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Risk Assessment 101: What Every Cybersecurity Professional Should Know

09/12/2017  |  By: Jason Riddle

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As the number of potential cybersecurity threats has grown, business leaders and IT security professionals are forced to ask themselves: 

  • Who might want to do our company harm, and how might they accomplish it?
  • Are we susceptible to that kind of attack?
  • What’s the probability that might happen, and how bad might it be, if it does happen?

At the same time, industries such as healthcare, manufacturing, and retail have developed extensive regulations to ensure an individual’s information is not at risk of being stolen or held for ransom. As a result, risk assessments and risk management programs have become core competencies for the cybersecurity profession.

3 Reasons Risk Assessments Are Vital for Cybersecurity Pros

Why have risk assessments become a primary point of concern for cybersecurity professionals? Here are three reasons:

  • It’s mandatory. If you work in information security, odds are pretty good that you have an obligation to assess risk. This is definitely true in the U.S. healthcare industry, where evaluation of risk is required by law. Several other industries such as legal, retail, and manufacturing have guidelines or requirements to evaluate risk periodically. 
  • It’s a best practice for our profession. Cybersecurity is a risk management problem, and to properly manage risk, you must first measure or assess it.
  • It supports greater business objectives. Most business leaders understand risk and risk management far better than they understand technical controls or vulnerabilities—which is where far too many security professionals spend their time and energies. 

Now that you have an understanding of the reasons risk assessments are important, let’s dive into the key terms.

Risk Assessment vs. Risk Management

As a cybersecurity professional, it can be difficult to determine the difference between a risk assessment and your overall risk management program.

  1. Risk Assessment. Risk assessment is the determination of probable frequency and magnitude of future loss. In other words, how likely is it that certain bad things will happen and how bad might they be when they occur? One key word in that definition is “probable”—the probable frequency and probable magnitude. The estimation of probability is a key concept when dealing with risk. 
  2. Risk Management. Risk management is the term used to define the full cycle of identifying, analyzing, assessing, and treating risks. One normally uses a risk management framework to govern that overall process. 

Four Methods of Risk Treatment to Consider

There are four primary methods of dealing with risks:

  • Avoidance. As an example, let’s say your company has a risky business process. The company could simply decide to discontinue (or eliminate) the business process, which would, by extension, eliminate the risk—thus, avoiding it.
  • Acceptance. Assuming an entity believes the risk is within its risk tolerance, it simply acknowledges awareness of the risk “as-is” and accepts it.
  • Mitigation. Risks can also be mitigated, or reduced, until they are at an acceptable level. This is often done by applying controls that lessen the likelihood and/or impact of bad things happening. The lower risk has been mitigated, and the residual risk is accepted.
  • Transfer. The classic example of this is transference through the purchase of insurance policies. In some cases, risks can also be transferred by outsourcing business processes to other companies.

Take Control of Your Risk Management & Assessment Process 

Taking all aspects of risk management into consideration can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. 

At LBMC Information Security, our team has combined decades of experience across various industries to support your risk assessment needs. We’ve also created BALLAST, an easy-to-use software that was specifically designed to help companies remove any friction associated with risk assessments.  

To learn more about how LMBC Information Security can help you fully understand your risks or how BALLAST can help you manage the risk assessment process, contact our team today.

Tagged with: risk assessment, BALLAST
Risk Assessment 101: What Every Cybersecurity Professional Should Know

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  • Jason Riddle