In today’s evolving world, it’s incredibly important to ensure that you stay on top of security and protect your business and customers' interests—and understand what happens when you stop investing in it.
Take social media giant Twitter, for example. The company recently faced a mass exodus of employees, including cybersecurity staff. With the situation at Twitter becoming more turbulent due to troubling leadership decisions, they’ve become a prime target for retaliation—such as bad actors gaining access to users’ private messages.
You need to protect your data from potential cyberattacks and other identified risks. When you have security controls in place, you can satisfy both stakeholders and your clients.
Your cybersecurity framework will include many elements essential to keeping your information technology secure and protecting sensitive data. One important step in that process is cybersecurity risk assessment. In this article, we’ll help you understand what a cybersecurity risk assessment is and how you can create one with the help of a free template.
A cybersecurity risk assessment is a process that helps you understand where potential vulnerabilities exist in your organization. It helps you find potential risks, prioritize them, and create a plan to address them.
Cybersecurity risk assessments are just one part of your entire risk management strategy, but they have a key role. It’s important to take a strategic approach to a risk assessment and follow the necessary steps to make sure you cover all your bases and protect your assets along the way.
Cybersecurity risks come in many different forms. These attacks target your servers and your data, hoping to damage your business or get money to the hacker. Here are a few of the common examples of cybersecurity risks you may face:
It’s important to remember that not just small businesses are at risk for cybersecurity risks. Major enterprises like Dropbox, Toyota, and American Airlines have experienced recent data breaches, and IBM estimates that the average cost of a breach hovers around $4.24 million.
A cybersecurity risk assessment does more than just protect against cyber attacks. It also provides other important benefits to your organization, all of which can help protect you from damage and safeguard your interests.
Data breaches are dangerous to businesses. Even if the breach is sealed, there is still damage to your business reputation. Customers might not trust a business that has been the victim of a data breach, and even your customers and investors might lose trust in the organization. Cybersecurity risk assessments help keep your business safe by being proactive.
Organizations must meet many compliance standards to keep and store sensitive data. When you have regular cybersecurity risk assessments, you can ensure that you are meeting those compliance standards and not putting your business at risk of a violation. That keeps data safe and helps you avoid hefty fines.
Vendors and third parties rely on your business for their business. You need to keep their trust and their business. You also want to ensure that providers are protected against cybersecurity threats, especially if you share systems. By having cybersecurity risk assessments for your vendors, you can protect their interests and yours.
(Looking for further guidance on establishing a thorough vendor risk assessment? Check out this helpful checklist.)
It can be expensive to protect your data, especially if it is being done efficiently. Cybersecurity risk assessments help you identify potential cost reductions and savings. They can also help you avoid fines and other costs associated with compliance violations and data breaches.
To protect the company's data, every employee needs training on cybersecurity best practices and protocols on what to do in the event of a data breach. By having risk assessments in place, you can train your staff accurately on what needs to be done to keep data secure and avoid falling for schemes and scams.
Every cybersecurity risk assessment report, no matter which template you use, should have a few similar elements that keep the process moving and gather important information:
The first component is fairly self-explanatory: You need general information about the business to get started. Before diving into the details, you first need to scratch the surface with your information. This gives you a foundation from which to build your cybersecurity processes.
You will need both company details and details about products to accurately gather all of the general information you need to begin your cybersecurity risk assessment. Those details include things like:
The next component you need to consider is your compliance information. You need to understand exactly what standards you are being held to, to ensure that you don't violate any regulations in your country, state, or industry. Common compliance documentation might include:
Finally, you need to consider the different security policies and practices you already have. These policies could include everything from basic password policies to incident response forms.
Some of the policies, documents, and procedures you might need to include in this component include your:
Now that you know what components you need to get started, let’s go through the steps you need to take to conduct a cybersecurity risk assessment.
As with most processes, the first step is to evaluate the scope of your assessment. You want to ensure that you cover all of the assets that could be at risk, but you don’t want to overdo it. Think about how much of the organization you want to cover in the risk analysis and what type of assets you will be looking at. This keeps the assessment from becoming overblown and too big to manage accurately.
The next step is to look at the assets that fall under the scope of the assessment. Compile a list of what they are and their value to the company. By creating an inventory of information systems, you can take stock of what assets you actually have and how important they are to the operations and functionality of your business.
Once you’ve compiled all of your assets, you can move on to the next step of the risk assessment process and identify the different cybersecurity risks, threat sources, and vulnerabilities that they potentially are at risk for. This is one of the most important steps in the data protection process, so make sure you carefully examine how each asset could be exploited or attacked and how that could impact the company.
While you can come up with wild scenarios for cyberattacks and data breaches, you want to make sure that your theories are grounded in the reality of the potential impact. Make sure you prioritize the likelihood of incidents and the level of risk, so you address the most likely cases of vulnerability first. This helps your assessment stay organizational, and your remediation and risk mitigation plans stay reasonable.
Next, consider what controls and measures are already in place to protect assets and sensitive information. What safeguards does the business have for each asset, and how often are they examined and checked to ensure they will still protect the asset? You can also examine your broader security measures and how effective they would be in the case of a cyberattack.
Staying organized, prioritizing the right measures, and planning your action plans are all important factors of a cyber risk assessment. You want to begin with the biggest potential threats and work down from there. Put your identified risks into a prioritized list, so your incident response team knows where to start.
Once you know where to begin, you can start putting together the steps you will need to mitigate and address any risks. This might include looking at new security systems, IT security tools, or third parties that deal with digital security. By taking action, you can prevent major damage down the line and protect your assets proactively.
Cybersecurity is an ongoing process. You will need to monitor your security controls regularly and run risk assessments to ensure you remain secure, compliant, and ahead of any potential risks. This helps create a culture of security in your organization that helps your business protect sensitive data and avoid cyber attacks.
At HyperComply, we understand how important it is to have cybersecurity. That’s why we offer AI tools and automation to make risk assessments easier to conduct and more accurate. We also have free tools to use so that you can start your cybersecurity risk assessments today — rather than waiting until it is too late.
Check out our free cybersecurity risk assessment template today and discover how HyperComply can help your data security.