Why Do Companies Conduct Cybersecurity Risk Assessments?

Posted in: Cybersecurity Services | March 16, 2022

Why do companies conduct cybersecurity risk assessments? While it’s unlikely that there’s a hacker amidst your internal group, companies have definite reasons to do a cybersecurity risk assessment. Working in the cloud involves risk, and any number of software is hosted in the cloud. If you’re involved in almost any type of business, you have critical information that you wouldn’t want to lose. And if your IT infrastructure is outdated or hasn’t had a recent “checkup,” you are at risk for a cyberattack. In this post, we’ll discuss cybercrime and ways companies can prevent harm from it.

Cybercrime Magazine estimates that “Cybercrime will cost the world $10.5 Trillion by 2025.”—Cybercrime Magazine

As hackers widen their net and use ever-more-sophisticated techniques to wreak havoc on the systems upon which we rely, no business, big or small, is immune to cybercriminals. 

What is Cybercrime?

Cybercrime is criminal activities carried out through computers or the internet. Effects of cybercrime include:

  • Damage and destruction of data
  • Stolen money
  • Lost productivity
  • Theft of intellectual property
  • Theft of personal and financial data
  • Embezzlement or fraud

The sophistication of hacking has been aided and abetted by nation-states intent on creating chaos in the systems of democratic countries—particularly within the energy, financial, and healthcare sectors. Some individual actors operate on the dark web (part of the deep web, not indexed or accessible by search engines). 

The outcomes of cybercrime are sometimes immediately evident, sometimes not. A direct hit to banking or privacy systems can take an immediate toll on your business and create a mountain of recovery work. That’s clear. Cybercrime can also impact business relationships, reputations, and brands. That’s not always easy to quantify, but it means real money as a business owner.  

What are the common types of cybersecurity risks?

The five most common types of cybersecurity risks that are robbing organizations of time and resources are: 

  1. Ransomware – This is essentially cyber-extortion. Criminals block access to a data system until a sum of money is paid. It is sometimes used interchangeably with “malware” (malicious software), an umbrella term.  
  2. DDoS attacks – disrupted denial of service attacks go after networks and surrounding infrastructure to overwhelm a targeted server. Servers or networks crash, and work grinds to a halt.
  3. Social engineering attacks – these scams exploit a person’s trust, often through email scams, text messaging, or social media. Phishing, where a person’s personal information is drawn out by an email purported to be from a trusted friend or ally, is among the most common examples. 
  4. Weak passwords – commonly seen as the weak link in cybersecurity, poor or reused passwords are the foot in the door for many cybercriminals. 
  5. Cloud security – the cloud computing infrastructure needs policies and controls to combat cybercrime. 

Understand the Cloud

The cloud, and the data mobility that is an essential component of cloud-based work, create complex choices for managers. You must balance your business needs (flexibility, productivity, efficiency) against the risks posed by these fluid environments. Understanding these environments can help you adopt policies and processes to guard against data exposure and cloud-service provider trust issues. Global security software firm McAfee lists the top SaaS cloud security issues as:

  1. Lack of visibility into what data is within cloud applications
  2. Theft of data from a cloud application by a malicious actor
  3. Incomplete control over who can access sensitive data
  4. Inability to monitor data in transit to and from cloud applications
  5. Cloud applications being provisioned outside of IT visibility (e.g., shadow IT)
  6. Lack of staff with the skills to manage security for cloud applications
  7. Inability to prevent malicious insider theft or misuse of data
  8. Advanced threats and attacks against the cloud application provider
  9. Failure to assess the safety of the cloud application provider’s operations
  10.  Inability to maintain regulatory compliance

Cybersecurity Risk Management Plan

Once you understand the scope of the cybersecurity risk challenge, your next logical step is to ask, “where do I start?” Security magazine describes the first step as determining your “acceptable risk.” Taking this step will help you do two things: one, it will help you make choices, and two, it will turn intangible concepts such as security, risk, and prevention into tangible realities with actual costs attached. In addition, it forces you to think in terms of business strategy and business goals. 

Assess your cyber security risk with a helpful checklist, adapted from Tech Target

  1. Scope. Determine the scope of the risk assessment. This could include limiting your initial evaluation to a manageable business unit or set of applications. You’ll need participation and buy-in from colleagues. Build a diagram or illustration to make the risk easier to understand and comprehend. 
  2. Identify. Identify assets and cybersecurity threats. Build a “threat library” and be systematic in your approach by first identifying the dangers and what could go wrong, then outlining the vulnerabilities, the assets affected, and the consequences of each scenario.
  3. Analyze and Rate. Analyze risks and determine potential impact. Rate the likelihood of a risk and its impact to illustrate the real-world implications.  
  4. Prioritize. With likelihood and impact mapped out on a matrix, you can attach a figure to the risks and prioritize. Classify risks as “avoid,” “transfer,” or “mitigate.” There is always risk left over, but these strategies can help manage the manageable. 

Document. Take the time to document all the identified risks. Name them, date them, note the controls in place, and identify who owns the risk. Next, set a cycle for revisiting this list and updating it as new threats arise or others fall away. Some choose an annual review.

Can a small or medium-sized business outsource a cybersecurity risk assessment?

If you read about cybersecurity risk assessments and feel like it’s a big task, you’re reading correctly. It’s a lot to take on. As mentioned earlier, one way to manage the job is to break it up into smaller components. For instance, start by focusing on one business area with a heavy demand for IT infrastructure. 

There are a few benefits to this approach. This group will more easily understand the importance of IT to their business goals. They will appreciate the gravity of the threats imposed by cybercriminals. And they will more readily speak a common language and be able to conduct a process that can become a template for the rest of the organization. 

No matter how digitally-fluent your team is, an outside resource can be a boon, saving time and money. Hiring an IT consultant can ensure a correct assessment of your situation and the direction of resources to where they need to be. A professional experienced in developing cybersecurity risk assessments can provide steady guidance and up-to-date intelligence in this evolving environment. Contact eMPiGO today.