Documentation

Risk Controls: What Are They and Do You Have Them?

So what are Risk Controls? Put simply, they’re a defined set of proactive steps or strategies that entities use to address risks to their business. These risks can include anything from technical and compliance concerns like data privacy and cybersecurity all the way to natural disasters and financial losses. These controls are an integral part of the larger risk management process that all businesses have to consider. While this process as a whole encompasses the identification, evaluation, prioritization, and remediation of risks, these controls serve as the answer to that all-important question at the end of the day; How do we fix it? Let’s take a look at the 5 typical classifications of risk controls- Remediation, Avoidance, Transference, Mitigation, and Acceptance- to see exactly how they answer that question, and how you might be able to use them within your own organization. 

Starting off, we have Remediation. This is a control that, when implemented, eliminates most if not all of an identified risk. This is a great strategy to adopt in instances like a software vulnerability where a patch or update can be applied. It’s quick, effective, and inexpensive to implement. While remediation may seem like an obvious strategy for a number of risks, there can often be a number of factors that prevent it from being a viable solution. Another control, Avoidance, can be a great way to fill some of those gaps. Rather than saying, ‘If there is an issue, we will fix it”, the concept of Risk Avoidance focuses on eliminating non-critical systems or processes entirely, preventing the proliferation of risk before it can occur at all. This strategy can offer some fantastic benefits like cost savings and reduced organizational complexity, but like remediation it’s no catch-all solution. There are plenty of risks that are simply inherent to the core of many businesses and are thus inevitable. So what can we do about it?

Mitigation, also referred to as Reduction, is a great strategy to apply in situations with inherent risk, as it seeks to lessen the likelihood of the risk being exploited. This type of control is typically most viable in unavoidable situations where there are steps that can be taken that will greatly diminish the risk but none that can remediate it completely. Scenarios like this often occur when there are known vulnerabilities within critical systems that are too important to be removed, so an organization tries to lessen the likelihood of that risk being realized through additional controls such as firewalls or antivirus software.

So what if you’re a small business and these strategies are too expensive or complex for your organization to implement with its limited resources? Well, Transference could be just the thing for you. This control essentially passes risks to a third party, like a service vendor or insurance company. By utilizing vendors for high-risk business functions, like servers and physical security, an organization can push the assessed risk to the vendor to manage. In the case of insurance, transferring risks materializes with the recovery of the costs associated with them, should an incident occur. 

Now, let’s face it; in the real world, there just isn’t always a simple, easy, or inexpensive solution for everything. In these cases, Acceptance is a risk control that doesn’t try to reduce the risk at all. Rather, Acceptance takes the cost and complexities of the other risk controls and weighs that against the costs and consequences of the risk itself. If the cost and complexity of controlling the risk outweigh that of the risk itself being realized, the most pertinent control may be to simply accept the risk as it stands. Typically, this option is only considered when the consequences of the risk are relatively low. For example, Acceptance would not be a viable strategy for business critical systems. Understanding the differences in these situations and how to apply the proper control is critical to effective risk management and governance. The modern business landscape is ever changing, which is why risk management should be a continuous, evolving part of an organization’s infrastructure. By continuously monitoring and assessing new and even previously identified risks and controls, you can rest easy knowing that your organization is managing its risks to the best of its ability.

CyberData Pros can run a risk assessment to determine your company’s risks. We will then classify them and help you put together an action plan. Contact us now for a free consultation and to learn more about our services.

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Proactivity Pays – Why Wait for Clients to Request ISO 27001 or SOC 2?

In a rapidly evolving digital world, the bar for an effective security posture seems to keep rising higher and higher. New threats are emerging constantly, and new policies and controls are required to keep them at bay. Secure practices are unfailingly an expectation of clients and authorities alike, but maintaining them is growing increasingly difficult. Already there are so many best practices to abide by that the task of organizing and accounting for them alone becomes overwhelming. Given these considerations, it’s no surprise that businesses around the world are increasingly looking toward implementing security frameworks like ISO 27001 and SOC 2. 

Not only do these standards provide organizations a guide to forming a current and robust information security system and controls, but the attestations they provide can be a tremendous asset for attracting business. There’s no need to wait for a client’s prompting – by jumping on these frameworks early, you maximize the benefits you can reap from them. Here’s a look at the industry’s most recognized frameworks, and what implementing them can do for your organization right now.

ISO 27001

When speaking about any sort of business standards internationally, ISO is a name you’ll see often. Its parent organization is the International Organization for Standardization, and 27001 is their standard for Information Security Management Systems. It outlines a thorough set of criteria an organization should meet when constructing and refining a water-tight security framework, and a certification can be received affirming this after an audit. ISO 27001 certifications are coveted across the globe, with ISO’s latest survey showing a global 24.7% increase in certificates active over 2020 alone. If you’re looking to build or reinforce your ISMS and/or operate overseas and under GDPR, look to ISO 27001.

SOC 2

Narrowing the scope to North American operations, SOC 2 serves as a substantial boon for strengthening controls. Its parent organization is the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, and SOC 2 is their method of validating the security of various business controls under five major Trust Services: Confidentiality, Processing Integrity, Availability, Privacy, and Security. Of these criteria, only Security is mandatory when filing for attestation, leaving this process flexible and more form-fitting, giving users room to choose which controls to demonstrate compliance in. If you’re wishing to reinforce your operational business controls and prove your compliance in your industry, consider SOC 2.

What Compliance Can Do for You

With a better understanding of what these frameworks are, you might be left to wonder what pursuing one might do for your business. Compliance is great, but why not just wait until someone asks for it? Well, for starters, you may well be too late at that point. From preparation to attestation, SOC 2 typically takes over three months and ISO 27001 often takes north of nine months to a year to attain. Past that, simply preparing for and holding these frameworks generates value for your business in a myriad of ways. Here are some to consider:

  • Attract clients with well-regarded attestations, stand out from competitors and win more business.
  • Bolster your security posture to exacting modern standards, reducing your risk of costly incidents, fines, and breaches.
  • Create an efficient information security structure that streamlines workflows and can scale with your growth.
  • Demonstrate a consciousness toward data privacy and security, boosting your organization’s reputation.

The benefits outlined above can be seen not just after receiving attestation for the standards, but begin to form as soon as progress towards the criteria begins. Building and refining better frameworks and controls is a gradual process, but you will undoubtedly benefit from the improvements made along the way. By beginning your ISO 27001 or SOC 2 process now, you will not only find yourself far better equipped to withstand threats to your business, but more attractive to prospective partners and clients.

Let CyberData Pros help you understand where your data sits, access control, and how to protect that data. Contact us now for a free consultation and to learn more about our services.

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Risk Assessments: What Are They and Do I Need One

As businesses grow, both in size and organizational complexity, so should the scope of their privacy and security efforts. This is an important lesson which many companies have had to unfortunately learn the hard way. But who among us can honestly blame them? The cybersecurity landscape can be VERY complicated. Penetration testing, data encryption, password management, user access controls, firewalls, domain administration, cloud servers, international data and privacy laws; these are just a fraction of things you have to consider when you start looking at your security posture. Heck, these days even your printer could be considered a cybersecurity risk!

So where do you start? You know you have to do something, but finding a place to start in such a vast and overwhelming space can be a barrier in and of itself. More often than not, simply understanding what you have that is at risk, and the factors that are putting you at risk, are the best first steps to put your company on the right path. Luckily the industry has a solution for this very scenario. Enter the cybersecurity risk assessment.

A risk assessment is a fantastic tool that takes a broad, contextual look into the privacy and security of your business, which can be simplified into three major objectives. The first objective is identifying information assets that could be targets of, or affected by a security breach. By understanding what assets are at risk to begin with, you can more easily focus on plans and important objectives for protecting them. This can also help you understand more about your privacy and security needs in general. Do you really need that expensive IPS your IT manager asked for? Should you be looking at ISO 270001 certification? Risk assessments can help answer those questions for you.

After identifying your assets, the second objective is identifying the risks to, or associated with, those assets. In other words, what risks do those assets come with, and what aspects of your company infrastructure could be putting those assets at risk. This can range from very technical things like firewall misconfigurations, or vulnerable software running on company servers, to less technical things like unlocked doors, and misplaced camera systems. This is the part of the assessment where you can start to see the work that needs to be done, and you can start prioritizing findings by criticality. This will tell you what findings are important and must be remedied immediately, or what might be considered minor and worth accepting if there are more important gaps to remedy first.

Once you understand your risks, the last major objective is of course, remediation. Starting with the most critical findings, a risk assessment will assign responsibility for these risks within the organization, as well as goals and guidance for mitigating them. Sometimes referred to as a ‘Treatment Plan’, having clear and concise documentation of the issues at hand drastically reduces the time it can take to alleviate them. Assigning responsibility for these risks also creates a sense of ownership and accountability within the organization to ensure these are not only fixed quickly, but are maintained over time. 

While risk assessments are phenomenal for newer businesses just getting started on building their cybersecurity infrastructure, they are also incredibly important for established security teams as well. Regular risk assessments allow your company to track progress, quantify improvements made, and continue to identify new opportunities for improvement as you change and grow. This ensures that as new clients join, or new services are offered, you can maintain a comfortable footing within your risk management structure, as well as a potential competitive advantage over others in your space. As the data privacy and security requirements for the biggest companies in the world continues to grow, due diligence and proactive tactics that show your organization is committed to handling their data responsibly and securely can make all the difference when they are deciding who gets that next big contract.

Let CyberData Pros conduct a Risk Assessment for your business and help identify any data privacy/security gaps that may exist. Contact us now for a free consultation and to learn more about our services.

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Why Do I Need Privacy and Security Documentation for My Business?

Documenting important processes for your business and employees is critical to the overall success of the business. This is no different than privacy and security documentation for your business. Having the proper documentation for your business will help with client/vendor questionnaires, insurance for your business, and knowing how secure data is.

There are multiple pieces of data privacy and security documentation that your business needs. Documentation does differ from industry to industry, but many of the critical documents are universal across the board. I’ve outlined some of these critical documents below:

IT Security Policy

Document that lays out the internal security policies of how the business uses, stores, and processes data. May include other policies such as Clean Desk, Remote Working, Responsible Parties, etc.

Disaster Recovery Plan

Set of policies and procedures on how to enable the recovery of vital infrastructure and systems following a disaster. The important portion of this document should outline critical processes and how long each process can be down in order for your business to recover.

Business Continuity Plan

Documented plan and process of creating systems of prevention and recovery to deal with potential threats to a company. In addition to prevention, the goal is to enable ongoing operations during the execution of disaster recovery.

Data Classification Policy

Policy document to classify different types of data into separate categories in order to understand “sensitivity”. These classifications could include levels such as Public, Sensitive, Private, Top Secret, etc.

Incident Response Plan

A planned set of instructions to help IT detect, respond to, and recover from data privacy or security incidents. These types of plans address issues like cybercrime, data loss, and service outages.

Risk Management Policy

Policy document that aims to provide guidance regarding the management of risk to support the achievement of corporate objectives.

Keeping your documentation current is essential so that critical pieces of the business are known to all. The worst thing that can happen is an employee walks out the door and nothing is documented. Consider this a major issue to the data privacy and security documentation.

If you feel you don’t have the proper documentation or where to start, contact CyberData Pros and we can help. It is not only important to have the proper documentation for the business, but to also keep it updated. Let us help put together a plan and carry out it out to keep your business in full compliance.

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Painful Experiences – Client and Vendor Security Questionnaires

It happens all the time. A client or vendor sends over a security questionnaire and you don’t know where to start. How do you fill this out? What if I make a mistake? What if I can’t answer their questions? These are just a few questions that may come to mind. In today’s world of strict compliance, these security questionnaires are becoming the norm. Being prepared and having answers is critical to ongoing business. Let’s break these down and how to approach them.

A typical security questionnaire is going to cover areas of your business that range from documentation of disaster recovery to physical security mechanisms in your business. On average, these questionnaires can be “hundreds” of questions long! Yes, you read that right and many of these require answers within a few weeks.

Start with the privacy and security documentation that you have written and know that you may need to provide some of this. We recently wrote a blog about the kinds of documentation to have and why is it important. Creating a document and data bank of answers will help you get through these questionnaires faster in the long run.

Understand the “technical” data privacy and security areas of your organization. You may have a department at your company that can help fill out the technical questions. This is great, but make sure you understand the answers in case there is any need for justification.

If this all sounds daunting and you don’t have time for it, let CyberData Pros assist you with these questionnaires. We have over 20 years of filling these out for our clients and we will help you better understand the details. Contact CyberData Pros now to see how we can help your business with this and many other data privacy and security solutions.

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