In recent years, cybercriminals have upped their game, typically staying a step ahead of the good guys. In 2021, we’ve seen some of the biggest data breaches yet and, with the rise of exploits such as ransomware, threat actors are increasingly targeting small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs)in the hopes of securing larger payments from less-protected companies. If attacked, SMBs experience downtime, data losses/breaches, and an ability to generate revenue while they deal with the fallout—this can devastate a company. Investing in risk management strategies that utilize a risk management framework (RMF) can help mitigate these threats and facilitate business continuity.

‍What is risk management?

Cyberthreats are a growing risk for all businesses, regardless of size. SMBs are increasingly targeted by threat actors because they assume these companies don’t employ strong cybersecurity frameworks to better protect themselves. Unfortunately, they are likely right. SMBs that invest in risk management strategies can better arm themselves against those looking to exploit them. In a nutshell, risk management is the process of identifying, monitoring, and managing both potential internal and external risks to help minimize or eliminate any negative impacts if a cybersecurity or other damaging event occurs.

What is the NIST risk management framework?

The NIST Risk Management Framework is considered the gold standard when it comes to risk management frameworks. Adopted in 2010, over the years, NIST’s guidelines have been updated as needed. Senior management and security personnel often use NIST’s structured guidelines template to assess their risks and improve security measures.

After procedures and protocols are established, management can proactively monitor threats and risks, tweaking things along the way for even more improvement. A risk management framework is a living and breathing process that should be updated and adjusted as necessary. Companies should definitely revisit their planning at least once a year or if any major changes in the company’s structure or technology occur.

How is the NIST risk management framework structured?

The RMF created by NIST is composed of a comprehensive and flexible seven-step process and can be a recipe for cyber risk management success.The steps are as follows:

  1. Prepare. An organization establishes essential activities it can use to prepare itself for managing security and privacy risks using the RMF.
  2. Categorize. Decision-makers categorize their systems and the information they process, store, and transmit using a business impact analysis (BIA) that has previously been performed. This helps them to determine any adverse impacts on the organization if a breach or data loss occurs that impacts confidentiality, integrity, or availability of systems.
  3. Select. This step is where decision-makers determine the controls that will be implemented to protect organizational systems based on risk assessments.
  4. Implement. During this step, leaders will determine controls, specify how controls will be deployed, and how documentation occurs.
  5. Assess. Risk management planners determine if the correct controls are in place, if they’re operating as intended, and if they’ll yield the anticipated results set in the requirements document.
  6. Authorize. Senior leaders determine any authorizations based on risk-based decisions outlined in the framework. They’ll develop, review, and approve security plans.
  7. Monitor. Risk management is an ongoing process and monitoring gives organizations the ability to maintain ongoing situational awareness about security and privacy postures and to continuously monitor all aspects of the plan and any identified risks.

Using an RMF is a process businesses of all sizes should consider. The full lifecycle approach the NIST framework provides can help companies better safeguard themselves. As an alternative, they can also turn to an experienced cybersecurity provider that possesses RMF experience. This can alleviate the costs associated with putting employees in charge of managing this process—many SMBs often find it’s more budget-friendly to let the experts take care of this important methodology.