Does your organization invest in regular IT risk assessments?
If not, they are an essential aspect of your overall cybersecurity posture, and your technology management. Some businesses are unclear as to what is involved in a risk assessment, how it can benefit their business or even what a risk assessment is. We have broken down the top four questions we often get around IT risk assessments so you can understand what they mean for your organization.
#1 – What is an IT Risk Assessment?
A risk assessment is the process of assessing and identifying IT security risks, to enhance an organization’s overall security posture. Oftentimes compliance regulations, such as CMMC, HIPAA and GLBA will require regular risk assessments.
There are three main elements of the assessment– administrative, physical and technical.
- Administrative assesses what policies the organization has in place – password requirements, or end user training, for example.
- Physical involves the physical security, such as locks on doors, logs of who enters various parts of the property and more.
- Technical includes the technological elements you use to protect your organization from threats, such as your organization’s firewall, or your intrusion detection.
In terms of deliverables, your organization will receive a document detailing where your security is currently, and, if applicable, specifically how to improve your security standing. This document will typically list the high, medium and low risks to your organization, as well as solutions to mitigate these risks. It will outline the who, what, when, where and why of these action items, so you have a clear plan and budget going forward on how to improve.
It is best practice to have an assessment done on a recurring basis. This will vary depending on your particular organization, but typically a risk assessment needs to be annual at minimum. NetGain’s Director of Security Scott Logan recommends assessments every 12-16 months on average.
#2 – How will a Risk Assessment help my business?
The main benefit for your organization is that a risk assessment identifies potential security threats to your business. In today’s world, constantly staying on top of your cybersecurity strategy is essential, and a risk assessment can help with this.
Furthermore, the assessment allows an external party to come in and verify your technology strategy and security. For anything as important as protecting your organization, a second set of eyes to check that everything is in order is always a good idea.
The assessment gives your organization a long-term plan, with a list of improvements to be made, even if you can only execute or budget for a few at a time. This document can be leveraged until the next risk assessment is done, which gives you a highly valuable deliverable even after the assessment is over.
#3 – What Industries need an Assessment?
The answer – all industries!
Although some industries such as those in healthcare and the financial sector are required to have them, a risk assessment will benefit any organization. At minimum, the assessment ensures your organization is covering the basics of IT security. It can also identify regulations a business needs to follow that they may not even be aware of, especially for industries that are not as highly regulated as verticals such as the healthcare and financial sectors.
Although smaller businesses or those that are less regulated may not think they are at risk, hackers target vulnerable organizations, which means any small business is at risk of an attack. And finally, the risk assessment identifies issues within any organization’s environment so those issues can be resolved, regardless of industry.
#4 – What is the hazard behind not having a Risk Assessment?
If a risk assessment is not done, issues and vulnerabilities with your IT security may not be found. Although your organization will identify problems piecemeal throughout daily operations, having a risk assessment done gives a dedicated project to finding and improving areas of weakness in your cybersecurity strategy. This allows your organization to go beyond the basics and ensure you are optimizing your security, as well as addressing the essentials. This can be the difference between identifying a vulnerability and preventing an attack and having an unknown backdoor for a hacker to enter.
#5 – How Do I Execute a Risk Assessment?
Gathering all information about your technological environment from your security team is a good first step. Engage a third party that has many years of experience performing security assessments, as well as one that can help you plan and possibly execute your strategy post-assessment. For more information, read our risk assessment white paper.
The Long and Short – Assess Your Risk!
A risk assessment is an extremely valuable analysis of your cybersecurity environment that can take your security posture from good to better. The deliverable is useful for the entire period between your current and future assessment and can provide good structure for your cybersecurity strategy roadmap. While many organizations believe that they are only for highly regulated industries, they benefit any business that wants to stay protected from the constantly evolving landscape of cyber threats.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in early 2021 and has since been updated for accuracy and relevance.