Organizations worldwide use internet connectivity and some form of IT infrastructure to share, create, modify, and share information. This reliability on technology endangers sensitive data and makes it exposed to risks of cyber-attacks. Therefore, businesses should take practical measures to determine how significant this risk is while identifying which assets are most vulnerable to it. This process is known as cybersecurity risk assessment that saves organizations from costly security incidents.
In this blog, you will learn how to identify cybersecurity risks, types, elements, the importance of risk assessment, how to perform this process, and more. Read on!
So What is a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment?
Cybersecurity risk assessment lets organizations identify and evaluate loopholes in security controls to determine any vulnerabilities that lie in the company’s security infrastructure. A comprehensive assessment helps track the systems, networks, applications, and servers to detect internal/external threats, their potential impact on data availability, confidentiality, and integrity.
Cyber threat assessment also helps assess an organization’s actual level of risk tolerance and implement appropriate protective controls to mitigate all forms of cyber risk. Businesses with digital cybersphere should continually monitor and review the risk environment while maintaining an overview of the complete risk management process.
Today, every industry is a global digitization user and takes advantage of advanced technology infrastructure to run organizational operations. However, every opportunity comes with adversity. As the number of technologies and networking increased, attackers saw it as an opportunity. They started making malicious attempts to target security controls of organizations.
The information security industry suffered around $3.86 million in losses to every single cyberattack that occurred in 2020. This year, the figure may reach $170.4 billion if robust security checks are not implemented.
An effective security framework, including a strategized cybersecurity assessment, is much needed in this security breach era to help organizations in being proactive. However, before spending a fortune and resources to implement a solution to mitigate cybersecurity threats, it is necessary to better understand the risk you’re addressing, how high its priority is, and whether you are approaching it in the most cost-effective way.
Importance of Risk Assessment in Cyber Security
Organizations with required security protocols have the benefit of foolproof data protection from cyberattacks. They have professional teams that regularly conduct a comprehensive risk assessment to find any vulnerabilities that may provide hackers a gateway to the company’s data.
IT security risk evaluation helps organizations develop a solid foundation for ensuring business success while enabling them to:
- Find and fix IT security gaps
- Prevent internal or external data breaches
- Prioritize the protection of the assets having the highest value and highest risk
- Evaluate potential security partners
- Establish, maintain, and prove compliance with regulations
- Eliminate unnecessary or outdated infrastructure security and control measures
- Determine appropriate security protocols and controls to alleviate risks
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What is Information Security Risk?
Organizations using advanced technology are at risk of cyberattacks. Any vulnerability in their system, network, assets, or servers may expose their data and cost them a fortune.
Hackers make different attempts to breach security and steal information. This highlights the information security risk that may affect the overall data protection of an organization.
An IT risk may pose various threats to a business and its assets, such as reputational, strategic, legal, political, or other types of risk. Therefore, conducting a thorough risk analysis of the information system is necessary to strengthen the security controls and mitigate the chances of cyberattacks.
This is the first step towards risk management that can help you identify the issues that contribute to risk, analyze the significance and possible impacts, and decide how to deal with them.
Different types of security assessments within cyber security help organizations enhance defense capabilities while mitigating the chances of threats and cost of breaches. These risk assessments improve overall resistance and let companies of all sizes (SMEs and large enterprises) implement foolproof security approaches that serve distinct objectives under one goal.
Here are some types of IT risk assessments that all businesses should perform according to their needs and circumstances.
1. Vulnerability Assessment
A security vulnerability is basically a weak point or misconfiguration present within the assets (i.e., application, network, infrastructure, codes, data, etc.) that makes them vulnerable to malware attacks, script injections, file inclusions, and other cybersecurity threats.
Once detected, vulnerabilities can even let inexperienced attackers breach security and penetrate deeper into information systems.
An effective, proactive, and defensive approach is necessary to spark a security mindset that can develop tools and techniques for vulnerability scanning – detecting and addressing potential weaknesses before hackers can exploit them.
Some businesses only rely on automated security testing tools to maintain security compliance. In contrast, others choose manual testing too that requires a test engineer to verify the vulnerability – a protective measure to ensure their assets are thoroughly tested and secure.
2. Penetration Testing (Pen Test)
Pentest is one of the most powerful platforms for static and dynamic security testing of web applications. In this process, also known as dynamic analysis, controlled cyberattacks work as a supporting tool to determine vulnerabilities that could easily be targeted by bad guys.
Pen testing can be performed using these three approaches:
Black-box Pentesting: IT professionals act as cyber attackers with no internal knowledge and access to data while performing this test.
White-box Pentesting: This approach involves testing the organization’s assets with most of the internal information and access (employee privileges and access to sensitive information)
Grey-box Pen Testing: This type of assessment involves testing assets with partial internal information and accesses.
Some common Pen test types include:
- Web-application Penetration Testing
- Virtual Appliances Penetration Testing
- Thin client Penetration Testing
- Thick client Penetration Testing
- Network Penetration Testing (It can be performed separately on the external network and internal network)
- Mobile Application Penetration Testing
- IoT/IIoT Penetration Testing
- Embedded devices penetration testing
- Cloud security penetration testing
3. Compromise Assessment
A high-level security testing, compromise assessment helps identify the traces of a cyberattack or a security breach.
Test engineers use CA to review and audit organization’s networks, applications, infrastructures, and end-points based on suspicious user behaviors, logs, compliances policies, Indicators of Compromise (IOCs), or any evidence of malicious activities to determine the damage caused while locating the threat actor residing in the current environment.
On a specific note, the Compromise Assessment is a security approach that answers the fundamental business security operational question, “Are we breached?” through analyzing various security measures.
- Compromise Assessment helps:
- Identify attacks with evidence
- Reduce and control breach impact
- Improve competencies for incident response and detection
4. Social Engineering Assessment
Social engineering methods involve manipulating the human mind through misleading or deceptive information – forcing a user to perform specific tasks such as changing their credentials (username or password), clicking on suspicious links, or downloading attachments.
In short, it is a malicious online attempt that causes a user’s browser to perform an unwanted action on a trusted site. Unlike malware or cross-site scripting attacks, it requires a user to be logged into the application that uses session cookies for tracking sessions or validating user requests.
If the user follows the command, the attackers gain access to the victim’s browser through a forged HTTP request and leverage the browser to perform the rest of the attack, including stealing sensitive information or making online transactions.
Social engineering assessment aims to identify missing security protocols and test the organization’s data protection measures, employee access, or individual training and awareness. Some primary social engineering techniques are:
- Spear Phishing
- Mandate user’s presence while performing sensitive actions.
- Clear cookies and sessions history as it contains all the sensitive information stored on the browser.
- Never save your banking or payment information on your browser, even if it asks for it.
- Implement mechanisms like CAPTCHA, Re-Authentication, and Unique Request Tokens.
- Ensure your data security during a work from home model (read this guide).
5. Cloud Security Assessment
Cloud Security Assessment focuses on finding vulnerabilities in cloud infrastructure that may provide cybercriminals a gateway to the organization’s information on cloud servers.
In this security test, engineers use various access control management approaches to mitigate risks and threats on the overall cloud-based assets and prevent any malicious attacks.
Moreover, this assessment helps identify the weak entrance and access point to the cloud infrastructure. The cloud security assessment is absolute for enterprises utilizing:
- Software as a Service (SaaS),
- Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS)
- Platform as a Service (PaaS)
6. Third-party Risk Assessment
A third-party risk assessment or vendor risk assessment is performed to quantify the associated risk that the organization’s third-party relationship can impose. It is usually done while outsourcing any services or products to evaluate risk based on the shared information, direct, indirect, or remote access to any of the critical assets.
7. Red Team Assessment
Red Team assessments offer advantages over other methods and technologies for improving an organization’s security posture. It is the most accurate tool for information security implementation.
A Red Team can identify the capabilities and deficiencies of an organization’s different assets, providing a unique assessment of an organization’s readiness to withstand the efforts of a malicious attacker.
Red Team Assessment comprises of following actions:
- Penetration tests – Also known as ethical hacking, occur when the attacker tries to gain access to a system, often using software tools.
- Social Engineering – When an attempt is made to persuade or trick employees into revealing their credentials or allowing access to a restricted area.
- Phishing involves sending seemingly authentic emails, luring staff inside an organization to perform specific actions, such as logging into a compromised website and entering their credentials. (See this guide on how to check vulnerability in a website)
- Communication interception tools: Packet sniffers and protocol analyzers can be used to map the network or read sent messages to obtain information about the infrastructure. If an attacker knows that a server is running on a particular operating system, he will make malicious attempts to exploit its vulnerabilities.
8. Risk Assessment
Risk assessment in Information Security lets organizations identify and evaluate loopholes in security controls to determine any vulnerabilities that lie in the company’s security infrastructure.
A comprehensive assessment helps track the systems, networks, applications, and servers to detect internal/external threats, their potential impact on data availability, confidentiality, and integrity.
Risk assessment helps organizations develop a solid foundation for ensuring business success while enabling them to find and fix IT security gaps, prevent internal or external data breaches, prioritize the protection of the assets having the highest value and highest risk, evaluate potential security partners, eliminate unnecessary or outdated infrastructure security and control measures, and determine appropriate security protocols and controls.
9. Bug Bounty
A Bug Bounty program is a “contract” that a company or organization makes with a community of ethical hackers to detect vulnerabilities in the systems and networks.
An ethical hacker is a person who uses advanced computer skills to help an individual or an organization protect the data. Their job consists of carrying out tests on systems and networks in order to detect vulnerabilities, which in turn are reported so that companies can take the necessary measures and prevent future attacks.
These programs are generally conducted to run application review services, penetration testing, code review, reverse engineering, and more. They are typically performed before the final version is released to the public.
Advantages of a Bug Bounty Assessment include:
- Wide range of testers (ethical hackers) with different experiences and education
- Variety of outputs over a longer period of time
- Possibility of testing in production and/or test environment
- Low price (you set the amount of the rewards, and you pay only for valid vulnerabilities)
- Long-term (continuous) testing of your security
- Bug bounty program can find rarity outputs that pen test can’t detect
10. Security Audit
Security audits are essential for all companies, regardless of their size. A Cybersecurity audit allows the detection of security weaknesses and vulnerabilities that could be exploited by malicious users or attackers, causing significant damage to the organization.
Information security auditing typically includes vulnerability scans, penetration tests, network assessments, etc., that help determine vulnerabilities and security loopholes in IT systems of industries with sensitive client information such as banks, financial institutions, hospitals, etc. The audit is a combination of administration, physical hardware, software application, and network assessment. The assessment process can help a company/ organization understand its current security posture.
Security audit helps global corporations:
- Verify compliance
- Protect the system and IT infrastructure against attacks
- Keep security measures up to date
- Incident response management
- Formulate new security policies and procedures
- Evaluate the security of the data flow
- Determine the need for a change in policies and standards
- Determine the current security posture
- Complement the infrastructure with IT security
11. CIS Control Assessment
The objective of the CIS Controls is to establish different layers of protection, at all levels, with proactive defense systems and reactive systems capable of giving a rapid response when a problem is detected, as well as guaranteeing that the organization’s employees are aware of safety and perform their responsibilities following a series of well-defined processes.
CIS control assessment helps organizations know what state of maturity they are in, how vulnerable they are, and how to mitigate these vulnerabilities while enabling them to develop an efficient roadmap for protecting assets at a global level.
12. Incident Response Readiness Assessment
Incident response is the ability to effectively manage disruptive and unexpected events in order to minimize business impacts and maintain or restore the normal operations of an organization within previously agreed and defined time limits.
An Incident Response Assessment is the best way to ensure that an incident is handled quickly. All organizations need to understand and develop an incident response plan to mitigate the risks of security breaches and deal with the threats posed by the vulnerabilities in the internal assets (systems, networks, servers, etc.).
Incident management involves all actions taken before, during, and after the occurrence of a security incident. A common approach, which we also rely on in CSECSYS, is the incident management lifecycle in a 6-phase response model:
- Preparation: This phase prepares an organization to develop a response plan before an incident occurs.
- Identification: This phase aims to verify if an incident has occurred and obtain more details about it.
- Containment: After an incident has been identified and confirmed, the response plan is activated, and information is shared with key personnel.
- Eradication: When containment measures have been applied, it is time to determine the incident’s root cause and eradicate it.
- Recovery: The operational incident response team should monitor the progress of the restoration to ensure that systems or services are restored to a specified condition.
- Lessons learned: At the end of the response process, a report should always be prepared to share what happened, the actions taken, and the results obtained after the plan was executed.
Elements of a Risk Assessment
With security threats on the rise, organizations are looking for upgraded solutions effective against cyberattacks. Many companies have implemented the risk assessment model to mitigate internal and external threats and ensure data protection from malicious attempts. The model has so far proven successful!
Effective Risk Assessment works in four phases:
- Asset identification
- Risk Analysis
- Risk likelihood & impact
- Cost of Solutions
1. Asset Identification
Companies need to determine the inventory of their physical and non-physical assets and what they are worth. Along with a record of their resources, they must also evaluate a range of additional factors.
For example, suppose the organization owns a $7000 server. In that case, it needs to take care of other charges, too, including the repair or replacement costs. It becomes easy to perform a risk assessment to identify vulnerabilities in security controls and protocols when you know your assets.
2. Risk Analysis
Risk analysis lets you identify the probability of emerging risks in cyber security while devising a strategy to mitigate it before it becomes harmful for your system and data. Usually, organizations opt for having a data center, storage facility, and processing all at the same place.
However, a hybrid approach incorporating both AWS and Azure is needed to keep a balance to mitigate the risk of access failure. It will help you analyze the risk your organization may face if one of your cloud providers goes offline.
3. Risk Likelihood and Impact
Now comes the critical part that lets you identify and rate the probability of the risk and its impact on your assets as well as on your business.
Most organizations rely on their IT professionals to assess the risk factors of having in-house data centers only and ignoring data colocation services. For most businesses, adding colocation may seem expensive until a storm floods their data center.
4. Cost of Solutions
This is another factor that lets you justify your budget with finance. A comprehensive analysis may help you determine the overall cost of risk assessment and solutions mitigating the threats to your sensitive data.
Established corporations can easily spend a couple of dollars to obtain advanced security protocols. But for small businesses, if the cost of the solution far outweighs the likelihood of an event, then there’s no justification. However, they can get an updated firewall to protect sensitive health or financial information.
How to Calculate IT Risk?
IT professionals introduced a formula to help companies demonstrate a concept that can best describe the risk:
Risk = Threat x Vulnerability x Consequence
It’s a standard method that should not be taken literally as a mathematical formula. According to IT experts, if one part of the formula, such as threat or vulnerability, can be removed, and the remaining equation is replaced with near-zero, then the resulting value of risk also gets reduced to virtually nothing.
Measuring Risk Likelihood
A common method of assessing the level of risk is to assign a value to each of two component parts: Likelihood and Severity.
Now, when we talk about calculating the risk, there’s a proper way of doing it, and it’s fairly simple:
Risk = Likelihood x Severity
Here you can see that you simply need to multiply the likelihood by the severity to calculate the risk. By doing this, you may be able to determine the Likelihood, i.e., what among this best reflects the chance of the outcome happening – Very Likely (3), Possible (2), or Unlikely (1)
Once you have the results of Likelihood, it’s now time to look at Severity, i.e., how severe would the outcome be if the worst was to happen? – Major Injury (3), Minor Injury (2), or Trivial (1).
Since many small, medium, and large enterprises rely on information technology, they need to strengthen their security infrastructure to eliminate any threats of cyberattacks on their data centers.
Even after having one of the best and up-to-date cybersecurity protocols, these corporations still have to take practical measures to identify vulnerabilities that may work as a gateway for internal and external threats.
Any vulnerability, such as a weak corporate password policy, or an outdated firewall, may invite the risk of unauthorized network access and sensitive data exposure. Hence, risk identification is considered essential to mitigate the risk associated with this vulnerability.
1. Increased Awareness
Educating your employees about cybersecurity risk assessment can help them understand:
- What risks and threats the organization may face
- How do those risks take place?
- What damage they can bring to the company
Implementing this protective approach can help your staff understand the importance of cybersecurity and empower them to chalk out a strategy to defend the systems and networks within the organization.
2. Mitigate Future Risk
Corporations worldwide keep up their struggle against cyberattacks to avoid threats and consequences while protecting their assets and information. This struggle not only includes proper risk assessment and management but additional security layers effective against hacks and breaches.
Moreover, cybersecurity risk assessment also helps companies prepare for malicious attempts to save their time, money, and resources.
3. Enhanced Communication
Another benefit of performing a risk assessment is improving internal and external business communication. When your organization has strong and enhanced connectivity, it will help your employees and your clients understand your security infrastructure.
Additionally, it will also allow them to communicate with the concerned authorities in the event of suspicious activities such as cyberattacks and possible security breaches.
How to Perform Cyber Security Risk Assessment?
Organizations with in-house IT professionals benefit from devising a strategy effective in performing a cybersecurity risk assessment. These strategies are based on different steps, including risk identification, analysis, evolution, and documentation. CSECSYS is a professional cyber security company from USA that can help you evaluate IT security risks in your organization.
Here is the step-by-step guide on how these techniques can be used to perform a risk assessment:
Step 1: Determine the Scope of The Risk Assessment
A comprehensive risk assessment of the entire organization may be time-consuming. Therefore, many mega companies divide this process into categories. The testing begins with identifying the threats to the most critical assets and operations, such as payment processing or a web application.
Before performing the formalized risk assessment, companies must take all stakeholders into confidence as their input will be essential to understand the scope of the risk, its impacts on the client data, and risk tolerance levels.
Various global corporations review standards such as ISO/IEC 27001 and frameworks such as NIST SP 800-37 prior to undertaking this resource-intensive exercise. This approach helps them learn how to assess their information security risks in a structured manner and ensure mitigating controls are appropriate and effective.
Step 2: Cybersecurity Risk Identification
Risk identification is a process of analyzing the organization’s IT infrastructure that includes:
Identifying Assets: It is essential to make an asset inventory list to determine which physical and logical assets are most vulnerable to threats. Any security loophole in what may be considered an organization’s crown jewels may let cybercriminals control sensitive information.
Identifying Threats: Attackers use harmful tactics to access the systems, networks, servers, and in-house data centers. A thorough assessment may help businesses identify potential threats to each asset and implement additional security protocols to ensure foolproof data protection.
Identifying what could go wrong: This task involves specifying the consequences of an identified threat exploiting a vulnerability to attack an in-scope asset. For example:
Threat: An attacker performs an SQL injection on an
Consequence: to steal customers’ private data.
Summarizing this information in simple scenarios like this makes it easier for all stakeholders to understand the risks they face in relation to key business objectives and for security teams to identify appropriate measures and best practices to address the risk.
Step 3: Risk Analysis: Determining Potential Impact
Once the risks in assets (systems, networks, servers, etc.) are identified, the next phase is to analyze the impact of the risk on the assets. Risk likelihood and severity help determine if the given threat can exploit a vulnerability that exists in the infrastructure.
Factors including discoverability, exploitability, and reproductivity also help cybersecurity experts determine and rank risk likelihood. Ranking likelihood on a scale of 1 (Rare) to 5 (Highly Likely) and impact on a scale of 1 (Negligible) to 5 (Very Severe) makes it straightforward to create the risk matrix.
When a threat exploits a vulnerability, its impact on an organization is assessed based on confidentiality, integrity, and availability.
Step 4: Risk Prevention and Control Measures
After risk identification, analysis, and impacts, it’s now time for preventive measures. A series of risk measures and treatments must be established with an objective: to prevent the risk from occurring or to minimize its impact on the organization’s assets.
The security measures effective against risks or threats may include:
- Installation of security software and firewalls
- Implementation of automated cloud security systems and Disaster Recovery plans
- Adding security protocols to strengthen password security
- Reviewing user roles and privileges (with special care in assigning roles with greater privileges, such as administrators)
- Hiring insurance that covers the damage caused
- Implementation of alternate systems to ensure system availability in the event of an attack
Step 5: Document All Risks
It is the best practice to document all identified and assessed risk scenarios to ensure that all security protocols are up-to-date. Keeping a regular check on cybersecurity and reviewing risk management strategies may help businesses enhance the defensive capabilities of the entire network structure.
Some common risk assessments that should be performed include:
- Vulnerability test and simulated penetration
A penetration test creates a simulated cyber-attack on your overall system to test the full scope of your risk management system. This type of test seeks to assess the following:
- The defensive capabilities of the entire network structure
- Web and mobile applications
- Wi-Fi access and firewall
Once the test is complete, a full test report is provided showing whether your system is compromised or safe.
- System audits
A cybersecurity professional performs a complete review of each physical and digital component to ensure there are no vulnerabilities.
This type of testing is done only by a security expert. The expert will make an assessment of:
- Database servers
- Wi-Fi routers
- directory servers
- Application servers
- network workstations
- system firewall
- Desktop computers, printers, and laptops
- Smartphones connected to the network
- Multiple servers connected to the network
Once a thorough investigation is complete, the expert provides a comprehensive report that your system is protected. Make sure this report is saved for comparison with future reports from it.
- Employee awareness test
Run random phishing campaigns without alerting your employees. This will help you have a clear view of which members fall victim to these attempts and which ones stay on the lookout.
The employee awareness test aims to keep an alert workforce to ensure maximum protection within an organization.
The Cyber Security risk assessment matrix is a tool that helps organizations categorize risks based on the importance of assets/vendors and the severity of the risk. It is a graphical representation that gives third-party risk managers a clear sense of the areas of highest concentrated risk.
Risk managers build this matrix to assess assets and vendors that are important for the organization and prioritize risk remediation based on severity. Once the matrix is configured, and security risk assessment is done, the data obtained from this process helps tier digital end-points and third-party vendors into various categories while suggesting how to mitigate third-party risk most effectively.
How CSECSYS Services Can Help?
The cyber threats landscape is evolving every day, giving tough times to the organizations lacking necessary security protocols. It has become crucial for businesses to perform an appropriate security assessment to mitigate cyber risk and protect their confidential data.
If you fail to take the right precautions, your company and more importantly, your customers’ data could be a risk. Therefore, take the time to create and deploy a cybersecurity risk assessment to educate your employees and protect your assets.
If your business lacks the cybersecurity talent needed, CSECSYS can help. We are persistent in protecting your network, information systems, cloud data, and infrastructure integrity. We help minimize risk, secure what’s important, and deliver consistent success metrics.