A cybersecurity risk analysis is one step in the overall risk management and cybersecurity risk assessment process. The analysis entails examining each risk to the security of your organization’s information systems, devices, and data and prioritizing the potential threats.

Once the analysis is done, you know where to allocate your resources to prevent cyberattacks and, should a data breach occur, which systems to prioritize so your ability to do business can continue with little or no disruption.

Several regulatory and industry frameworks specify the need for robust security controls and outline the necessary steps for implementing them. One is the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-30, Rev. 1, Guide for Conducting Risk Assessments. Another is International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard ISO/IEC 27001:2013, Information Security Management.

Another ISO document, ISO 27005, provides guidelines for information security risk assessments and helps design risk-based information security management systems.

How Do You Perform Risk Analysis in Cybersecurity?

Within these standards are several best practices for performing a cyber risk assessment and analysis. These steps for a cybersecurity risk assessment will help identify specific vulnerabilities based on your organizational needs and the common risks in your industry.

Create a Risk Management Team

The first step in performing a security risk analysis is to create a cross-functional group that can deliver the necessary attention to the details of the different areas and risks related to your data security and information technology (IT) systems.

This team should include:

  • Senior management
  • Chief information security officer (CISO)
  • Privacy officer
  • Marketing
  • Product management
  • Human resources representative
  • Manager for each business group

Identify and Map Your Systems and Assets

Document every device and IT asset on the network, including computers, tablets, routers, printers, servers, and phones. In addition, you must identify how they are used and interconnect with one another.

Catalog the software-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, and infrastructure-as-a-service used by every department. Specify which departments and vendors have access to which services. Include types of data and categorize sensitive data separately. Note how information travels through the network and among stakeholders, and what components it touches along its journey.

Identify Vulnerabilities and Potential Threats

Your risk management team will need to identify threats and vulnerabilities from all parts of your organization. Vulnerability scanners can make it easier to locate vulnerable equipment. Still, it is up to your team’s expertise to determine flawed security policies, physical vulnerabilities, and other cyber threats hidden under your network and systems.

Does your business use digitally connected “internet of things” (IoT) devices? How susceptible are employees to “phishing” emails that could allow malware on your system?

Potential threats include:

  • Unauthorized access to your network
  • Misuse of information or data leaks
  • Ransomware attacks
  • Human error or negligence
  • Process failures
  • Data loss
  • Sensitive data breaches
  • Disruption of services

Assess Your Risks

Using your information asset catalog, examine the most significant risks for unauthorized access. Scrutinize every type of information and every vendor, system, network, software, and device to determine the danger it poses.

During this phase, your risk management team will need to use their knowledge and intuition to list worst-case situations, ranging from natural disasters to economic calamities. The result is a list of all risks that can affect your organization.

Perform a Risk Analysis

Consider the effects of all identified risks on your business’s reputation, finances, continuity, and operations. Then measure each assessed cyber risk as low, medium, or high, depending on the level of damage it could pose to your business.

A risk analysis, performed with the aid of a risk register, considers two main factors:

  • Probability: The likelihood of an attack
  • Impact: The operational, reputational, or financial impact of the risk in your organization

These two elements will help you determine the severity of each potential risk in your register so that you can develop strategies for each risk according to your security posture and tolerance. Risk remediation can be done in various ways: you can accept, avoid, transfer or mitigate risk.

Set Cybersecurity Controls

If you choose to mitigate risks, you need to develop safeguards to reduce your company’s risk exposure and prevent security incidents. Risk mitigation can also help your data protection efforts, compliance with regulations and requirements, and threat response.

Monitor and Review

Thorough annual audits of your cybersecurity program’s effectiveness are a must. But yearly reviews aren’t enough on their own in today’s business environment. Metrics on controls measures should be reviewed monthly to assure effectiveness and identify early warning signals. Networks, systems, and devices should be continuously monitored for suspicious activity.

What Are the Benefits of Performing a Cybersecurity Risk Analysis?

Cybersecurity risk analysis is a regulatory requirement and presents several advantages to organizations that decide to apply it periodically as part of their IT security strategy.

Long-Term Cost Reduction

Early identification and prevention of risks in your organization can reduce operational costs. Restoring or restructuring your IT infrastructure is much more costly than developing preventive measures to cyber threats. Plus, tight controls drive more consistent processes and higher quality.

Provides a Template for Future Assessments

Investing in implementing cyber risk assessment and analysis in your organization makes it easier to reapply these processes. Not only will you have personnel with first-hand knowledge of the concepts; you will also have the right tools and templates to streamline these activities.

Organizational Awareness

Identifying your vulnerabilities and attack vectors allows you to look at the complete organizational picture. This process highlights your organization’s weak areas, allowing you to make informed decisions regarding the business operations.

Prevent Data Loss, Data Breaches, and Regulatory Fines

A cybersecurity risk assessment is crucial in your risk management process by revealing vulnerabilities. This process ensures that your security measures are adapted to current and future potential risks, preventing adverse events like data loss and data breaches. Besides protecting your reputation, you avoid regulatory fines for mishandling sensitive information.

Who Should Be Responsible for a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment?

If resources allow, organizations should have specialized in-house departments that conduct risk assessments. This team should include IT personnel who understand your digital and network architecture, as well as team members who understand the organizational structure, how information flows, and third-party interactions.

Small companies may lack the necessary personnel in-house to conduct a complete evaluation, necessitating the involvement of a third-party consultant. Companies also use various cybersecurity tools to automate security controls, monitor their cybersecurity score, prevent breaches, issue security questionnaires, and decrease third-party risk.

Perform Cybersecurity Risk Analysis with ZenGRC

Keeping track of everything simultaneously might seem daunting, especially for cyber risk. On the other hand, threat actors are constantly changing their methods and technology. You must also evolve to protect your systems, data, and brand reputation.

ZenGRC is a governance, risk management, and compliance platform that can assist you in implementing, managing, and monitoring your risk management framework and remedial assignments. Workflow management features offer easy tracking, automated reminders, and audit trails. Insightful reporting and dashboards provide visibility to gaps and high-risk areas.

When audit time comes, ZenGRC’s audit-trail document repository is a “single source of truth” that allows you to retrieve the proof you need to prove data confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

With ZenGRC, cyber risk management almost takes care of itself, freeing you up to focus on other, more critical issues, such as growing your business and increasing your bottom line. Contact us to schedule a free demo and get started on the road to worry-free risk management.

Have a strong compliance program?
Use it as a foundation for risk management.

READ WHITE PAPER