In the wake of many recent high-profile breaches, many multinational companies are redirecting their energies to fighting cybercrime at a systemic level. Globally, companies are expected to pour in approximately $6 trillion on cybersecurity by 2021. Unfortunately, as bigger businesses build stronger defenses, entry and mid-level hackers have simply switched targets to mid-tier and small businesses. Recent data suggests that nearly 43 percent of cyberattacks are now targeting small business.
Given how resource-intensive building a strong defense network can be, this puts immense strain on small- and mid-sized businesses already grappling with a highly volatile market scenario. While small business owners are increasingly concerned about cybersecurity, 70 percent of small businesses remain unprepared to deal with the consequences of a cyberattack, with 51 percent of small businesses stating outright that they do not or cannot allocate any budget for cybersecurity in the current scenario.
You can understand your security weaknesses and strengths with proper planning and prepare for any eventualities you might face. The trick is to try and understand and manage your cyber-risks well before your business is targeted by malicious actors and compromised.
What is a Cyber-Risk Assessment?
A cybersecurity risk assessment empowers you to fully comprehend the strengths and vulnerabilities of your network setup. Based on this, you can manage, control, and mitigate risks at all levels of your operations.
As data fast becomes the primary driver for driving business value and competitiveness, the risk exposure of companies only accrues over time. In order to stay protected, it’s crucial to plan ahead for eventualities and build in resistance within your network structure. Cybersecurity risk assessment can also help businesses correctly assess and determine the value of their stored data and to prioritize and assign resources to safeguard them. In addition, it can help you develop a comprehensive overview of your company’s entire revenue generation process, the impact of different assets, functions, and employees on the profitability baseline, and prepare ahead for risk-induced eventualities with proper risk response strategies.
How to Perform Cyber Security Risk Assessment?
Step 1 - Identify and prioritize assets
Your first step is to put on the hacker’s hat. You need to understand the exact reasons why your business can form an attractive target for attackers. Your queries should start from something as basic as the type and kind of information you collect from customers, how and where it’s stored, and who has access to the database and more.
You should then extrapolate these queries to the storage conditions of the data, how or whether it’s protected at rest and in transit, whether you have any obvious vulnerabilities, whether your employees are cognizant of these risks, and do they have the training to deal with incidents when they happen.
Step 2 - Identify cyber threats/vulnerabilities
With cybersecurity fast growing to be a critical need of businesses, there are fairly robust scanning tools available at low cost that can help you assess the services you are currently running, check for software updates, and look for known risk factors. There are even tools that let you conduct your own penetration tests using brute force attacks and more. It’s always best to look for a third-party service provider who specializes in cybersecurity to take a run at your systems and provide you with an objective framework on both your vulnerabilities as well as what you can do to shore up your defenses.
Step 3 - Prepare for eventualities
Once you have quantified your assets, data, and risk exposure, the next logical step is to anticipate the fallout of security incidents when they happen. By doing this, you can build in resilience against present and future threats. Remember to go deep into your risk response strategies, such as defining roles for employees and assigning them as points of contact for aspects of handling the fallout.
Step 4 - Prioritize risks based on the cost of prevention vs. information value
Categorizing risk level can be a useful tool in mitigating risks. You could have basic categorizations, such as, high, medium, and low, depending on the imminence of the danger, the value of the protected asset, and the perceived limit of impact. Risk mitigation does cost money, so you need to make a judgment call based on the cost of protecting the asset vs. the cost of mitigating the risk.
Step 5 - Document results in risk assessment report
Your risk analysis report should be comprehensive, and include details such as the value, risk, and vulnerabilities for each major threat detected. It should include data on likelihood, impact of occurrence as well as recommended response procedures. It should be as detailed as possible, as it can help leaders take informed, but possibly split-second decisions in the event of actual attacks.
No one wants to think about the worst-case scenario of a cyberattack, but the fallout from such an attack can do grave damage to your business’ bottom line and its reputation. An assessment is the best way to strengthen your business from outside attack and mitigate the damages, should an attack happen.
Sam Goh is the President at ActiveCo Technology Management, an IT Support Vancouver company. Sam comes from an operational perspective, his tenure at ActiveCo emphasizes working with customers to closely understand their business plans and to successfully incorporate the technology component to those plans. Under his leadership, ActiveCo has developed expertise which focuses on enriching the extensive customer relationships by integrating strategic and operational focus areas through consulting. When Sam and his wife Candee aren’t running ActiveCo, they enjoy road trips with their 2 children. Faith, family, friends and philanthropy lie at the heart of Sam’s personal beliefs. His blog can be found at