How to Conduct a Security Risk Assessment for Your Business

Jun 24, 2023 | Business Security Tips

If you are accountable for security or want to guarantee that your business complies with industry compliance requirements, conducting regular risk assessments is a wise practice.

Conducting security risk assessments is an ongoing, iterative process that involves mapping assets, identifying vulnerabilities, and creating remediation plans. This is essential as cyber threats continue to evolve and your defenses must also adapt accordingly.

1. Determine Your Goals

Security risk assessments are an integral component of any business’s information security management plan. They help identify and quantify the threats to your organization’s data, systems, and infrastructure.

These documents lay the basis for creating cybersecurity policies and procedures. These may include security protocols, IT policies, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) rules, and business continuity plans.

2. Determine Your Scope

Risk assessments are comprehensive reviews of your organization’s assets and processes. They help identify threats that could disrupt operations or result in a security breach.

Once you identify your goals and objectives, it’s time to define the scope of your project. A well-crafted scope statement will set your team up for success by guaranteeing all deliverables are met on schedule, within budget, and without overtaxing resources.

Determining your project scope should be a collaborative effort. Everyone involved should offer their insights, helping you save valuable resources on items that won’t make it into the end product.

3. Identify Your Assets

Security risk assessments are an integral component of any business’ security program, helping protect data from both internal and external threats. Compliance standards like PCI DSS, SOC2, ISO 27001, and NIST all emphasize the significance of risk assessments in successful security programs.

The initial step in conducting a security risk assessment is to identify all your company’s assets. This includes your network, servers, applications, and data storage containers.

4. Identify Your Vulnerabilities

One of the initial steps in a security risk assessment is identifying vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities are security flaws that could allow hackers to gain access to your company’s IT systems and applications.

Common security flaws include weak passwords and insecure software. These can enable hackers to install malware and steal sensitive data from your company’s IT infrastructure.

Security risk assessments should be done regularly to detect new vulnerabilities and patch them before cybercriminals can exploit them. Doing this helps your business avoid data breaches or full-scale cyber-attacks, decreasing the chance of being caught off guard by malicious cyberattackers.

5. Identify Your Threats

Identifying and conducting a security risk assessment are the initial steps in mitigating your business’ risks. Doing this will guarantee you have both resources and budget available to protect against any potential breaches in security.

Your assessment should enable you to assess current risks and calculate how much it would cost to mitigate them. This will enable you to decide how much money to invest in various strategies that will keep your company secure.

Your assessments should also include a comprehensive list of assets such as information, data, people, third parties, hardware, and software that can be organized by type and owners. Furthermore, it’s essential to include vulnerabilities – weaknesses that a threat could exploit to steal sensitive data or breach security.

6. Identify Your Remediation Options

When assessing your business, it’s essential to take into account both physical and electronic assets. This is because vulnerabilities can impact both, with varying impact levels.

You can prioritize security vulnerabilities by ranking them according to their likelihood of exploitation and damage potential. Doing this will enable you to allocate your manpower and resources more effectively.

For instance, a low-priority vulnerability may only take a few hours of work to address; on the other hand, a high-priority issue could prove more expensive in terms of time and effort to remedy.

7. Identify Your Controls

Once you identify threats and vulnerabilities, it is essential to establish controls that will mitigate those risks. These could include technical tools like firewalls and encryption, as well as administrative controls like company policies and physical mechanisms for asset protection.

Prioritize your vulnerability and threat analysis to guarantee the most critical assets receive sufficient attention. For instance, public data might be prioritized if it has low sensitivity while confidential data has high sensitivity. Doing this effectively ensures your most critical assets receive priority attention.