One of the best ways to ensure that your organization’s security measures are working properly and effectively is to conduct a Security Risk Assessment. It’s important to make sure that you are aware of any vulnerability that your security measures might be missing. As well as any risks that your organization might be taking in regards to their information technology infrastructure. Although you should be aware of the basics, there are a few simple steps that can make conducting your own Security Risk Assessment easier and more effective in the long run. Take a look at these four steps below, and see if this method can work well for you!
What Is a Security Risk Assessment?
A security risk assessment is an integral step in planning for any organization or business. At its most basic level, it’s an evaluation of what assets need to be protected and by what means. The primary benefit is determining where you’re at in relation to your present situation as well as where you want to be when it comes to security. To do so, there are four major steps that you should take when considering how best to carry out a successful security risk assessment:
1. Identify the scope of the project.
2. Collect and document data.
3. Evaluate the findings using predetermined criteria to identify risks and make recommendations on ways to mitigate them.
4. Document the process with a final report detailing all findings, strategies recommended, as well as how they were implemented (or not).
Why Are Security Risk Assessments Important?
No security plan is perfect and threats can come from anywhere. With your own assessments, you’ll be able to learn where your weaknesses are and what measures you can take to address them. The better prepared you are, the less likely that an attacker will even succeed. A risk assessment is basically a self-audit of sorts that helps you determine which areas need improvement and suggests ways to get there. You’ll have tangible results to show when presenting your security plan (and vulnerabilities identified ahead of time). Assessments also allow staff members in all levels of an organization. From executives to front-line workers—to speak up about risks they see so everyone is on equal footing.
IT Security Assessment
The first step in conducting an IT security risk assessment is to create an inventory or list of assets that are at risk. You can use one form to record data on servers, another for network devices, and yet another for firewalls. Include all your software applications, client computers, and databases on these lists. It’s also helpful to add license information about software being used so you know what you need to renew when its time comes.
Once you have created your master list of assets it’s time to sort through it and assign risk levels based on specific characteristics such as compliance requirements or criticality (mission-critical systems). The highest-risk items should be identified first; make sure they are prioritized so they are addressed during security testing efforts sooner rather than later.
Data Security Assessment
The biggest problem with most security assessment methods is that they’re static. They take a snapshot of your systems and technology today, assess what needs to be changed, then tell you how long it will take and how much it will cost to implement their suggestions. With static data security assessments out there, risk managers spend months (or years) assessing their company’s data vulnerabilities and by then, IT has already moved on to other issues.
Just as important as knowing where you stand today is knowing where you’ll be tomorrow—what new risks might come along that haven’t presented themselves yet? And what’s the best way to figure this out? Future-proofing your data security strategy starts with periodic review and evaluation of the effectiveness of current programs in mitigating potential future threats. While it can seem like a tall order, conducting periodic risk assessments can provide peace of mind for many business owners: identifying gaps in the current state of your defenses before an attack comes knocking at the door.
Physical Security Assessment
You might not think about physical security as an element of risk assessment. But threats to physical security can be easy to overlook. For example, if you walk into an empty office building at night and nobody greets you in a lobby or points you towards your destination, that should raise some red flags.
The same goes for more serious situations. If there are unlocked doors or windows, no one manning their post at night, odd placement of security cameras, etc. That could mean there is something else going on. If you notice any abnormalities like these, it’s important to address them right away. So that they don’t become bigger problems down the line.
Application Security Assessment
Application security is crucial for organizations to maintain effective internal controls, privacy and security in their systems. Software applications need to be assess for weaknesses or vulnerabilities to ensure data is properly protect. This type of assessment should include reviewing source code, documentation, development tools used and any software application components.
The goal is identifying missing or poorly designed controls that may leave your organization open to attack or theft. A security assessment will normally identify specific application components that are most at risk and recommend solutions. These steps are just a snapshot into how organizations can successfully run an application security assessment.
We recommend consulting with the following additional resources for more information on this topic:
1) NIST SP 800-115
2) SANS Institute
3) Center for Internet Security
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In conclusion, before we move on to actual implementation, it is important to remind ourselves that security risk assessments are not just something organizations go through once. They are an ongoing and iterative process. It is crucial that they are complete in a systematic way. Following a framework with clear decision points based on evidence and information gathered throughout each stage.
Assessments should be easy to read and understand, making decisions logical and transparent. However, simply collecting lots of information does not make an assessment effective. There has to be some thought behind what risks are being assess, how they can be assess. How these findings will feed into any subsequent steps or decisions made throughout implementation.