiplying the threat probability value by the impact value. Risks are categorized as high, medium, or low depending on the result.
Step 7: Recommending Controls
Based on the risk level, you can now determine the actions to be taken to mitigate risk.
- High: Corrective measures should be developed as soon as possible
- Medium: Corrective measures should be developed within a sensible amount of time
- Low: Decide whether to take the risk or implement solutions to eliminate it
If the cost is worth more than the asset, then it will not make sense to use preventative controls to secure it. Consider the following factors as you evaluate controls to mitigate risks:
- Organizational policies
- Cost-benefit analysis
- Reputational damage
- Applicable regulations
- Safety and reliability
Step 8: Documenting the Results
The final step in your IT security risk assessment is to build a report that will help management in making decisions pertaining to budget, procedures, and policies. Each threat should have a defined risk, value, and vulnerabilities, along with its impact, probability of occurrence, and recommended controls.
This report will help your organization identify key solutions that will minimize the risk and enable you to understand the infrastructure your company has, your valuable assets, and find ways to improve operations and secure your business.
No matter the size of your business, risk management is essential to cybersecurity. These processes will assist you in establishing guidelines addressing your concerns on threats and vulnerabilities that will harm your reputation and finance. If your business is at risk of cyberattacks, we can help you secure it from data breaches and other threats. Contact us today!