How to Do a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment
A risk assessment is like filling a rubber balloon with water and checking for leaks.
Instead of a balloon, a cybersecurity risk assessment scans for threats such as data breaches to negate any security flaws affecting your business.
Successful cybersecurity risk assessment ensures it’s cost-effective to the business without blowing your budget out of the water.
Today, we’ll learn how to effectively circumvent digital threats utilizing effective risk assessment techniques to fit your business goals.
WHY BOTHER WITH A CYBERSECURITY RISK ASSESSMENT?
The most obvious answer is to safeguard your business from the malicious hands of hackers grabbing your sensitive information and displaying it online for public viewing.
This information ranges from financial information, internal vulnerabilities, private customer information, and other sensitive data that causes your business a great deal of distress if there was a security breach.
Here are the reasons why cybersecurity risk assessment is required.
1. Long-Term Cost Reduction
The golden quote – “Prevention is better than cure” applies to digital threats as well. It’s best to identify threats before they hamper your business instead of dealing with it after an attack.
Cybersecurity risk assessment helps in early warnings to your business and mitigates any damage eliminating the need to go into quarantine mode.
2. Always-On Visibility
Imagine having a 24/7, year-round security that warns you of all the latest threats, sounds tremendous, doesn’t it? That’s exactly why cybersecurity risk assessment is required.
An effective cybersecurity risk assessment is one that is always updated and expels even the well-executed data breach.
It’s also an effective way to remain ahead of your competitors in terms of protecting your business.
3. For Cyber Insurance
The days where insurance meant only ‘Life’ and ‘Health’ are behind us.
Today, modern businesses insulate themselves with cyber insurances that act as a barrier in case of a security incident and to protect them from financial loss.
Companies that provide these cyber insurances require a mandatory cyber risk assessment system in place before they issue their policies.
If you’re thinking of insuring your online business, a risk assessment check must be performed.
4. Increase Company Valuation
When your stakeholders and clients know you are well-versed with risk management and have deployed a cybersecurity risk management, it automatically boosts your company’s net worth.
Eliminating any risk in data breaches creates an aura of confidence for future investors to feel like their investments are in good hands.
THE CYBERSECURITY RISK ASSESSMENT METHODOLOGY
An effective risk evaluation to weed out illegal data attacks is the ‘101 survival guide for digital businesses.
Your questions may range from –
Where do I begin?
Do I simply hire personnel to look after my security breaches?
What if I don’t have the required budget?
Let Cleverism answer your security concerns with the following cybersecurity recommendations.
1. Map out the System
When you spend time understanding the type of business you’re dealing with, it becomes easy to sort out the risks that you’re most vulnerable to.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself regarding your business.
What kind of business company am I?
Small and medium businesses have a lower budget compared to large organizations. Hence, the cost to create a cybersecurity risk assessment should be considered to ensure you don’t overspend.
Do I have IT personnel working in my team or do I employ one?
If you work with IT specialists, speaking with them will familiarize you with the type of security system your organization utilizes. The type of data to track and protect. If you don’t have any IT professionals on your payroll, hire a freelancer.
Do I run complete network diagnostics?
Every electronic item from smartphones, printers, laptops, and computers should be identified. Plenty of vulnerabilities arise from unauthorized access and it’s necessary to mitigate electronics connected to your network by identifying them.
Attackers can gain access via the internet so it’s necessary for Wi-fi devices like hotspots and routers to be a part of the network program.
If you’re a large organization, paid applications like Nessus Professional provide a breakdown of all the vulnerabilities affecting your network.
Free programs such as OpenVAS are ideal for small businesses.
Ensure the entire system, applications, network, and other firmware are updated daily or weekly. When the firmware is outdated, your system remains at risk of the latest exploitations.
Microsoft Windows 10 users have an update assistant at their disposal that notifies the user if any software or application has an update queued.
2. Understanding the Risks
Every breach is different and carries a different level of threat. Knowledge of the type of vulnerability is required when a cybersecurity risk assessment is carried out.
Let’s look at some of the popular risks.
- Data Distortion. During cyber espionage, a cybercriminal attempts to distort or modify data. This is typically done to steal identities such as social security numbers and payment information. Cybercriminals switch the personal information of an organization’s database and are considered among the biggest cyber crimes.
- Phishing. Imagine having your clients login to your brand’s website only for them to have their information stolen. A phishing attack is carried out in order to steal personal credentials while mimicking the authenticity of a verified site. Unsuspecting users enter their user information and passwords on such sites and have their sensitive information hacked.
- Ransomware. Ransomware utilizes intelligent techniques to embed into your system. An infected USB drive, a malicious email, a malware website, etc.
Unlike other cyber crimes, ransomware takes their own time to infect the entire system. If you’ve noticed your systems slowing down, chances are you’ve been afflicted by ransomware. Ransomware transfers sensitive data to the hacker.
- Trojan Toolkits. System vulnerabilities in the form of automated attack toolkits exploit spamming techniques by installing Trojans on your system. Once your system is infected, it requires a complete quarantine which may require you to completely erase all data on your drive due to the duplicating nature of toolkits.
- Data Leaks. Sometimes the hacker isn’t looking for personal profit. In such a case, all data that is stolen is made public and it becomes a huge embarrassment for the organization in question. Data leaks threaten big corporations like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook, etc. every year.
Assessing the type of risk is critical to understand how to solve the issue. Analytical questions can then be prepared based on a threat.
- How large is the risk?
- What are the immediate containment plans to prevent further spread?
- How many machines are affected?
- How did the attack occur? Find the start point.
- Is it safe to take the entire system offline to conduct a complete investigation?
- How many files were contaminated in the attack?
Having a set of questions prepared beforehand will allow you to assess the attack quicker without wasting precious time.
3. Hire an IT Professional to Evaluate the Internal System
Many small businesses usually fall prey to cyber-attacks as they don’t know what they are looking for during an assessment.
It’s incredibly important to perform a thorough risk assessment of your internal system, framework, and other network interfaces.
If you’re a small business and trying to save money by doing the risk assessment yourself, then you’ll end up costing your business a ton of money without in-depth knowledge.
Similar to how it’s impossible to drive a car without prior knowledge of driving, it’s impossible to perform a risk assessment with limited knowledge on the subject.
According to cybersecurity expert Kyle David, “Small businesses that suffer from a data breach end up closing their doors.”
An IT specialist will identify the following –
- Run a complete network evaluation to check if your system isn’t already infected
- If infected, the vulnerabilities are identified, and countermeasures are deployed
- If not infected, the specialist performs all safety checks to ensure your defense system is active
- The specialist provides a detailed breakdown of the threat source to ensure the incident doesn’t repeat
Every organization’s internal system is different, a full evaluation provides you with information on how well your current cybersecurity is performing.
IT professionals perform checks on your control system such as –
- Operations Controls
- Authentication Controls
- Security Controls
- Administrative Controls
- Risk Management Controls
- User Controls
The control section provides complete information on the background of the attack, personnel access, and other data protection protocol.
Once the evaluation of your internal network is performed. The IT professional will provide an assessment rating such as –
- Satisfactory – Your defense system is working as intended and there are no requirements necessary
- Fair – Your defense holds up to the current wave of attacks but isn’t ready for new-age threats. Recommendations to upgrade are provided by the specialist.
- Average – Your security is lacking but there have been no attempts or breaches. An immediate revamp of your security is necessary.
- Poor – Your security is failing at all levels and there are multiple breaches. An in-depth data assessment must be performed to see the level of damage.
Depending on what category you fall into, the next steps of a cybersecurity risk assessment need to be considered.
4. Limit Personnel Access
Did you know your entire system can be infected by a single employee clicking a suspicious link through email?
Human error is among the largest causes of a network breach. Simple video attachments via USBs or malicious email connected to the network causes a vulnerability in the entire system.
If your employees aren’t well trained, the use of insecure channels to transmit data causes internal threats to the system. This gives way to bigger threats such as Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) and malicious worms that steal sensitive data.
Another threat that plagues businesses are phishing websites. Assuming your employees enter private user credentials into secure websites without double-checking the SSL certificates, the data is stolen via phishing attacks. The damage can be irreversible to recover from.
An efficient way to counter human error is by providing cybersecurity awareness to every person connected to your organization.
The following checklist ensures you always provide a full rundown of all the necessary security protocols to be followed by your personnel.
- Ensure unencrypted flash drives and USBs are strictly prohibited in the workplace.
- Ensure all employees use a strong password with a mix of numerals, alphabets, and special characters. A good password should ideally be above 10 characters.
- 2FA or Two-factor authentication is an effective way to add a 2nd layer of defense to private credentials.
- Utilize phishing simulators to send your work colleagues suspicious emails to test if they follow security protocol. If they’re a victim to phishing, demonstrate the importance of following best security practices. Appreciate the ones that don’t fall prey to your phishing attempts.
- Emails with attachments should always be dealt with carefully by your team. If an antivirus doesn’t clear the attachment or if the sender’s email isn’t recognized, it’s best to have the email flagged and sent to the higher-ups for evaluation.
- Create a strict policy against installing games and other software on workstations.
- Restrict websites in your office environment to control browsing activity by your employees. Social media should be accessed on their own data network.
- If your business requires full browsing access to websites, then set up a training program to educate your employees on safe browsing guidelines.
- Every workstation must be password protected and an active high-rated antivirus should be installed before any work is performed.
Don’t play the blame game with your colleagues if a security breach occurs.
The responsibility of your organization is solely on you.
Ensure your employees are following the company’s rules and regulations. Have them sign a contract forbidding them to share sensitive information. A confidentiality agreement is a must to safeguard your trade secrets.
If an employee has breached the contract, a warning may be issued to the person responsible. On repeated offenses, it’s critical to terminate the employee before things get out of hand.
When you minimize human errors, you cut down outside threats and the other half is controlled through automation.
5. Review New Cyber Security
Once a new risk management system has been installed to thwart future cybercrimes, it’s necessary to run different tests to ensure your cybersecurity holds.
Here are the common assessments to run.
- Simulated Penetration & Vulnerability Test
A penetration test creates a mock cyberattack on your overall system to test the full extent of your risk management system. This type of test seeks to evaluate the following –
- The entire network structure’s defensive capabilities
- Web and mobile apps
- Wi-fi and firewall access
Once the test is complete, a full test report is provided that demonstrates if your system is under threat or safe.
- System Audits
A cybersecurity professional performs a complete review of every physical and digital component to ensure there are no vulnerabilities.
This type of testing is done purely through a security expert. The expert will run an evaluation on –
- Database servers
- Wi-fi routers
- Directory servers
- App servers
- Network workstations
- System Firewalls
- Desktops, Printers, and Laptops
- Smartphones connected to the network
- Miscellaneous servers connected to the network
Once a thorough investigation is complete, the expert provides a comprehensive report that your system is protected. Ensure this report is saved to compare towards future reports of the same.
- Employee Awareness Test
We had previously discussed how it’s critical to ensure your employees are on board with your security program.
But how do you test their resolve?
By running random phishing campaigns without alerting them.
When you unleash a simulated phishing attack on your team, you’ll have a clear vision of the members falling prey to these attempts and which ones remain vigilant.
The ones that fall prey can be trained and demonstrated in utilizing the best practices of cybersecurity.
The employee awareness test aims to maintain an alert workforce and in doing so, a secure organization.
As with anything, practice makes perfect. The following tests are to be run periodically on a routine to ensure your system remains protected. It’s critical to save test reports for future analysis.
A cybersecurity system is like a house with many doors. If one door remains unguarded, the entire house is under threat of collapse.
With constant updates and risk management tests, ensure that you regularly identify threats and neutralize them to stay ahead in the security race.
Did you learn a new method to protect your system using our guide? Comment below. We’d be happy to hear from you.