How Should Businesses Handle Cyber Security Risk Assessment?

cyber security risk management
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zenzen

You don’t have to spend much time evaluating the cyber security landscape to understand that your business, whether small or large, faces a tremendous amount of risk in this environment. But do you know just how much risk?

Attention Small Business Owners

Cyber criminals have targeted larger businesses for years, which has led many small business owners to believe they’re somehow immune. However, this simply isn’t the case. If anything, small businesses face a greater risk, since hackers know that many lack the security infrastructure to ward off attacks.

According to data curated by Small Business Trends, 43 percent of cyber attacks now target small business. Despite this, just 14 percent of small businesses rate their ability to mitigate cyber risks, vulnerabilities, and attacks as “highly effective.”

The scariest thing is 60 percent of small businesses are forced to shut down operations within six months of a cyber attack.

In other words, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Fortune 500 corporation, or a family owned business in rural America, cyber threats exist and you must have a plan for defending your organization against costly attacks.

Here are some tips to help you assess your company’s overall level of risk:

1. Identify Threats

When assessing risk, the very first step is to identify threats. Every organization faces its own set of unique threats, but some of the most common ones include:

  • Malware and ransomware attacks
  • Unauthorized access
  • Misuse of information by authorized user
  • Unintentional human error
  • Loss of data as a result of poor backup processes
  • Data leakage
  • Etc.

Coming face to face with the threats you face will allow your organization to identify points of vulnerability and create contingency plans.

2. Leverage Assessment Tools

You don’t have to brainstorm everything on your own. Depending on the solutions and systems you’re currently using, there are a number of assessment tools and tests on the market that allow businesses to understand what’s happening.

The Microsoft Security Assessment and Planning Toolkit is one example. Inside you’ll find “Solution Accelerators,” which are essentially scenario-based guides that help IT professionals contextualize risks and threats as they pertain to their present infrastructure.

Leveraging assessment tools can help businesses find clarity in the midst of considerable chaos and fragmentation.

3. Determine Risk Level

Understanding the threats you face is one thing, but certain threats are more likely than others. In order to paint an accurate picture of threats, it’s important to assign a risk level.

Low-impact risks have a minimal or non-existent impact on the future of your business. Medium-impact risks are damaging, but can be recovered from with the right steps. High-impact risks are substantial and could have a permanent impact on the organizations.

4. Hire an Outside Firm

Sometimes it can be helpful to bring in an outside security firm to conduct risk assessments and determine if you’ve already been compromised or breached.

“Independent penetration testing also is a valuable way to test your organization’s resilience and readiness,” Steven Chabinsky writes for Security Magazine. “It’s one thing to have locks on your doors; it’s quite another to test whether somebody can get past them.”

While it can be expensive to work with an outside firm and order independent penetration testing, it’s far cheaper than actually being attacked by your adversaries.

Always Know Where You Stand

Cyber security isn’t something you can push to the back burner and ignore. You always need to know where you stand so you can properly protect your business, employees, and customers. Both formal and informal risk assessments will help you keep a pulse on risk and exposure.

Larry is an independent business consultant specializing in tech, social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.