Blog, Learning Center January 6, 2021

7 Essential Cyber Risk Assessment Tools

For many enterprise organizations, administering risk assessments is the first step in building an effective cyber threat management system. The visibility gained from these assessments provides insight that helps guide high-level cybersecurity decisions, making them a valuable asset for organizations of all sizes. That said, the effectiveness of cyber risk assessments is heavily reliant on the tools used to conduct them.

Whether you are evaluating third-party or internal cyber risk, there are several tools that can be used to help streamline the cyber risk assessment process and improve the accuracy of results. This enables organizations to proactively evaluate cyber risk by enhancing their ability to identify and address critical network vulnerabilities.

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What is a cyber risk assessment tool?

A cyber risk assessment tool is a resource that allows organizations to identify potential threats, evaluate whether or not the organization can protect against those threats, and put into place a mitigation plan if those threats pose an active risk.

How do cybersecurity risk assessments help organizations?

You need to understand the different risks facing your organization as well as the potential severity of each risk in order to accurately assess your cybersecurity posture. This is where cybersecurity risk assessments can be of use. The goal of these risk assessments is to determine how network assets would be affected in the event of a breach and identify their individual risk level. The insight gained enables comprehensive risk prioritization, improving an organization’s ability to quickly respond to network threats. These can be used to assess third-party risk as well.

In addition, cyber risk assessments are also useful when reporting to the board as they help inform critical security decisions. Using assessment results allows you to validate investment recommendations and provide actionable next steps when discussing security operations. This also helps ensure that your board implements appropriate compliance frameworks as they relate to different cybersecurity functions.

How do you perform a security assessment?

A security assessment can take on many forms depending on what threats and vulnerabilities your organization has. Usually, a security assessment involves taking an audit of an existing threat landscape, measuring what risks exist, and their level of severity. There are a number of tools that can help accomplish this.

7 risk assessment tools your organization can use

When choosing cyber risk assessment tools, you should look for solutions that can be integrated into your existing security infrastructure as this will eliminate threat management silos and reduce the likelihood of false positives.

Here are seven risk assessment tools that you can use to enhance security operations at your organization:

  1. Automated questionnaires
  2. Security ratings
  3. Third and fourth-party vendor-provided tools
  4. Vulnerability assessment platforms
  5. NIST Framework
  6. Penetration testing
  7. Employee assessments

Let’s take a closer look.

1. Automated questionnaires

A key component of cyber risk assessments is the questionnaires you use to evaluate your third-party risk. Creating and sending questionnaires is a resource-intensive task and validating responses can be difficult. Using an automated questionnaire platform, such as SecurityScorecard’s Security Questionnaires, helps address these challenges by creating vendor-specific questionnaires that can be sent and tracked at scale. This creates transparency between you and your vendors as you can track their responses to questions in real-time, streamlining questionnaire management.

2. Security ratings

Security ratings provide a data-driven, objective view of an organization’s cybersecurity posture, making them an essential cyber risk assessment tool. While initially used to assess third-party risk, many organizations have begun adopting security ratings to monitor their internal security initiatives. These are especially useful as they provide valuable insight into various aspects of security including attack surface management and threat identification. Security ratings systems can also be used to validate vendor questionnaire responses, helping organizations take a holistic approach to vendor risk management.

3. Third and fourth-party vendor-provided tools

Oftentimes, third and fourth-party vendors who supply network solutions will provide tools that allow you to scan their products for issues. If you work with third-party vendors, be sure to ask about vendor-provided tools as they are usually available at no cost. For example, Google provides a variety of free security tools that are designed to assess the security posture of internet-connected systems. Combined with existing security assessment solutions, these can be used to determine your current risk profile.

4. Vulnerability assessment platforms

The purpose of a vulnerability assessment is to take inventory of and analyze your existing security controls in order to identify vulnerabilities within your IT infrastructure. Using the assessment report, organizations are better able to understand the risk of each vulnerability on their network, helping to establish a system for threat prioritization. Administering an independent vulnerability assessment allows you to evaluate vendor performance as well, which can help bolster third-party business relationships.

5. NIST Framework

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework provides a set of guidelines, based on existing standards and practices, for organizations to use to better manage and reduce cybersecurity risk. In addition to helping organizations identify and respond to cyber threats, the NIST framework also works to improve cyber risk management communication between internal and external stakeholders. By establishing a common language for managing cyber risk, enterprise security teams are able to build comprehensive risk management strategies that are understood across departments.

The framework is divided into five functions, each related to different aspects of risk management. The five functions are as follows:

  • Identify
  • Protect
  • Detect
  • Respond
  • Recover

From there, each function is divided into 23 categories which provide guidance based on the outcomes of different risk management procedures. This level of detail helps organizations ensure that they are properly managing cyber risk while also enhancing their ability to identify threats.

6. Penetration testing

The purpose of a penetration test is to evaluate the effectiveness of the current security measures in place while remaining in compliance with regulatory standards including PCI DSS, HIPAA, FINRA, SOC 2, and FFIEC. It is a more offensive tactic that exposes the real-world risks of compromise and can provide a roadmap to remediation. There are many different types of penetration testing that can expose weak spots such as:

  • High-risk vulnerabilities
  • Magnitude of potential business impacts after an attack
  • Feasibility of a customized set of attack vectors
  • Your network’s ability to detect and respond to an attack
  • Forensic analysis post security incidents

7. Employee assessments

Your employees are crucial when it comes to cyber attack prevention and mitigation. Without proper training, your employees could accidentally introduce risk into your organization by clicking on phishing emails, unknowingly downloading malware, or incorrectly authorizing access to secure data. That is why it’s important to offer employee cybersecurity training and conduct employee assessments to identify how much they know about cybersecurity and how they plan to respond in the event of a cyberattack. These assessments ensure that your organization has the ultimate data breach response plan in place and that you are compliant with regulations. With the proper training, the chance that employees introduce risk is greatly decreased.

How SecurityScorecard can help organizations assess risk within their network

The quality of your cyber risk assessments is essential to the success of your overall cybersecurity program. With SecurityScorecard, organizations have access to a variety of tools that help to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of your risk assessments. With security ratings, you gain an inside-out view of your entire IT infrastructure helping you make more informed business decisions as it relates to cybersecurity and risk management investments.

To help streamline vendor risk assessments, you can rely on SecurityScorecard’s Security Questionnaires. With a centralized platform to send and review questionnaires, you can easily track vendor responses, improving response accuracy. Atlas also leverages machine learning to align questionnaire responses with SecurityScorecard Ratings so that you can validate responses in real-time.

As cyber threats continue to grow in complexity, having access to cyber risk assessment tools has become a necessity. With SecurityScorecard’s suite of risk management solutions, you can proactively manage risks as they arise.

Take control of your cyber security posture with SecurityScorecard

Cybersecurity risk assessment FAQs

How often should I conduct a cybersecurity risk assessment?

The frequency of these assessments is usually determined by the industry and risk factors experienced by the organizations. It is good practice to at least conduct these cybersecurity risk assessments on an annual basis. But depending on the level of risk your organization faces, you could choose to conduct risk assessments more often.

What are the most effective risk assessment tools?

The most effective risk assessment tools are those that analyze risk in the most vulnerable areas of your organization. This would include areas like third- and fourth-party vendors, your organization’s attack surface, and the actions of your employees. The following tools can specialize in those areas:

  1. Automated questionnaires
  2. Security ratings
  3. Third and fourth-party vendor-provided tools
  4. Vulnerability assessment platforms
  5. NIST Framework
  6. Penetration testing
  7. Employee assessments

What are automated risk assessment tools?

Automated risk assessment tools include tools that use risk data in order to identify any vulnerabilities that may exist. This includes tools like automated questionnaires, security ratings, penetration testing, threat intelligence platforms, and security management systems.

What are the 5 risk assessment tools?

The five risk assessment tools include risk ranking, risk matrix, decision tree, failure modes and effects analysis, and bowtie model.

What is risk automation?

Risk automation is when manual processes of evaluating and organizing risk data are automated by technology to increase speed, ease of use and accuracy.

What tools do we usually use in risk management?

In risk management, the most common tools include risk rankings, risk questionnaires, vulnerability assessment platforms and vendor-provided tools.