Cyber risk management is the process of identifying, analysing, prioritizing, and mitigating the risks to an organization.
The goal of cyber security risk management is to reduce the likelihood of risk and the impact of these risks if they were to materialize. This is critical to protecting an organization’s data, personnel, finances, and reputation.
As it’s impossible to address every risk in an organization’s digital ecosystem, risk management for cyber security helps organizations prioritize risk and focus on what’s most important.
For example, a cyber security risk management plan can help businesses answer questions like “do I need to patch this system?”, and if so, “how quickly should I patch this system?”.
As well as helping to prioritize, an effective cyber security risk management strategy can help teams continuously evaluate the success of their efforts and ensure they remain aligned with their organization’s goals.
A Cyber Security Risk Assessment underpins the processes involved to successfully execute Cyber Security Risk Management. The following steps outline this process, from identifying assets to continuous improvement.
1. Identify and prioritize assets
The first step in a cyber security risk assessment is to identify and prioritize your organization’s assets. This could include devices, software, servers, and many more. How you determine which assets are most important is specific to your organization. In general terms, an important asset could be defined as any asset that serves mission-critical processes, contains sensitive data, or is internet-facing, as these represent a vulnerable area of your organization’s attack surface.
2. Identify the threats to your organization
The next step is to consider the threats to your most important assets. These could be external threats, such as the deployment of malware by a cyber attacker, or internal threats, such as an employee accidentally leaking sensitive data. Once you have identified the threats to your assets, each asset can be assigned a threat level depending on how susceptible it is to these threats. These threat levels can guide your next steps.
3. Analyse the impact of these threats
Now it’s time to consider the impact of these threats, prioritizing the threats that would have the most severe consequences. If you have an effective vulnerability management solution, then a software vulnerability may not pose as much of a threat as, say, a phishing email, if your employees have not received quality training. By contextualizing the severity of threats inline with your organization’s cyber security strategy, you can pinpoint exactly where resources should be allocated to mitigate risk.
4. Implement controls to mitigate risk
The next step is to put controls in place to address the threats prioritized in step 3. ‘Controls’ refers to a broad range of processes and technologies that safeguard an organization and reduce risk.
Some of these controls might be:
The Centre For Internet Security (CIS) provides a comprehensive list of critical security controls.
5. Implement and measure your Cyber Security Risk Management process
Once you have defined which threats to prioritize, based on your critical assets, and therefore which controls to implement, you can ensure these controls are rolled out effectively to reduce organizational risk. Your Cyber Security Risk Management strategy should be a continuous process, as your threat landscape is ever-evolving. It is also important to evaluate the success of your strategy and make improvements on an ongoing basis, such as ensuring controls are matched to your latest threats to check coverage and identify any gaps.