The digital revolution has provided businesses with access to powerful tools, applications, and other technological resources that have forever changed the global economy. However, the digital age has also given way to a new class of criminals whose sole mission is to infiltrate your network so that they can leverage your data for malicious purposes.
While cybercrime has been a major concern for businesses since the first age of the internet, these bad actors are deploying increasingly sophisticated techniques to get their hands on your confidential information.
If you hope to stay a step ahead of these creative criminal masterminds, then cybersecurity must be one of your organization’s top priorities.
With that in mind, we have created this detailed guide to IT risk assessments. These assessments offer a proven strategy that can help you mitigate risks while simultaneously increasing the efficacy of your cybersecurity program.
What Is an IT Risk Assessment?
An IT risk assessment is a comprehensive review of your company’s entire data security strategy. These assessments are designed to identify any concerns that may pose a risk to your data, systems, and digital infrastructure.
While risk assessments can be performed in-house, they are more effective when conducted by a third-party entity. An independent firm can take an unbiased look at your security policy in order to locate any deficiencies or vulnerabilities.
Not only will these organizations identify potential weak spots, but they will also provide recommendations for remedying these issues.
Generally, we recommend performing an IT risk assessment at least once per year. If your organization has a vast network of technological resources that are accessed by personnel spread across the nation, then more frequent assessments may be necessary.
In addition, you should conduct an IT risk assessment any time your organization undergoes a significant structural change. A few examples of major changes that should prompt you to perform an assessment include migrating to a new platform, merging with another company, or transitioning your staff to remote work status.
IT risk assessments are not just integral to the success of your data security program, but they may also be required. Some regulatory entities mandate annual or bi-annual IT risk assessments as part of their compliance initiatives.
What Are the 3 Types of IT Risks?
There is a common misconception that IT risk assessments are focused entirely on preventing acts of cybercrime. While this is certainly a core purpose of IT risk assessments, they are actually designed to address three different concerns that may threaten business continuity. The three main types of IT risks are as follows:
Cyber threats pose the most significant risk to your organization. Each year, hackers unlawfully obtain millions of consumer records, successfully perpetrate hundreds of ransomware attacks, and cripple their victims’ ability to conduct business.
Even a single successful cyber-attack can cost your company tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue and cause irreparable damage to your brand image. IT risk assessments allow you to proactively guard against these critical incidents.
During an assessment, your auditing team will identify ways that you can enhance operational security and better protect your data. The audit team will help you implement more robust employee education protocols as well, which is a vital component of cybersecurity.
Data Loss/Physical Security
During a cybersecurity audit, your assessment team will not only address digital vulnerabilities but will also identify on-site security concerns. For instance, if you still store your backup data using on-site servers, then they will likely recommend that you transition to a cloud-based solution.
In addition, your IT risk assessors will review your physical security and document control policies. Your policies should prohibit employees from leaving their desktops unlocked while they are unattended. The policies should also compel staff to secure any physical documents prior to leaving their assigned workspace.
An IT risk assessment will help you fill gaps in your data management policy in order to reduce the chances of a data breach.
The third type of risk that your organization may face is non-compliance. Over the last few years, both state and federal governments have attempted to crack down on cybercrime while also placing added responsibilities on businesses. Some of the most closely regulated sectors include healthcare, finance, and energy.
When your business regularly handles confidential consumer data, you must do your due diligence when it comes to cybersecurity. Otherwise, you may be exposed to substantial civil liability.
Benefits of IT Risk Assessments
If you are operating a small- to medium-sized business with limited digital assets, then conducting a comprehensive IT risk assessment may seem like an unnecessary step. However, the opposite is actually true.
Whereas a massive enterprise will more than likely survive a large-scale cyber attack, SMBs frequently do not. According to some reports, a single cyberattack can cost SMBs approximately $200,000. To make matters worse, more than half of these businesses went under within six months of the attack.
IT risk assessments can help protect your business from suffering a similar fate. These assessments offer several other significant benefits as well. By conducting regular IT risk assessments, you can:
Understand Your Vulnerabilities
A professional audit will help you understand your vulnerabilities. Your assessment partner will provide you with a detailed report on the results of your audit.
This report will not only include an item-by-item breakdown of their findings, but it will also prioritize these concerns so that you know where to begin when it’s time to start implementing changes.
When addressing each threat, the report will identify whether it is external or internal. The auditor will also outline what turned this asset into a risk (e.g., no permissions restrictions).
You can leverage this information to systematically resolve each vulnerability, starting with the highest probability risks first.
One of the most notable benefits of IT risk assessments is that they give you the opportunity to proactively remedy weaknesses in your digital infrastructure.
Your assessment firm will collaborate with your in-house personnel to evaluate your assets. They may also employ the services of an ethical hacker, which is a professional who will attempt to penetrate your security measures in order to ensure that they are effective.
These real-world tests will provide valuable insights into the efficacy of your cybersecurity program. You can use this data with the information gathered from your risk profile to locate weaknesses in your cybersecurity protocols. Your team can then work with your MSP to resolve each of these vulnerabilities.
Inventory Your Assets
When conducting your assessment, your auditor will use an IT security assessment template. This checklist allows them to gain a complete view of all of your information technology assets.
Before you can effectively mitigate risks, you must first know what resources you have at your disposal. Having an out-of-date inventory can create security blind spots that hackers can exploit.
After the inventory is complete, you can determine which assets are most important to business continuity. Protecting these assets and software should be a tier-one priority when refining your cybersecurity protocols.
Another huge advantage to conducting regular IT risk assessments is that these reviews help you reduce the costs of maintaining your digital assets. You can pinpoint unnecessary spending and determine which assets are being underutilized.
A comprehensive cybersecurity audit will be a valuable tool when it comes time to implement new data protection technologies. You can focus the majority of your resources on protecting vital assets while avoiding wasting funds on less essential issues.
The chances are that consumer data plays some role in your overall digital marketing strategy. If so, then you must ensure that you are in compliance with the data security and privacy requirements of various pieces of legislation.
One particularly restrictive privacy law that was recently enacted is the California Consumer Privacy Act. Like similar regulatory bills, the CCPA requires companies that handle consumer data to regularly conduct risk assessments.
Failing to comply with these regulations can result in noncompliance. Depending on the industry that you operate within, you may be subject to fines or be exposed to civil litigation. State and federal governing bodies may also take additional actions against your company, which could hinder normal business operations.
Conducting regular IT risk assessments can help you avoid these issues that may endanger business continuity.
How to Conduct an IT Security Risk Assessment
A thorough IT risk assessment can identify gaps in your security protocols and help you guard against cyberattacks. While you can perform a risk assessment on your own, the more pragmatic approach is to partner with an experienced IT firm that specializes in consulting and auditing. That’s where we come in.
At SugarShot, we offer comprehensive cybersecurity services, including audits, risk assessments, and much more. Not only can we locate and resolve vulnerabilities in your digital infrastructure, but we can also provide a full suite of managed services. If you would like a sweeter IT experience, contact SugarShot today.