Risk assessment – the process of identifying, analysing and evaluating risk – is the only way to ensure that the cyber security controls you choose are appropriate to the risks your organisation faces.
Without a risk assessment to inform your cyber security choices, you could waste time, effort and resources – there is, after all, little point implementing measures to defend against events that are unlikely to occur or won’t have much material impact on your organisation.
It is also possible that you will underestimate or overlook risks that could cause significant damage to your organisation. As the UK government’s Cyber security breaches survey 2017 noted, data breaches are “common even among businesses who do not consider cyber security to be a priority, or who may not think they are exposed to risk.”
What does a cyber security risk assessment include?
A cyber security risk assessment identifies the various information assets that could be affected by a cyber attack (such as hardware, systems, laptops, customer data and intellectual property), and then identifies the various risks that could affect those assets.
A risk estimation and evaluation is usually performed, followed by the selection of controls to treat the identified risks. It is important to continually monitor and review the risk environment to detect any changes in the context of the organisation, and to maintain an overview of the complete risk management process.
The international standard ISO/IEC 27001:2013 (ISO 27001) provides the specifications of a best-practice ISMS (information security management system) – a risk-based approach to corporate information security risk management that addresses people, processes and technology.
Clause 6.1.2 of the Standard sets out the requirements of the information security risk assessment process. Organisations must:
It is important that organisations “retain documented information about the information security risk assessment process” so that they can demonstrate that they comply with these requirements.
They will also need to follow a number of steps – and create relevant documentation – as part of the information security risk treatment process.
The UK government’s Cyber Essentials scheme
Even if you have implemented an ISO 27001-compliant ISMS, you may want to check if your cyber security hygiene is up to standard with the UK government’s guidelines. The Cyber Essentials scheme provides a set of five controls that organisations can implement to achieve a basic level of cyber security.
Conducting a risk assessment to determine the likelihood and effect of cyber security incidents is a complex process that requires considerable planning, specialist knowledge and stakeholder buy-in to appropriately cover all people-, process- and technology-based risks. Without expert guidance, this can only be worked out through trial and error.
IT Governance’s fixed-price, three-phase Cyber Health Check combines consultancy and audit, remote vulnerability assessments and an online staff survey to assess your cyber risk exposure and identify a practical route to minimise your risks. Our approach will identify your actual cyber risks, audit the effectiveness of your responses to those risks, analyse your real risk exposure and then create a prioritised action plan for managing those risks in line with your business objectives.