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.