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Security Risk Assessment – All You Need to Know

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A security risk assessment relates to identifying, assessing, and implementing essential security controls in applications. Apart from that, it serves to prevent the application of security defects and vulnerabilities.  

An organization or a company can use a risk assessment to view their application portfolio holistically. That is to say, from an attacker’s perspective. Because what’s the best way to protect yourself from attackers than guessing what their next move will be? Predicting how and where an attack will occur can save any organization from spending a lot of time and money. 

Security risk assessments help managers make informed decisions related to:  

  • resource tooling,  
  • allocation, and,  
  • security control implementation.  

Therefore, carrying out an evaluation is an inseparable part of a company’s risk management process. 

There are different risk assessment models that a company can use and tailor to its needs. Thinking about factors such as resources, size, growth rate, and asset portfolio is undoubtedly beneficial.  

Furthermore, companies and organizations can implement generalized assessments if they experience budget or time constraints. However, these can sometimes be unhelpful because they usually lack detailed mappings between identified risks, assets, and other vital factors. In case a generalized assessment doesn’t produce the expected results, a more in-depth evaluation is necessary. 

Other critical points in conducting a successful security risk assessment involve associated threats, mitigating controls, and impact. Simply put, security risk assessments alleviate the risks that threaten your organization, business, or company. 

4 Principals of a Security Risk Assessment 

Although differently classified by various organizations, the following four bulletproof actions apply to most companies, if not all.  

  1. Identify all critical assets of the technology infrastructure. Additionally, diagnose sensitive data that companies create, store, and transmit through these assets. It may also be useful to develop a risk profile for each method. 
  2. Assess an approach to estimate the identified security risks for critical assets. Following a thorough examination and assessment, allocate time and resources to mitigate risks efficiently and effectively. The assessment methodology requires an analysis of the correlation between vulnerabilities, threats, assets, and mitigating controls. 
  3. Establish a plan to alleviate risks and implement security controls for each risk. 
  4. Implement prevention mechanisms to reduce vulnerabilities and threats from happening to your company’s resources. 

A thorough risk assessment enables an organization to complete the following items for ensuring its ongoing security: 

  • Name assets, like servers, applications, networks, data centers, tools, within the business; 
  • Conduct risk profiles for each of the assets above; 
  • Learn what information is collected, transferred, and produced by these assets; 
  • Evaluate asset criticality as it relates to business procedures and plans – this involves the overall influence on reputation, revenue, and the likelihood of an organization’s susceptibility to exploitation; 
  • Establish the risk ranking for assets and prioritize them for evaluation; and, 
  • Employ mitigating controls for all assets based on assessment results. 

Which Organizations Need a Security Risk Assessment 

To function correctly, most organizations need some level of personal health information or personally identifiable information for business purposes. Companies collect this information from clients, partners, and customers.

Tax identification numbers, social security numbers, passport details are all thought of as confidential information. That’s why companies that store, create, or transmit personal data should implement a risk assessment. 

Apart from being useful for a company’s business, many laws, regulations, and standards require a security risk assessment. In some cases, it’s not optional but a must, especially when dealing with sensitive information. 

It’s crucial to note that a risk assessment isn’t a one-time project but a constant activity. Speaking of timelines, they should take place bi-annually, annually, or at any notable release or update.  

Benefits of Security Risk Assessments 

Risk assessments are an integral part of cybersecurity practices, protecting organizations from intruders, attackers, and cybercriminals. Below are some of the most valuable benefits of conducting risk assessments: 

  • They assist you in recognizing vulnerabilities. When a company performs a risk assessment, it can see which segments of its security measures are exposed or limited. It also establishes which parts of your internal system attackers can target, as well as general security threats. Enhancing the cybersecurity posture of your organizations should be the result of this action. 
  • They provide you with a revision of security controls. Risk assessments help you analyze your security controls and establish how you can improve them. Taking preventive measures to boost the effectiveness of security controls in your company will save you from many costs and damage. 
  • They allow you to meet industry-related compliances. Usually, these are required by governments and international bodies. If a company doesn’t comply, it may face cumbersome fees or other unsatisfactory outcomes. Security risk assessments help you detect if your organization meets the conditions of associated compliances. 

Let’s say you want to go a step further. In that case, use a third-party security audit to provide an independent opinion on your business’s security situation. Another reason for using a third-party audit is that it will facilitate a reduction of risk through the application of industry best practices.  

security risk assessment
Source: GA Investigations and Protective Services

Additionally, it serves to transfer knowledge to better protect your information, assets, and people. Among other things, it will increase visibility toward unknown vulnerabilities and associated risks. 

This manner of auditing your security standing becomes even more effective when both the risk managers and security auditors work together. Also, they need to leverage each other’s tools and abilities to be triumphant in producing a comprehensive risk assessment. 

The Wrap-up 

Many companies cringe at the suggestion of having additional assessments and spending more money on them. We would argue that performing regular security risk assessments is vital for all organizations storing and using personal data. It doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or make company leaders feel like they’re giving away free money.  

Any company that wishes to thrive in its business operations, improve workflows, and establish rapport with partners and clients, needs to: 

  • Identify critical assets; 
  • Assess the approach of estimating the security risks for critical assets; 
  • Put in place a plan to mitigate risks and conduct security controls; and, 
  • Implement prevention mechanisms to reduce vulnerabilities and threats from ever taking place. 

All these processes and procedures can seem frightening at first, but there is no way around them. Companies that care about their customers will do their best to implement as many risk assessments as possible. The best time for any organization to implement these was yesterday. The second-best time is today.  

So, be thoughtful of your colleagues, clients, and partners. Making them feel secure should be the number one priority of any responsible business―including yours. 

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