What Is a Risk Assessment and Why Is It Necessary?

by | Feb 11, 2022

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What Is A Risk Assessment?

A Risk Assessment is a comprehensive and exhaustive examination of an organization’s current security controls and information systems. A senior risk assessor works to identify any existing threats or areas of concern, and then provides guidance on how to mitigate the risks identified in the assessment. Risk Assessments are a key part of the Cybersecurity Risk Management Lifecycle.



What Is In A Cybersecurity Risk Assessment?

Risk Assessments analyze all of your organization’s systems, networks, hardware, physical security, and organizational policies to identify potential risks. Once the risks are identified, the assessor then analyzes the risks and evaluates them based on severity. Finally, the assessment concludes with risk treatment options. These treatment options must be acted upon by the organization to improve their cybersecurity maturity. Risk assessments that are not acted upon indicate a critical security flaw in any cybersecurity policy, and left unattended, will leave confidential organizational data exposed to potential cyber-criminal activity.  Instead, enact a revolving policy that includes a cycle of quarterly (if not monthly) risk assessments and practical risk treatment strategies.

Why Does My Organization Need to Perform Risk Assessments?


Continuously Changing Attack Surface

With new vulnerabilities being discovered every day it is absolutely critical to continue to evaluate your risk levels and act upon them. Your cybersecurity expert should be aware of all the changes in the attack landscape. If a zero-day vulnerability is located on your systems, you need to be aware of it and employ mitigation strategies immediately. For example, Log4J was a vulnerability in Java that lay undiscovered for 10+ years until late 2021, leaving millions of devices vulnerable to cybercriminal attacks. A patch was introduced to correct the issue, but if an organization was not acting upon cybersecurity risk assessments, they remained unaware of the issue. At least 44% of corporate networks were targeted by cyber criminals by December alone. (checkpoint) Ensure you are employing the Risk Management Lifecycle to give yourself the best protection against cyber events.


Cyber Insurance Policies

Many cyber insurance policies are now requiring risk assessments to purchase and maintain cyber insurance policies. With the rise in ransomware attacks and data breaches, insurance companies are taking a big risk by accepting an organization that does not meet assessment standards. This is expected to increase in popularity, and may soon become a requirement to even apply for cyber insurance.


Regulatory Bodies and Legislation

ISO 27001 6.12: Organizations must establish and maintain an effective Information Security Management System

NIST SP 800-30 Guide for Conducting Risk Assessments: Provides organizations with guidance for conducting risk assessments through three tiers of the risk management hierarchy.

HIPPA Security Rule: The Security Rule protects electronic Personal Health Information (PHI) and gives guidance on how to store, create, receive, and use PHI.

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