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Is a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment Worth the Money?

by Cybergal | Last Updated | February 1, 2022
CyberSecurity - SMB|CyberSecurity Insights

Managing critical assets, intellectual property, customer data, and other sensitive information involves risks. This is where risk assessment comes in.

Unfortunately, cybersecurity risk assessment isn’t a top priority for many small business owners. Some say it’s too complicated, time-consuming, and expensive. Others say it’s just for compliance or show. Still, many others feel they are not prime targets of cyber attacks.

SMBs are prime targets of cyber threats

Numbers don’t lie: 10 pieces of cyberattack statistics you need to know

Cyber risks are real. This has been shown in study after study. The statistics on cybersecurity are not comforting. But knowing them might help you develop security controls to save your business.

Here are shocking figures that should open your eyes to the dire state of cyber security in 2020. Fundera, a subsidiary of NerdWallet, has put them together:

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SMBs are not concerned about Cyber Attacks

What is cybersecurity risk assessment?

A security risk assessment identifies the security risks a business might face. It identifies and analyzes risks to determine the likelihood of attacks. This process helps you create a solid risk management strategy.

It also includes a careful analysis of all potential threats and identifies the vectors for vulnerabilities in the IT system where sensitive data resides.

Risk assessments should be ongoing activities, not one-off affairs. IT experts recommend an assessment every two years. But you can do it more often as risks arise and new threats develop all the time.

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Why you need to conduct cybersecurity risk assessments

Conducting complete risk assessments is expensive and can take time. But the money and time you invest are worth it.

What benefits can your business get from a complete risk management process?

It helps you become prepared for cyber threats

If you’re aware of the cyber threats, you can prepare for them. As they say, it’s always better to be on the side of caution than to be sorry when it’s too late.

In short, a risk assessment highlights your preparedness to combat cyberattacks. It also strengthens your ability to recover from such incidents if they occur.

If you overlook risks and fail to identify threats, you can always go back to the risk assessment process. Review what went wrong, improve your cybersecurity frameworks, and change your preventive measures.

Risk assessments also help you mitigate the impact of the damage immediately. This is so you can take steps to patch the vulnerability and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

4 reasons why SMBs are targets of cyber criminals

It helps you discover hidden threats

You can’t fight an enemy you can’t see. An assessment with a risk-based approach helps you identify hidden risks that usually exist in social media and in public Wi-Fi networks.

It helps you mitigate future risks

Risk assessments help your business mitigate future hacks and breaches. They save time, money, and resources. These assessments also help you prepare for the worse, even if the worse never comes.

Existing risk assessment programs can serve as templates for future assessments. Consider them a recurring maintenance need for your business.

It helps you make more informed decisions

A cyber security risk assessment produces quantifiable data that helps in the decision-making process. Is the cyber security infrastructure resilient? Is your risk management strategy doing well? What are the potential risks your business is facing? What kind of training should you give your employees to help them thwart future threats?

Attack cost vs Assessment cost

4 components of a cyber security risk assessment

Tackling complex risk assessments isn’t easy. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) endorses various assessment templates. They also offer robust guidance and supporting documents for the risk assessment process.

Small businesses can tailor their cyber security risk assessment program according to their needs. These are the common elements of the risk assessment process:

1. Company risk profile

You’ll need to develop the risk profile of your business. Consider your business type, operations, and priorities. A financial company will have different security priorities from a non-profit organization. So will a company with remote work from a company that is office-based.

2. Technology assessment

Technology resources include both hardware and software. They make up the core digital infrastructure of most businesses. But many SMBs can’t bankroll a comprehensive cyber security technology risk assessment. In-house security experts are often lacking. On the other hand, hiring third-party risk assessors are expensive and sometimes risky if not properly vetted.

You can decide on an in-house team or an outsourced partner. In any case, you should sit down with the team and ask the following questions:

Are all devices and software properly configured and regularly updated?

Unfortunately, devices and software are vulnerable to various risks. But many responsible vendors check and track products they roll out. They deploy updates to patch vulnerabilities that bad actors can exploit. Familiar with zero-day attacks? These are attempts to exploit vulnerabilities that the vendor has not identified. New product or new version roll-outs are prone to these attacks.

Are all antivirus and anti-malware programs updated?

Viruses and malware evolve daily. That is why the security team should update the antivirus and anti-malware software. Administrative privileges limit the deployment of updates. Centralizing the updating system is a more effective way of deploying the updates. It ensures that all updates reach all machines as soon as possible.

Is your Intrusion Detection System (IDS) deployed across your network?

An IDS acts as the last line of defense when all the first lines fail.

For example, an attacker may successfully gain an admin password through phishing. His next attempt would be to access a secure server from an unrecognized IP address. If your IDS is working, it should be able to detect this move and thwart the attack.

Are all incoming and outgoing information traffic secured?

Traffic involves all information coming in and out of the system. It includes all communications through emails, websites, and virtual private networks (VPNs). You can secure emails with encryption and spam filters to block malicious attempts. A centralized spam filter helps sift poisoned communication before they reach employee mailboxes.

Do you adopt a layered approach to cybersecurity?

A segmented approach helps prevent total security failure due to a single vulnerability. It lowers the risk level and strengthens cyber resilience. Essential layers to consider are:

3. Governance practices assessment

Governance practices include guidelines, procedures, and policies for risk assessment. Your assessment should include the following:

Access control practices

Limit access only to authorized users who need them in doing their jobs. Ban weak passwords. Restrict password sharing. Prevent access from unsecured networks like public Wi-Fi. Prohibit the use of unauthorized devices to access work.

Supply chain endpoint management

Small businesses do business with outside vendors and third-party partners. They contract them for products and services they need to operate their businesses. They use mobile devices, computers, laptops, tablets, and other devices in the process. These endpoints are potential vulnerability vectors for data breaches.

Your security risk assessment should consider a provision for endpoint security. Use a security integration tool that secures all endpoints run under a unified dashboard. Devices not enrolled in the system cannot be used in any transaction.

Bring your own device (BYOD) assessment

Devices owned by employees are likely targets for malware. Malware may hop to corporate servers and other endpoints through these infected devices. Apply a security integration tool like the supply chain endpoints tool.

4. Assessment of people

The enemy from within is often more dangerous than a hacker from outside. They can cause real risk exposure on purpose or by mistake. Employees have access to systems and know their way around the network. A thorough assessment of your people should include the following:

Implementation of incident reporting

Every employee should report perceived anomalous practices of other employees. These may include unauthorized access, use of unsecured BYOD, and password sharing. They should also watch out for and report abnormal behavior of equipment.

Full-scale end user cyber security training

Some employees think that such training programs are repetitive, boring, or obvious. But cyber threats are always evolving, and you never know when the next attack will happen.

Experience is one of the best teachers. Try to include a phishing vulnerability test in your training. Use an online phishing simulator to send phishing emails to email inboxes anonymously. Observe how your employees respond. The results will help you measure their level of awareness of security threats.

Our final thoughts. A cyber security risk assessment does more than just identify and analyze threats. It helps small businesses counteract threats before compromising their IT security systems. Assessing the potential risks enables you to create a more resilient cybersecurity plan.

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