How to Perform an IT Security Risk Assessment

by Brad Garland

If your business handles any sort of data, then cybersecurity is--or should be--a core part of your organizational process. You must know the various risks and potential flaws that could leave your customer data exposed to malicious use, and how to protect your company from threats such as hackers, viruses, and other cybersecurity vulnerabilities.

To do so, performing regular IT security risk assessments is an invaluable tool, letting you test your data protection system and mitigate the risk. In fact, the more you rely on information technology to run your business, the more important this process becomes.

Focuses of an IT Security Risk Assessment

An IT security risk assessment must ask focused questions in order to be effective. This includes:

  1. What are your company’s critical IT assets?
  2. What business processes utilize these IT assets the most?
  3. What could threaten these assets (and thus your business’ ability to function)?

By first answering these questions, you can then formulate an IT risk assessment strategy in order to identify and reduce or eliminate the risks being targeted. 

Other questions that should be asked when relevant include the type of data that your company gathers and how it does so, your corporate data storage methods and access procedures, and the timeline that data follows as it is procured, secured, and dispensed throughout its lifecycle in your business network.

An IT security risk assessment process follows four main steps.

IT Security Risk Assessment Step #1: Identification

Applying the previous questions regarding IT data, you must determine and categorize IT assets and prioritize it according to value and risk potential. This includes software and hardware, end-users, IT security architecture, networking, support personnel, internal/external user interfaces, and all other components of your data-handling system. 

This is also the point at which you should identify potential risks and threats to your data. This, of course, includes criminal elements such as hackers and malware distributors, but also should involve natural disasters and user error or accidents that can leave your database exposed to damage or abuse. Vulnerabilities should be highlighted for analysis, both in your software and devices and in physical interfaces.

IT Security Risk Assessment Step #2: Assessment

Once all the elements of data assets, risks, and vulnerability points are identified, now they must be ranked according to value and the level of protective investment that should be made. Again, this includes data, employees, and physical property that is involved in any way in the IT operations. Existing controls and preventative methods must be assessed as well to determine their comprehensiveness and effectiveness. And the likelihood of a threat exploiting specific vulnerabilities must also be determined at this stage, with each risk categorized as a high, medium, or low probability to establish mitigation prioritization. 

IT Security Risk Assessment Step #3: Mitigation

Once everything has been identified and categorized by priority, then it’s time to determine the best risk mitigation strategies and implement new control measures. Each risk must be included in this step, as any vulnerability left unmanaged could undermine the entirety of the data infrastructure. These plans should be developed according to the priority levels assigned in the previous phase, and can consider cost-risk analysis, feasibility, regulation compliance, safety, reliability, past and projected effectiveness, and internal policies. 

IT Security Risk Assessment Step #4: Prevention

Once strategies are in place for risk mitigation, the final steps are to implement them to prevent threats to IT data and operations and document the ongoing results. Proper documentation is essential to ensure the results of this latest IT security risk assessment are evaluated and can be referred to for future assessments to track progress and provide security performance benchmarks, comparing different controls and determining whether a risk or vulnerability was properly mitigated by past efforts.

Are you looking to perform an IT security risk assessment for your organization or IT department? Vala Secure’s team of cybersecurity experts are well-versed in this process and can perform internal vulnerability assessments, risk assessments, and more to help protect your corporate and customer data.

Contact us today to discover what we can do for you.


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