Cybersecurity Risk Management – How and Where to Focus

 It goes without saying that the best way to defend against a cyberattack is to prevent it from happening in the first place.

But, to minimise the risk of incidents occurring and failing compliance checks, teams need to be trained with system defence in mind. One of the major challenges with this approach, however, is that it costs both time and money, and with a growing tech skills gap, is a process a lot of companies cannot properly resource.

In practical terms, the process of handling cybersecurity hazards – including discovering, assessing, evaluating, and addressing them – is known as cybersecurity risk management. It has become essential for running any modern digital business, but doing it properly can often be challenging. In particular, it can prove difficult to stay on top of new security concerns, and by extension, it can be particularly hard to keep everyone in an organisation informed and prepared to address the risks they face.

This is why cybersecurity risk management plans have become such an important foundation for building effective defence strategies. In basic terms, these plans are the documentation that help organisations to focus on and respond to their specific cybersecurity risks. Putting this kind of best practice work in place helps ensure that those risks presenting the greatest potential impact are addressed first, while also creating consistency in the organisational approach to handling risks.

Focusing on risk – the key steps

But where to start? Clearly, every business takes risks, but in the cybersecurity context, it’s important to focus on a few key areas:

First, organisations should take time to identify any of their assets that are potentially at risk from a cybersecurity breach. This will include everything from customer data and intellectual property to financial records and ultimately, anything else that would prevent or impact the ability of the organisation to function should it be stolen or lost.

This includes understanding the level of sensitivity attached to each data set the organisation owns or uses. While Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is regularly targeted by cybercriminals because of its intrinsic value, other areas such as the technology operating systems used by the organisation are also exploited by bad actors to mount attacks.

Similarly, the technology infrastructure currently used will go a long way to determining how vulnerable the organisation is to attacks. This is particularly important where outdated or legacy systems remain in use, even if these are just within minor areas of the overall environment.

Next, organisations can use this insight to identify and prioritise their key areas of risk. This involves focusing on the vulnerabilities and threats associated with each part of the technology stack. From there, it becomes much more practical to assess the likelihood of whether a risk will be exploited and what the potential impact could be in each case. This offers a really effective basis for designing more robust security processes.

The third stage in developing a risk management strategy is to focus on preventative measures. At a basic level, this might include implementing processes such as two-factor authentication, which should form part of a wider approach that also considers how to most effectively respond to a breach. These procedures and technologies are an essential part of delivering effective incident identification, reporting and recovery.

This should form the basis of an ongoing, continually improving process that will ensure revisions and updates are made on a regular basis. For instance, organisations should carefully monitor issues such as whether employees are using the correct security rules and also consider if any new technologies or business practices have introduced new areas of risk. In addition, well maintained risk plans should be updated in line with new threats and vulnerabilities emerging across the security ecosystem in general.

For those organisations where a lack of effective resources is raising their levels of risk, automated risk management technologies are helping them to effectively bridge the gap to keep their systems and data safe. Key components of these solutions should include:

A risk register: This should include the ability to recognise evolving patterns using a comprehensive library of pre-mapped threat-based risks based from established sources, including NIST SP 800-30, ISO 27005, and HIPAA guidelines, among others.

Continuous monitoring: This is essential if automation tools are to proactively monitor and notify users regarding the effectiveness of their controls to mitigate new or evolving risks.

Integrated risk and compliance: This capability should link the threat-based risk library to the requirements of multiple security and privacy standards and regulations.

Collectively, this rounded approach to cybersecurity risk management can significantly enhance an organisation’s ability to prevent and defeat a wide range of existing and emerging threats and vulnerabilities. In the current context, where the cost of cybercrime is continuing to rapidly increase, it represents a vital set of priorities for businesses committed to effective prevention, detection and mitigation.

About the Author

Alev Viggio is Director of Compliance at Drata. Replace manual GRC efforts, reduce costs, and save time preparing for audits and maintaining compliance. Drata is the world’s most advanced security and compliance automation platform with the mission to help companies earn and keep the trust of their users, customers, partners, and prospects. We help thousands of companies streamline compliance for SOC 2, ISO 27001, HIPAA, GDPR, your own custom frameworks, and many more through continuous, automated control monitoring and evidence collection.

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