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.