What is Cybersecurity Risk Analysis?

Published February 6, 2020 • 3 min read

A cybersecurity risk analysis is one step in the overall risk management and cybersecurity risk assessment process. It entails examining each risk to the security of your organization’s information systems, devices, and data, and prioritizing the potential threats. Then you can know where to allocate your resources to prevent cyberattacks and, should a data breach occur, which systems to prioritize so your ability to do business can continue with little or no disruption.

Several regulatory and industry frameworks specify the need for strong security controls and outline the necessary steps for implementing them. Among them is the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Special Publication 800-30, Rev. 1, Guide for Conducting Risk Assessments, and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard ISO/IEC 27001:2013, Information security management. Another ISO document, ISO 27005, provides guidelines for information security risk assessments and helps with the design of risk-based information security management systems. 

 Steps in the cybersecurity risk assessment process, including cyber risk analysis, include: 

  1.     Create a risk management team. This cross-functional group should comprise
  •     Senior management
  •     Your chief information security officer (CISO)
  •     Privacy officer
  •     Marketing person
  •     Product management
  •     Human resources representative
  •     Manager for each business line
  1.     Identify and map your systems and assets. Document every device on the network, including computers, tablets, routers, printers, servers, and phones, as well as how they are used and how they interconnect. Catalog the software-as-a-service, platform-as-a-service, and infrastructure-as-a-service used by every department. List data types as well as departments and vendors with access to your systems. Note how information travels through the network and what components it touches along its journey. 
  2.     Identify vulnerabilities and potential threats. Does your business use digitally connected “internet of things” (IoT) devices? How susceptible are employees to “phishing” emails that, if activated, could allow malware on your system?

Potential threats include:

  • Unauthorized access to your network
  • Misuse of information or data leaks
  • Process failures
  • Data loss 
  • Disruption of services
  1.     Assess your risks. Using your information asset catalog, examine which are at greatest risk of unauthorized access. Scrutinize every type of information and every vendor, system, network, software, and device to determine the risk it poses. 
  2.      Perform a risk analysis. Consider the effects of a breach or attack on your business’s reputation, finances, continuity, and operations. Rate each risk identified in step 4 as low, medium, or high, depending on the level of damage it could pose to your business.

A risk analysis, performed with the aid of a risk register, considers two main factors:

  • Probability: The likelihood of an attack
  • Impact: The financial, operational, and reputational damage that a breach could cause to your entity.

As you analyze risks, determine your tolerance level for each. How will you deal with the risk? Some options include accepting, avoiding, transferring, and mitigating. 

  1.     Set cybersecurity controls. These can block or mitigate attacks, and help your data protection efforts, compliance with regulations and requirements, and threat response.
  1.     Monitor and review. Annual audits of your cybersecurity program’s effectiveness are a must, at a minimum. But yearly reviews aren’t enough on their own, not in today’s business environment. To be always in the know and ready to respond, you need to continuously monitor your networks, systems, and devices for suspicious activity and for your own compliance in an ever-evolving regulatory environment.

ZenGRC simplifies the cybersecurity risk management process. It enables you to:

  • Prioritize risk assessment, risk analysis, and risk mitigation tasks.
  • Assign tasks, and track progress.
  • Conduct unlimited internal audits.
  • Collect and store documentation in our “Single Source of Truth” repository.
  • Know at a glance where you’re compliant and secure, and where you’re not, via color-coded dashboards.

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