Trying to protect crucial business systems, assets, and personnel in the aftermath of a cybersecurity crisis can feel like trying to put toothpaste back in its tube. Yet, when businesses operate without proactive procedures in place to monitor for cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities, they limit their ability to respond promptly.
This blog will explore the importance of a cybersecurity risk assessment—and the benefits of using a consistent and repeatable cybersecurity risk assessment methodology to ensure ongoing protection against a wide range of threats.
What Is a Risk Assessment Methodology?
In cybersecurity, a risk assessment methodology is a process or framework for identifying, evaluating, and remedying potential threats, risks, and vulnerabilities within an organization's technical infrastructure.
What Are the Steps in a Risk Assessment Methodology?
A cybersecurity risk assessment methodology generally includes five steps:
Assessing an organization’s overall cybersecurity posture, including the security of its data assets and any hardware and software currently being used.
Identifying where critical threats, vulnerabilities, and risks exist—and attempting to quantify their potential impact.
Planning how to remedy any issues identified in the previous steps and prioritizing those that may impact the overall business the most.
Executing the plan in a timely and organized manner, securing key assets and business systems.
Monitoring over time to assess the success/impact of the previous steps and identify any new threats, risks, or vulnerabilities that emerge.
As you might assume or expect, conducting a risk assessment is both linear and cyclical. In other words, ongoing monitoring naturally leads back to the assessment. As explained by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), security risk assessment “should be a continuous activity” and should be formally conducted “at least once every two years.”
What Are the Different Types of Risk Assessment in Cybersecurity?
The five most common risk assessment methodologies related to cybersecurity include the following:
A qualitative risk assessment methodology takes a subjective approach to risk assessment. Qualitative assessment focuses on the organization’s perceived threats, risks, and vulnerabilities as they relate to what would happen if critical business systems were to be compromised or go offline.
Quantitative risk analysis methods, on the other hand, attempt to quantify the potential impact of identified threats, risks, and vulnerabilities. Quantitative risk analysis usually focuses on the monetary impact a breach or disruption could have on the organization and its most important assets.
A threat-based assessment starts by evaluating different types of cybercrime and prioritizing them by urgency, impact, or importance. This way, resources can first go toward remedying and protecting against the most severe threats.
Rather than prioritizing interventions based on the severity of various identified threats, a vulnerability-based assessment starts by evaluating systems’ potential vulnerabilities. This approach enables organizations to identify those which would cause the most trouble if they were to be exploited or subjected to attack and to address them as soon as possible.
Instead of taking a holistic view of critical systems, resources, and their potential vulnerabilities, an asset-based assessment examines each system or resource individually. For example, an organization may prioritize software/hardware security over network security (or vice versa) depending on each asset’s current status.
What Are the Different Methods of Risk Assessment in an Organization?
There is no one-size-fits-all cybersecurity risk assessment methodology, but the two most commonly-adopted approaches are the NIST risk assessment template and the ISO risk assessment framework.
For companies operating in the United States, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) framework is the most popular assessment methodology. Its five steps parallel those we discussed earlier as the risk assessment basics, though it uses slightly different terminology. Its five steps are:
Protecting key assets.
Detecting attacks and vulnerabilities.
Responding in a timely and effective manner.
Recovering lost assets and preventing future attacks.
For international organizations, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) provides a widely-accepted template for conducting risk assessments in voluntary compliance with ISO standards. This framework’s essential requirements relate to an organization’s information security management system (ISMS). The basic steps of using this framework include:
Defining a methodology for risk assessment.
Making a list of the organization’s information-based assets.
Identifying threats and vulnerabilities.
Evaluating the risks associated with those threats and vulnerabilities.
Taking steps to mitigate identified risks.
Creating a risk report for documentation purposes.
Continuously reviewing, monitoring, and auditing critical assets and systems.
Take the First Step Today to a More Secure Tomorrow…with Trava Security
Regardless of the cybersecurity risk assessment methodology an organization uses as a guide, each shares a vital first step: assessing their current cybersecurity posture to identify key threats, risks, and vulnerabilities. Trava Security makes taking this essential step easy by offering a free Cyber Risk Assessment and plenty of informative resources.
When you’re ready to get serious about cybersecurity risk assessment, feel free to book a demo to see our platform in action, or reach out to our team with any questions you still may have.