Why should businesses conduct a Cyber Risk Assessment?



Organizations today face several risks that can harm their business operations and bottom line. One of these risks is the threat of cyber attacks, which have the potential to disrupt business operations, cause financial damage, and damage an organization's reputation. The cost of cyber attacks can be devastating; according to a recent study by the Ponemon Institute, the average cost to an organization for each cyber attack was $8.9 million in 2010 (Mele, 2014). The report further states that the frequency of cyber attacks is increasing yearly, and over 60% of organizations have suffered at least one serious attack.

To protect themselves from these threats, organizations need to understand their cyber risk exposure and implement appropriate controls to mitigate these risks. A cyber risk assessment is one tool that can help organizations identify and assess their cyber risks. The purpose of a formal cyber risk assessment is to develop an overall picture of cyber risks faced by the organization. This is then used to identify the risks' source, scope, and magnitude and create and implement appropriate control measures.


A primary goal of a good cyber risk assessment is to understand how and why cyber attacks occur, what types of threats are most likely to affect the organization and what impact they can have. The Ponemon Institute report states that the good news is that in most organizations, cyber risk assessment has become a relatively routine part of their risk management process. This is also highlighted by the fact that 80% of executives surveyed by the Ponemon Institute said they expected to conduct a formal cyber risk assessment in 2012 (Posey et al., 2014).


2.0 What is a Cyber Risk Assessment?


A cyber risk assessment is identifying, assessing, and managing the risks posed by cyber threats to an organization. It involves identifying an organization's assets and vulnerabilities and assessing the likelihood and impact of potential cyber-attacks (Kure et al., 2018). It also involves developing and implementing control actions for ongoing protection and to reduce the likelihood of future cyber attacks.


2.1 Why should I conduct a Cyber Risk Assessment?

Cyber Risk Assessment allows you to determine how vulnerable your organization is to the risk posed by cyber-attacks. Also, it helps you find weaknesses in your IT infrastructure and systems that hackers might exploit to disrupt or damage your organization (Shinde & Ardhapurkar, 2016). A strong, thorough cyber risk assessment is a prerequisite to any enterprise-wide computer security policy/planning process if your goal is to prevent and recover from a major cyber event.


2.2 How is a Cyber Risk Assessment different from a vulnerability scan or penetration test?

A vulnerability scan is a quick and rough assessment of the security status of a network or system. It usually involves identifying weaknesses, such as a lack of patch support or outdated services. If you have performed a vulnerability scan, you can 'see' the vulnerabilities identified by the scanner without doing anything about them (Upadhyay & Sampalli, 2020). A penetration test is similar to a vulnerability scan but is more specific in its focus and can effectively resolve identified problems.



2.3 What does a Cyber Risk Assessment involve?

Conducting a cyber risk assessment involves performing an initial self-assessment (a preliminary self-administered questionnaire) and a comprehensive external assessment of your information technology infrastructure and systems.

The first part of the cyber risk assessment process is an initial questionnaire which, once answered, will provide you with a starting point for the questions to be asked in the external review (Hubbard, 2020). It will assist you in defining your organization's current posture, specifically, the IT infrastructure and network operating environment that supports your organization's day-to-day business objectives. Your responses to these questions will help us identify what potential vulnerabilities might exist within your environment and how they can be mitigated or addressed. Also, the questionnaire will help us to gain a common understanding of your computer network and systems, business processes, and functions prior to any onsite assessment.

The second part of the cyber risk assessment process is an external cyber system review. This review gives our team an objective view of your organization's IT infrastructure and network operating environment supporting your day-to-day business objectives (Refsdal et al., 2015). During this comprehensive onsite review, every aspect of your technical infrastructure will be scrutinized to help identify and understand any potential vulnerabilities within your environment. The findings from this inspection will be presented in a detailed report highlighting critical findings and recommendations for each area inspected.


2.4 Is a Cyber Risk Assessment easy to do?

Cyber Risk Assessment is not unlike any other IT project or initiative. However, it is essential to note that assessing your own does not involve any magic wand. Your questionnaire will allow us to start, but everything we discover during our onsite inspection will require your input and guidance to complete this vital process.


2.5 IT internal audit

IT internal audit is the process of assessing an organization's information technology (IT) controls. The purpose of an IT internal audit is to provide assurance that an organization's IT controls are adequate and effective. This type of audit is typically performed by an organization's internal audit department or by an external auditing firm.


2.6 3rd party & 4th party risk management

3rd party & 4th party risk management is the process of assessing and managing the risks posed by vendors and other external service providers. This type of risk management is essential for organizations that outsource critical business functions. The goal of 3rd party & 4th party risk management is to protect an organization from the potential risks posed by these external service providers. This includes risks such as data breaches, fraud, and other malicious activity.


2.7 Cyber Risk Scoring

In order to properly assess an organization's cyber risk exposure, it is important to use a cyber risk scoring system. Cyber risk scoring systems are designed to help organizations identify, quantify, and prioritize their cyber risks. There are a number of different cyber risk scoring systems available, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

The Cyber Risk Scoring System (CRSS) is a cyber risk scoring system developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) (Kandasamy et al., 2020). The CRSS is designed to help organizations identify, quantify, and prioritize their cyber risks.


3.0 What are the benefits of conducting a Cyber Risk Assessment?

A cyber risk assessment provides organizations with a way to evaluate their cyber risks and vulnerabilities and is, therefore, an essential step in ensuring organizations have effective oversight of their cyber risks (Refsdal et al., 2015). It allows organizations to ensure that all aspects of their information systems, including personnel, physical assets, and infrastructure, are appropriately protected.


4.0 Who conducts Cyber Risk Assessments?

Many different organizations and companies perform the task of conducting a Cyber Risk Assessment. They can range from large managed service providers to small local colleges or even an independent consultant. Before choosing an organization to do your Cyber Risk Assessment, it is essential to understand that not all Cyber Risk Assessments are created equal. There are differences in methods, results, and analysis of data gathered for an organization to assess its cyber risks and vulnerabilities properly. Therefore, when selecting an organization to conduct a cyber risk assessment, it is essential to consider the following criteria:


5.0 Conclusion

A cyber risk assessment is a valuable tool that can help organizations to understand and manage their cyber risks. It involves identifying an organization's assets and vulnerabilities and assessing the likelihood and impact of potential cyber-attacks. Organizations can develop and implement controls to mitigate these risks by conducting a cyber risk assessment. Many organizations perform the task of conducting a cyber risk assessment, but not all are created equal. This is why it is essential to select an organization that will perform a thorough assessment and present the information clearly, concisely, and comprehensively.



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