Security is a paramount concern of any organization. Malicious hackers are constantly seeking technical vulnerabilities to infiltrate and compromise your business.
In order to safeguard your system, the first step is to become aware of your security weaknesses via a risk assessment.
What Is a Risk Assessment?
A risk assessment is the process of evaluating an organization’s security measures. It will identify the organization’s current security flaws and determine what improvements must be made in order to strengthen the system against internal and external threats.
There are many different areas to be evaluated in a risk assessment. Here are some of the key steps:
Assess technical vulnerabilities — Investigate an organization’s many areas of potential security vulnerabilities. Such areas may include: physical hardware (e.g. desktops, laptops, smart devices, etc.), currently used applications, currently employed security systems (e.g. firewalls, antivirus, spam control, network monitoring, etc.), among others.
Active directory assessment — Assess any vulnerabilities among an organization’s accounts. Are there any former employees with accounts still activated? Are there any issues with currently active accounts? To maintain the strength of the greater system, no one account may be vulnerable.
Process review — Analyze the processes of an organization. Is the organization following the best practices for security management and adhering to government regulations? Also, in this review, management must identify what data is most important to the company in order to prioritize the allocation of security resources.
Impact assessment — Estimate the potential damages should a specific vulnerability become exploited. Potential damages could include effects on revenues, profits, regulations, reputation, etc. This estimate provides a detailed level of risk: what is vulnerable; how is it vulnerable; when is it vulnerable.
Likelihood assessment — Finally, estimate the likelihood that a specific threat will occur. A risk assessment will also evaluate what factors may affect and/or change this likelihood. For example, normally, with more authorized users in a system, the breadth of a security vulnerability increases.
Why Do You Need a Risk Assessment?
The benefits of a risk assessment are many. By evaluating your organization’s current security posture, you will be able to bring increased efficiency to many areas of your business.
A risk assessment can bring the following benefits:
For security — Most clearly, a risk assessment will bolster the security of an organization. It will help you to understand not only what the current weaknesses are, but also how to mitigate these vulnerabilities and build a more efficient security profile.
For finance — A risk assessment also enables an organization to make knowledgeable financial decisions. Because you now know what the most dire threats are, you are better able to design a budget and allocate the appropriate security resources accordingly. Additionally, it is much more cost effective for an organization to proactively invest in the security risks outlined by a risk assessment than to deal with the financial consequences should a risk become exploited in the future.
Finally, a risk assessment is beneficial as it facilitates effective communication within a company. A risk assessment helps to open a dialogue between the IT group and management. It ensures that everyone is on the same page about: 1) what the major security threats are; and 2) what needs to be done about them. Moreover, a risk assessment makes clear to an organization’s employees that security is a serious concern and must be treated as such.
Conducting a risk assessment is the first step towards improving your organization’s security system. A risk assessment will identify your system’s current vulnerabilities and prepare you to plan and budget for the required improvements.