In today’s highly volatile cyber environment, it’s important for business owners to have a clear, strategic approach to a cybersecurity risk management process. Managing cyber risk should be considered a priority for all business owners, regardless of size. While most media coverage focuses on cyber-attacks for large enterprise-level organizations, many small and medium businesses are also facing cyber-attack challenges.
Cyber-attacks are not random. In fact, if you know what to look for, there are usually signs of a planned or imminent cyber threat. Phishing emails and mentions of organizations on the dark web are both red flags that an organization is being targeted.
What should business owners do to stay ahead of potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities? The answer is the creation and implementation of a cybersecurity risk management plan. A cybersecurity risk management plan is the ongoing process of identifying, analyzing, evaluating, and addressing cybersecurity threats. The process is shared among an entire organization, not just members of the information technology team.
Because the cyber landscape is continually changing and new, sophisticated threats emerge daily, a risk management plan doesn’t completely provide a fail-safe for cyber threats. However, by establishing a risk management approach to cybersecurity, an organization can greatly reduce its risk by attending to the flaws, threat trends, and attacks that matter most to its business.
Let’s take a look at how to develop a cybersecurity risk management plan, the common cyber risk management frameworks, and the benefits of cybersecurity risk management.
Developing a Cybersecurity Risk Management Plan
When developing a cybersecurity risk management plan, many organizations approach the process with a 4-step model. First, organizations should identify risk, then assess the likelihood of the threat or risk actually occurring and what is its potential impact. The third step is to identify appropriate risk mitigation measures, and the final step is an ongoing monitoring program that includes risk response and security controls designed to evolve to address a shifting cyber threat environment.
Let’s explore each step of the process in more detail.
Step One: Identify Cybersecurity Risk
An IT risk is essentially any threat to your business data, IT infrastructure systems, and overall business processes. It is the potential for an unplanned, negative business outcome that comes as a result of a failure or misuse of information technology. When considering what your IT risks are, think of how a threat can impact your business and what would the consequences be?
When identifying risk, start with thinking about the threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences of an IT failure. Document each before moving to the next step.
- Threats: Threats are circumstances with the potential to affect an organization’s operations or IT assets negatively. This can occur through unauthorized access to IT information systems and can occur through human error, cyber-attacks, IT configuration failures, and even natural disasters such as a hurricane, tropical storm, or black out.
- Vulnerabilities: What are the weaknesses in the information system, security procedures, internal controls or implementation from a threat? In addition to internal vulnerabilities, list the external weak points such as supply chains and vendor relationships.
- Consequences: Consequences are any of the adverse results that happen when a threat exploits a vulnerability. What costs – both hard and soft – are at risk and would be a consequence if a cyber threat was successful? Some of the costs include revenue, destroyed or lost information, and customer trust.
Step Two: How to Assess Risk
After cybersecurity risks are identified and documented, the next step is to assess your level of risk to determine what level of cybersecurity measures should be implemented. Which risks are the greatest? Which have low consequences? Assessing risk can help you determine how to build your risk management plan.
For reach risk, conduct an impact analysis that includes:
- Name all assets
- Prioritize each asset
- Identify all possible threats
- Identify vulnerabilities
- Determine the likelihood of a threat event
- Conduct an impact analysis to estimate the cost impact
The results of your risk assessment will be a guide to inform risk management decisions and risk response measures in the future.
Step Three: Identify and Implement Cybersecurity Risk Mitigation Measures
Now that you’ve intentionally identified IT risks, how can you mitigate each risk to minimize the impact of a cyber-attack? Depending on the outcome of the previous steps, there are several options to help manage cybersecurity risk including:
- Cybersecurity training: Most successful cyber-attacks are the result of human error. Cybersecurity training programs for staff and stakeholders is a great tool to help mitigate risk.
- Updating software: Updating software is an important part of cybersecurity. Outdated software lacks patches if vulnerabilities are discovered and can fall prey to advanced cyberattacks. This poses several security risks, both due to human malice and the chances of information system failure.
- Multi-factor authentication (MFA): MFA is a security feature that dramatically improves account security. MFA, also referred to as two-factor authentication, adds an additional layer of security to protect organizational data and assets.
- Data backup: Data backups are an essential part of a cybersecurity risk management plan as they allow for data protection and recovery in the case of a successful attack. There are different strategies and resources available for data backup, most including cloud services.
- Endpoint protection: Every single device that is connected to your network is an entry point to your business. Endpoint protection works by examining files as they enter and leave devices on your network. An endpoint security system is a software program that is centrally managed by an administrator and tracks threats in real-time.
- Dark web monitoring: Company email addresses, validation credentials, account information, and other important business data can be compromised or sold on the dark web. Adding a dark web monitoring service to your cybersecurity plan helps protect yourself from a data breach.
Step Four: Implement Ongoing Monitoring
After putting cybersecurity risk mitigation measures in place, most business owners have a false sense of security. After all, they’ve identified risks and put security measures in place – shouldn’t that be enough?
Unfortunately, cybercriminals and cybercrime evolves and change rapidly. Ongoing monitoring can help ensure internal controls keep up with changing IT risks.
Common Cyber Risk Management Frameworks
When building a cyber risk management process, there are several frameworks that help businesses adhere to industry and regulatory best practices. A cybersecurity framework provides a common language and set of standards for IT professionals in varying industries. Having a framework in place makes it easier to define the processes and procedures your business must take for cybersecurity.
Some of the most popular frameworks include:
- NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF): Drafted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), this framework addresses the lack of standards when it comes to cybersecurity across the private and public sectors. NIST CSF provides a uniform set of rules, guidelines, and standards for organizations to use across industries.
- DoD Risk Management Framework (RMF): The Department of Defense (DoD) Risk Management Framework (RMF) is the set of standards that DoD agencies use to assess and manage cybersecurity risks. This framework can be applied to other industries and breaks down a cyber risk management strategy into six steps.
- ISO/IEC 27001 and 27002: Created by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), ISO 27001 and ISO 27002 are considered the international standards for validating a cybersecurity program. Companies can receive ISO certification by following the framework outlined.
- FAIR: The Factor Analysis of Information Risk (FAIR) is a cyber risk framework developed by The Open Group to help businesses understand, measure, and analyze risk to help business leaders make well-informed decisions about their business risk and their cybersecurity practices.
Benefits of Cybersecurity Risk Management
An intentional and strategic cybersecurity risk management program can reduce the risk of cyber criminals obtaining sensitive company information. There are countless benefits to a thought-out, intentional approach to cybersecurity including:
- Phishing detection
- Brand protection
- Fraud protection
- Sensitive data leak monitoring
- Dark web activity
- Automated threat mitigation
- Minimizing supply chain risks
Unsure where to start with a cybersecurity risk management plan? A managed services provider (MSP) specializing in cybersecurity can help you create a framework to protect your business from cyberthreats.
Cybersecurity Risk Assessment with Everound
Cybersecurity companies like Everound are experts at preventing cyber threats from infiltrating your business. With more than 30 years of experience, our team of cybersecurity professionals can recommend and implement data protection strategies and programs to help keep your information and your network safe from harm.
We offer a free cybersecurity risk assessment that can help you start developing your cybersecurity risk management program. We will take a deep dive into your potential security threats and recommend programs that can help you reduce risk. Reach out today for a free consultation. We focus on your IT, so you can focus on your business.