A critical part of any business is to conduct a cybersecurity risk assessment. Why? Because cyber attacks can negatively impact businesses large or small, including data loss or destruction, reputational damages, litigation and fines, extortion, etc. 

What is a cybersecurity risk assessment? Also known as a cyber threat assessment, an assessment of your internal and external vulnerabilities will help you manage, understand, control, and mitigate cybersecurity risks while establishing a cybersecurity standard for your business. 

There are cybersecurity risk management solutions that help perform threat assessments, which we will discuss more about that later. To start, let’s break down the basics of cybersecurity risk assessments.

What are cybersecurity risk assessments?

The main purpose of a cybersecurity risk assessment is for business leaders and decision-makers to understand their threats and vulnerabilities so they can make informed decisions on how to allocate the proper resources to remediate them. The risk assessment can help determine your overall cybersecurity posture through a few fundamental questions:

  • What areas of the business are most vulnerable to attack?
  • How should data be segregated and protected from exposure?
  • What is the most critical data breach that could cause the most damage to the business?
  • What are the most relevant threats to the business?
  • Where do internal and external vulnerabilities exist in the network?
  • What is the likelihood of a data breach?
  • What threats and attacks could cripple the business?

Once you can acquire adequate informed data to these questions, you can develop a cybersecurity risk register to determine what you need to protect. This risk register should include security controls, decisions and strategies to mitigate your risk.

Why does my business need a cybersecurity risk assessment if I’ve already done one?

Even if you’ve already gone through a cybersecurity assessment within the last year, you may be vulnerable to attacks, as new threats are discovered daily. Additionally, there are many reasons you should want to perform automated and continuous cybersecurity assessments or enterprise risk assessments

Some of the business reasons include:

Prevention of sensitive data loss

Your trade secrets, finances, employee data, and other critical information must be protected at all costs. Data loss can cause major damage to business, if continuous  assessments are not performed properly.

Reduction of long term financial impact

By identifying your internal and external vulnerabilities and working on the remediation plan, you can reduce security incidents from occurring in the first place, which will save your business money in the long-term.

Avoiding downtime

Time is money, and the longer your business is down due to cybersecurity incidents, the more negative the impact on your business. This can include loss of customers, decreased employee productivity, ultimately loss of revenue, etc

Your mission critical applications must have 99.9% uptime be available to service your customers and for you business to remain profitable.

Providing visibility

By understanding your cyber security risks and vulnerabilities, you will have a better understanding of which areas are core to achieving your business objectives.

How are cybersecurity risk assessments performed?

It is important to understand the steps involved in risk assessments. Before you begin, you must understand which data you need to protect, how your infrastructure works, and the value of your company assets. 

You may wish to begin by a simple inventory review. This audit should provide you with:

  • What data is stored, processed or transmitted through each asset
  • How it is stored
  • How it is currently protected
  • The data retention period
  • Who has access to it

Once you understand the answers to those questions, you should define the boundaries of the assessment. In this step, you are to define the purpose and scope of the assessment, the priorities and constraints, a risk framework, and who needs access to the results.

After performing these first steps, the rest should flow down as follows:

  • Identification of threats and vulnerabilities.
  • Determination of likelihood of threat event scenarios your business could experience.
  • Selection of security controls to implement.

Who should perform cybersecurity risk assessments?

While some businesses choose to perform it in-house, a better practice is to reach out to a third-party resource that provides automated cybersecurity risk assessments built to handle comprehensive assessments. A third-party solution has the expertise to offer an understanding of the security gaps and vulnerabilities of your organization’s entire infrastructure. 

There are several options on the market that can provide basic cybersecurity ratings reliant solely on open source intelligence (OSINT) data through passive scanning techniques. However, a nextgen cybersecurity rating and risk management solution that uses both non-intrusive active scanning in addition to passive scanning is the best way to continuously monitor, manage and mitigate cybersecurity risks to your organization.

By learning the basics of cybersecurity risk assessments, you have already taken the first step to maturing your organization’s cybersecurity program. The next step is to find the right solution to help you do it.


Ready to take that next step?
Request a free cyber risk assessment.

About the Author: Anthony Ortega has more than 20 years of experience in cybersecurity, configuration management, systems engineering, and project management. He is currently nearing completion of his doctor of management in information systems technology degree.