5 steps to performing an effective cybersecurity risk assessment

From the smallest of small businesses to the largest of multinational corporations, no organisation is impervious to cyber attacks. But what separates resilient businesses from cybercrime victims? Well, it often comes down to their approach to cyber security risk analysis, their level of investment in risk management, and their awareness of the risks that cybercrime poses.

Resilience is achieved by carefully considering all of the potential risks and the application of necessary control measures to reduce those risks.

Cyber attacks can impact any organisation at any time, and they often happen with very little warning. Comprehensive risk management strategies are typically the difference maker between resilient businesses and cybercrime victims.

The careful calculation of all possible risks and the implementation of the control measures to reduce those risks can be the key to resilience and reducing the cyber risk to your business.

What is risk analysis in cyber security?

A cyber security risk assessment and analysis can help your business to identify, manage and protect its sensitive data, information, and assets that may be targeted by cyber attacks. The following analysis can help your business to identify and manage your systems and resources, assess the cyber risk, and develop a plan to implement security controls that will reduce your cyber risk.

Although you may not be aware of your risk level or the likelihood of your company being targeted by cyber criminals, cyber crime is a serious threat that can affect businesses of all sizes on any given day. So, let’s look at how to perform a cyber risk assessment and the five steps involved in creating a cyber security risk assessment for your small business, and how doing so can help reduce the cyber security risks to your business.

1. Make a list of all of your systems and resources

Once you understand what is risk assessment in cyber security, you can create strategies to limit your exposure to cyber risk through cyber security analysis.

When it comes to considering how to assess cyber security risk in your business, the first step in a cyber security risk assessment is to catalogue all of the network assets in your businesses. Every device on the network, including phones, tablets, routers and printers, as well as computers, should be documented.

Document the use of resources and their connections. Make a list of data types and departments that have access to these systems. Also, make a list of vendors who touch your network resources. Take note of how data and information travels through your network, and which components they touch.

You may also note network resources that you don’t think are important in your inventory if you aren’t certain. Sometimes even the most basic devices can become the source of security infrastructure leakage. Cyber intrusion can occur from any hardware connected to your information network.

Don’t forget to catalogue any network resources located away from your physical location. Do you also store data and information in the cloud? Are you using customer relationship management (CRM) software? These business software should also be included in your cyber risk assessment.

2. Identify any potential threats and weaknesses

Next identify the areas where your company and information are most at risk.

Attacks on smartphones and other portable devices connected to larger networks is growing. This makes this an area of potential weakness for most businesses.

Email can be another cyber problem area for businesses. Understanding how and where cyber attacks can enter your system and processes will help you to recognise a problem before it becomes a major cyber security problem.

The potential threats here may include:

  • unauthorised access to your network;
  • data leakage or misuse;
  • failures;
  • data loss; and
  • service interruption.

3. Assess the risk impact

After you have created a list of resources and systems and are able to identify vulnerabilities and threats, it is time to consider the actual risk to your business. How would a cyberattack affect your business if one were to happen? What information is most at risk?

When assessing the risk impact of cyber crime you may consider running a cyber threat assessment on your business, as well as an information security risk assessment. List all of the potential risks and then rate them on a scale from low to medium to high. The risks to your business are usually determined by a ratio between the potential damage that a cyber attack could cause if data or information was compromised, and how likely it would be that a system could be compromised.

Servers that have public information, but no private data, and are connected to an internal network may be considered low-risk.

Items with medium risk items could be related to offline storage at a particular physical location. Customers’ personal information and payment details stored in the cloud are considered high-risk items.

To assess your risk impact, first consider your risk levels and then perform an analysis. This will determine the likelihood of a particular risk scenario occurring and what financial consequences it might have for your business should it happen. This analysis will help you prioritise which parts of your network and corporate infrastructure should be protected first.

Some parts of your IT infrastructure may be so low-risk that you don’t need to do much with them. However, you may benefit from having security measures in place for higher-risk items.

4. Set up and develop cyber security controls

There are many ways to prevent potential cyber attacks from happening. You can help your business reduce its cyber risk by implementing strong security protocols and creating a plan to manage your data and information. Security protocols and controls can reduce the risks to your business, increase compliance, and even have an impact on business performance.

Cyber security controls you may consider for your business include:

  • Configuring and setting up a firewall.
  • Segregating networks.
  • Create and use a password policy that applies to all employees and devices.
  • Use at-rest or in-transit encryption.
  • Installing anti-malware and anti-ransomware tools.
  • Multi-factor authentication to authenticate users who access your business systems.
  • Using vendor risk management software.

5. Assess the effectiveness of your efforts and then repeat

An ideal risk analysis requires the ability to measure results and the opportunity to continuously improve. This is an important step that is often overlooked. Networks change and evolve constantly with new technologies and devices hitting the market.

Use software and tools to detect changes or threats to your cyber security protocols. A framework that provides guidance for ongoing and evolving risk reduction can be a great way to assess the effectiveness of your cyber security strategy.

To keep cyber security top of mind, you may consider conducting an annual cyber security risk assessment to make sure that your business isn’t vulnerable to new forms of cyber attacks. But to do so you first need to know how to calculate risk in cyber security, and this is where BizCover’s business insurance* experts can help you with your cyber insurance.

How BizCover helps entrepreneurs go the distance

Whether you are a first-time business owner, a serial entrepreneur, or a small business veteran who has owned and sold several businesses over the years, you will likely be aware that a key part of business ownership is reducing the risk to your business.

At BizCover we make comparing Cyber Liability insurance quotes easy by making it fast and paperwork-free. Compare competitive Cyber Liability insurance quotes online from Australia’s leading insurers, buy insurance for your business online in minutes, and save on cyber insurance today. Give us a bell on 1300 920 875 to discuss your about your cyber insurance options.

*This information is general only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. It should not be relied upon as advice. As with any insurance, cover will be subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in the policy wording. © 2023 BizCover Pty Limited, all rights reserved. ABN 68 127 707 975; AFSL 501769.

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