5 Steps to conducting an IT risk assessment

5 Steps to conducting an IT risk assessment

Business leaders across all industries are fighting a constant battle to keep up with new and evolving cyber threats. Keeping your digital assets safe is all about managing, controlling, and mitigating the risks facing your organization, which is why the first step in any cybersecurity strategy is to conduct a thorough risk assessment.

To simplify matters and ensure your business is in line with government-mandated regulations, many companies conduct risk assessments per internationally recognized standards like ISO 27001. While no two risk assessments ever look the same, there are some critical steps that apply across the board.

Identify assets

Before you can pinpoint the risks facing your business and classify your data accordingly, you need to have a written overview of what sort of data your business handles. This includes everything, regardless of how sensitive the data might be.

For example, a healthcare provider handles patient health information, and most organizations hold payment information. Other data types include personally identifiable information like social security numbers. Marketing teams also collect a great deal of data ranging from browsing habits to lengthy lists of prospects’ emails. You need to know what sort of data is in your care before prioritizing what needs to be protected.

Locate assets

Today’s corporate IT infrastructures store data across a complicated and problematic number of mobile devices, in-house computers, and cloud-hosted resources. Cybersecurity is no longer just a matter of locking down your in-house network; in most businesses, there’s a much wider variety of digital assets to care for.

Furthermore, many corporate IT assets, such as social media and instant messaging, lie beyond traditional perimeter security. The next step in conducting your risk assessment is to determine where these assets physically reside or on what sort of devices they reside on.

Classify assets

For companies with large and complex computing infrastructures, it’s unreasonable to expect to implement a solid cybersecurity strategy overnight. Different systems work with different security protocols, with some being inherently less secure than others, which usually takes weeks to rectify.

You need to classify your digital assets in terms of information sensitivity so you can prioritize more effectively. An easy way to do this is to assign a rating to each type of informational asset. For example, a 1–5 scale might place regulated data (such as patient health information) in the first category, while publicly available information would be fifth-category (i.e., least sensitive).

Determine threats

Different businesses and systems face different threats. For example, healthcare companies are a favorite target for hackers who want to hold sensitive data for ransom. From a technology perspective, old and unsupported systems are likely to be much more vulnerable to malicious software attacks.

One of the best ways to quantify the threats facing your business is to conduct a threat-modeling exercise. To do this, create a report for each type of digital asset, and define the various threat categories. A popular option is S.T.R.I.D.E, developed by Microsoft. Finally, determine the probability of each threat type occurring to each data category.

Start planning

Once you’ve curated and classified your digital assets and determined their vulnerabilities, the next step is to finalize the plan and start addressing the risks in order of priority. A responsible plan should focus on tackling the greatest risks first, such as highly sensitive information stored on vulnerable devices.

It’s important to identify and address the biggest threats first and, above all, ensure that any government-regulated data is secured per the standards that the industry demands. Eventually, you should be able to minimize all the risks facing every digital asset in your company’s care.

Founders Technology Group provides vulnerability and risk assessments and cybersecurity solutions that Connecticut businesses can depend on. Contact us today to book your consultation.