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What is a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment? [Infographic]

Posted on September 16th, 2019

What can your organization do to better protect against cyberattacks and data breaches? A good first step is to prepare a cybersecurity risk assessment.

A cybersecurity assessment involves identifying information assets that might be targeted by cyberattacks, assessing the current state of your organization's network and data security, and then evaluating potential threats and risk to your data assets.

Based on this audit, you can then develop preventative measures and policies that address these risks, as well as put together a disaster recovery plan in case your firm is a victim of a cyberattack or data breach. It's like creating a business plan for protecting your company's valuable data.

Who needs a cybersecurity risk assessment?

You might think that only large corporations need a cybersecurity risk assessment, but that's not true. Businesses of all types and sizes are at risk of cyberattack and can benefit from a risk assessment.

According to Visa, 85% of all data breaches occur at the small business level. The U.S. National Cyber Security Alliance reports that 60% of small businesses that have experienced a cyberattack go out of business within six months of the attack—and the threat shows no sign of diminishing.

How to perform a cybersecurity assessment

Let’s dive into how your business can start assessing cybersecurity risk.

1. Data audit

The first step in your cybersecurity risk assessment is the data audit. This involves identifying all your company's digital assets, including stored data and intellectual property. You need to detail what data is being collected, where and how it's being stored, who has access to the data, and the estimated costs involved if that data is breached or stolen.
A lot of data is at risk:

  • Identity Theft Resource Center found that the number of exposed records that contained sensitive personally identifiable information increased 126% from 2017 to 2018.
  • Ponemon reports that 60% of organizations transfer sensitive or confidential data to the cloud.
  • Juniper Research estimates that by the year 2023, cybercriminals will steal 33 billion records annually.

Many costs are associated with a cyberattack, including lost revenue, legal costs, and the loss of your company's reputation resulting from a breach. According to Cyber Defense Magazine, the average cost of a data breach is $360 per record.

2. Security assessment

Next, you need to evaluate the current state of your company's data security. A cybersecurity risk assessment should examine your organization's security preparedness, including checking for vulnerabilities in IT systems and processes.

This assessment should include:

  • A detailed examination of your company's hardware infrastructure, including network and data storage capabilities
  • An evaluation of how your company's data is assessed, including who has access to what data, what authentication methods are used, and current access policies
  • An examination of what parts of your company's IT infrastructure are most vulnerable to attack

3. Threat assessment

The process now requires you to assess potential threats to your company's data and systems. You need to identify potential threat sources, why those sources might attack, and how they might attack.

Potential threats might come from professional hackers, cyberterrorists, competitors, cybercriminals, and even disgruntled former or current employees. According to the Ponemon Institute's 2019 Global Encryption Trends Study, most threats to sensitive or confidential data come from:

  • Employee mistakes (54%)
  • System or process malfunctions (30%)
  • Hackers (30%)
  • Temporary or contract workers (22%)
  • Malicious insiders (21%)
  • Third-party service providers (19%)
  • Government eavesdropping (12%)
  • Lawful data requests (11%)
  • Other (2%)

Malicious players might want to steal—and sell—your customer data, do damage to your company's reputation, or disrupt your business operations. They may just want money through the use of ransomware. Ransomware is the fastest-growing type of cybercrime, increasing 350% from 2017 to 2018. Cybersecurity Ventures says that a business or government entity falls victim to a ransomware attack every 14 seconds.

According to Cisco, the most common types of cyberattacks include:

  • Malware
  • Phishing
  • Man-in-the-middle attacks
  • Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack
  • SQL injection
  • Zero-day exploit

You need to work through all these potential threats and then prioritize them. Which of these threats are most likely—and which would have the largest impact (financially or otherwise) on your organization?

After you've identified the threats, you can develop strategies to protect against them. Obviously, you'll want to address the highest-priority threats first.

4. Disaster recovery plan

After you've completed your cybersecurity risk assessment, you'll want to develop a disaster recovery plan in case these threats become realities. This plan should be a roadmap for identifying and stopping ongoing cyberattacks, bringing compromised systems back online, and recovering any lost or compromised data. The goal is to get your organization back to normal operating status as quickly as possible.

Let us help you develop your cybersecurity risk assessment

Developing a cybersecurity risk assessment doesn't have to be difficult. Let SecurityScorecard help you further identify and mitigate your company's cybersecurity risks with a free instant security scorecard. We'll give you an inside view of what a hacker sees so that you can prevent attacks before they ever happen.

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