Cybersecurity Risk Assessment: What It Is & How to Create Your First One Today

Posted on by Chika Ibeneme | Updated:
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Almost every organization in the world sends data across the Internet, posing a potential risk of cyber attack. There are several emerging cybersecurity issues that you need to look out for in the coming years. These attacks are targeting health departments, education sectors, and businesses.

Cyber attacks are common and can lead to data corruption, hijacking of files, or even data breaches. However, it would be much worse if you lost the data forever, such as the hacker’s attack on the Zoom application where more than 500,000 Zoom passwords were stolen.

All of those passwords and credentials were available for sale or were distributed on dark web platforms. Several accounts that belonged to various businesses and individuals were greatly affected.

What Is a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment?

A cybersecurity risk assessment is the process of researching, identifying, and highlighting information security risks that are present in your system. Risk assessments analyze and identify the chances of risk from attacks such as:

  • Phishing.
  • Malicious spyware.
  • Cross-site scripting (XSS).
  • Credential stuffing.
  • Denial of Service (DoS).
  • SQL injection.
  • Session hijacking and man-in-the-middle.

Why Is a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment Important?

A cybersecurity risk assessment is quite important to identify security vulnerabilities in your system. A comprehensive cybersecurity risk assessment will provide a framework to establish and update an organization's information security policies and guidelines. These assessments play a significant role in securing the internal and external information of any organization. 

Eliminating the risks that are identified during risk assessment will avoid and decrease the chances of expensive breaches happening from common security issues. It will also help in eluding any relevant compliance issues. 

Through the process of risk assessment, everyone will follow the cybersecurity rules which will eventually create a risk-aware and proactive cybersecurity culture in the organization. 

What Are the Benefits of Performing a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment?

Benefits of Performing a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment - Liquid Web

There are several benefits of performing risk assessments that will help in strengthening the security barriers of any organization. Here are the top five:

1. Improvement of Organizational Security Knowledge

Cybersecurity risk assessments will identify all organizational vulnerabilities. It will also give you a clear idea about the places where your organization needs to improve. 

2. Reduction of Expenses

After identifying and analyzing vulnerabilities, you can create a skilled team that will eliminate these vulnerabilities. In addition, the risk assessment will reduce the time, effort, and chances of experiencing malware incidents that may cause data corruption or revenue loss. 

3. Template for Future Assessments

As cybersecurity risk assessments are needed continuously, you should consider investing your time and money in creating risk assessment guidelines that can be followed for future uses. 

4. Avoidance of Security Incidents

Cloud security incidents cause a substantial reputational impact on any organization. The risk assessments will save your organization's reputation by avoiding the incidents altogether. 

5. Protection Against Data Loss

Cybersecurity risk assessments are the key to protecting your confidential data. Any stolen vulnerable data will cause a burden to your organization, and 60% of businesses that experience breaches are out of business within 6 months. Sensitive data includes:

  • Intellectual property.
  • Strategic plans.
  • Marketing campaigns.
  • Internal operations documents.
  • Trade secrets.

Hence, cyber risk assessments are fundamental in carrying out information risk management.

5 Steps to Create Your First Cybersecurity Risk Assessment

5 Steps To Create First Cybersecurity Risk Assessment - Liquid Web

A cybersecurity risk assessment must include scoping, risk identification, risk analysis, risk evaluation, and documentation. 

1. Scope of Risk Assessment

Decide what is included in the scope of the risk evaluation. The scope can consist of a particular department, unit, or the entire organization. However, an organization-wide risk assessment is quite complex and challenging to do. You must have the support of stakeholders across all departments, as you would have to take their input while categorizing the scope.   

2. Identification of Cybersecurity Risks

Identify a list of physical and logical assets to be included in the risk assessment scope. Then, analyze the primary threats to the listed assets. For the identification of potential threats, a cyber-kill chain map can give you a good view of the stages of an actual attack. Summarize all potential threats in simple words to make them understandable for the stakeholders. 

Varonis cyber-kill chain map

3. Determination of the Potential Impact of an Attack

The term risk likelihood means the probability of the exploitation that a given threat can cause based on the discoverability of vulnerabilities in the present system. You can create specific keywords to understand the degree of the potential impact of a cyberattack.

Organizations can choose to classify potential impact using the following keywords:

  • High Impact means that the impact could be immense.
  • Medium Impact means that the damage done can be recovered with some effort. 
  • Low Impact means that the impact would be minimal. 

4. Calculation of Your Risk Rating

Next, calculate the risk rating utilizing keywords similar to the potential impact in step three:

Risk Rating = Potential Impact x Risk Likelihood

Here are examples of how organizations can rate their risk and threat levels:

  • Severe means that the threat is critical and risk must be eliminated immediately. 
  • Elevated means that a potential threat exists within the organization, which must be eliminated in a given period. 
  • Low means that the threats are typical and you should eliminate them, but these threats can only cause a small impact on the organization. 

5. Documentation of All Risks

The last step is the documentation of all risks in a risk register. The document should be reviewed regularly, and every new risk or risk scenario must be written in this document. The documentation of such risks will make it easier for the organization to understand cybersecurity risks. 

The risk documentation must include:

  1. Consequences of risks.
  2. Identification date of risks.
  3. Current security measures.
  4. Present-day risk level.
  5. Action plan.
  6. The progress status of the action plan.
  7. Residual risk: The level of risk after the action plan is executed.
  8. Risk owner: Who is responsible for ensuring that all the risks are eliminated? 

Governance and Compliance Considerations

The guidelines given by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27005 for information security risk assessments must be followed. These guidelines are designed to help with the execution of a risk-based information security management system. 

The ISO/The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 27001:2013 (ISO 27001) offers the provisions of a best-practice information security management system (ISMS), which is a risk-based approach to corporate information security risk management. It addresses people, processes, and technology.

However, it is vital that organizations 'retain documented information about the information security risk assessment process' so that they can validate that they comply with all of the stated requirements in the guideline.”

Organizations need to follow these steps and create relevant documentation as a part of the information security risk treatment process.

Clause 6.1.2 of the standard guideline sets out the criteria for the information security risk assessment process. Organizations must:

  • Ensure that certain information security risk guidelines should be established and maintained. 
  • Confirm that repeated risk assessments will produce consistent, valid, and comparable results.
  • Identify risks associated with loss of confidentiality and integrity, and identify the individuals responsible for those risks. 
  • Analyze and evaluate security risks according to the standard guidelines. 

Fully Managed Hosting Can Do This For You

Cybersecurity is a complex process that requires considerable planning and knowledge. Let Liquid Web be your cybersecurity partner as your business grows into the future.

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About the Author

Chika Ibeneme

Chika Ibeneme is a Community Support Agent at The Events Calendar. He received his BA in Computer Science in 2017 from Northern Caribbean University and has over 5 years of technical experience assisting customers and clients. You can find him working on various WordPress and Shopify projects.

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