Every time you log on to the Internet, you put your IT systems and the data you handle at risk. At the same time, it’s also impossible to run a successful business without going online, so a key element of modern business management is a strong cybersecurity risk management program. 

Why? Because the only people in the cybersecurity field working harder than software engineers are the criminals trying to find a new way to breach the latest network security measures. Always remember that strong cybersecurity risk management is a flexible, evolving program that changes in response to newly emerging security threats. 

Just like a cybersecurity program is not a one-and-done measure, neither is cybersecurity risk management; it evolves constantly to respond to an ever-changing threat landscape. 

When the COVID pandemic hit in 2020 and many employees were sent offsite, the number of phishing and ransomware attacks mushroomed, but healthcare organizations were hit especially hard by cyber criminals out to gain access to sensitive data. 

In short, chances are high that a modern, interconnected business will be the victim of a cyber attack eventually. A strong cybersecurity risk management program will save your business and keep you ready to fend off any new cyber threats. So let’s look at the cybersecurity risk management framework and help you better understand cybersecurity risk management.

How to create a cybersecurity risk management program

To address cybersecurity risk effectively, first identify the actual risks to your information systems and data. Here is a five-point plan to get you started on a cybersecurity risk assessment: 

  • Identify system and information security risks: List all data storage systems and any proprietary programs you are seeking to protect. 
  • Rank third-party contractors by level of access and date volume: The contractor with the most access and the highest data volume processed is the one that poses the highest potential risk for a data breach. 
  • Identify potential threats to your information system: Remember that some threats are internal (inappropriately stored passwords or data theft by employees) while others are external (cybercriminals trying to infiltrate your system). 
  • Conduct a risk assessment on each identified risk: Estimate the cost of each potential cybersecurity threat to your company, and try to determine which threat is most likely to strike. Remember to include the cost of any incident response process. 
  • Rank the list of threats: Start with which ones are the most likely to happen and which would be the most expensive for your company; that’s where you start implementing new controls such as data encryption, firewalls, and malware detecting software to help reduce immediate risk.

You don’t have to start from scratch; NIST 800-53 can help

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed (and is continuously revising) a set of guidelines known as NIST 800-53 to help you with the risk management process as it applies to cyberspace. 

If you are a federal agency or you contract with one, you must be in compliance with NIST 800-53. Developed to keep government agency information systems secure from cyberattacks, NIST 800-53 is the gold standard for private companies to assure cybersecurity risk management and protection. 

Like most NIST standards and guidelines, NIST 800-53 is updated and revised to make sure it remains relevant in today’s threat landscape. This means your security policies, risk analysis, and risk mitigation will also meet the highest standards of methodology, if you follow NIST’s guidelines.

Using a cybersecurity risk framework such as NIST 800-53 can ease the development of your own cybersecurity risk management methodology and assure that you don’t miss any important steps as you update your IT security. 

You can also use the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) and get ongoing program updates and alerts that will help your security team stay ahead of the cybercriminals. 

Never stop assessing your cybersecurity risk management efforts

A good risk management strategy changes in response to the risks your company is exposed to. Cybersecurity risk management is no different. 

Once you’ve established a cybersecurity risk management program, you must continuously monitor your networks and IT systems, and maintain strict access control both internally and externally. 

Good internal communication is crucial to assure that your cybersecurity risk management program is followed by everyone, and that employees and stakeholders understand why cybersecurity risk management is so important to your company’s infrastructure. 

Here are some things to keep in mind as you integrate cybersecurity risk management into your regular business processes: 

  • Managing cybersecurity risks is not just a job for your IT department. 
  • Explain how detrimental cyber threats can be to your company. 
  • Encourage departments to make changes to their business processes that shrink your company’s risk profile. 
  • Engage an information security officer to help lead the internal charge as you work on protecting critical infrastructure.  
  • Be aware of changes in your supply chain that may introduce new risks and warrant matching security controls. 
  • Introduce two-factor authentication procedures and tougher password requirements. 
  • Collect metrics all the time throughout the lifecycle of your cybersecurity risk management program. Metrics will establish whether your program is working and expose potential weaknesses. 

Cybersecurity and compliance management tools

ZenGRC’s compliance, risk, and workflow management software is an intuitive, easy-to-understand platform that not only keeps track of your workflow, but also lets you find areas of high risk before that risk has turned into a real threat. 

Worry-free compliance management is the Zen way. For more information on how ZenGRC can enable your CMS, contact us for a demo.