Information Security Risk Assessment and Audit

Information Security Risk Assessment

If you are running any business entity, then information security risk assessment is something that you should be doing periodically. It's essential for you to have a security risk assessment tool in place or to hire a company that knows how to protect you in this area. But what exactly does an information security audit entail? Let's examine some of the basics of data security risk assessment, including what it is, what it does, and what its principal benefits are.


What is Information Security Risk Assessment?


Information security risk assessment is the process of identifying threats, risk, and vulnerabilities having to do with your organizational assets. There is also a component of assessing the controls that you use. The overall goal of this sort of assessment is to mitigate whatever threats are detected.

Organizational decision-makers and risk assessors are constantly in the mindset of protecting your company's most valuable assets. If this area is neglected, it can be catastrophic for your business. Risk assessment tools or an outside company that you bring in to test your vulnerabilities can take stock of what safeguards you have in place and probe them to see if they are doing the job for which they are intended.


Risk Assessment Methodologies


There are two primary methodologies that you might encounter which are designed to test your system's vulnerabilities. They are the quantitative and qualitative approaches. There is also the third option, which is a combination of the first two. This is usually referred to as a mixed or hybrid approach.


The Quantitative Method to Information Security Risk Assessment


This option uses mathematical formulas to determine the single loss expectancy and exposure factor to each threat to which your system might be subjected. This method uses a rubric called the Annualized Rate of Occurrence, or ARO. It divulges a number that represents the amount of money that could conceivably be lost annually to exploited vulnerabilities. This figure is referred to as your company's Annual Loss Expectancy, or ALE.

These numbers are critical for you to know because they allow you to understand how much of your assets are at risk with the system that you have in place. You can then look into what countermeasures you can implement and see how cost-effective they are.

If you have countermeasures available to you that cost significantly less than your ALE, then it does make sense for you to spend money on them. You should be able to allocate financial resources toward these measures to make sure that your company remains solvent.


The Qualitative Method to Information Security Risk Assessment


Meanwhile, a qualitative methodology for information risk assessment does not use a precise mathematical formula. Instead, your company's risk areas are identified due to a combination of intuition, experience, and judgment calls on the part of the team that you have brought in. Since this is the case, it makes sense for you to only hire a company that has an extensive background in this sort of professional risk assessment.

A full qualitative risk assessment process is likely going to involve interviews with your staff, surveys, questionnaires, and group sessions with all of your different departments. The goal is

again to determine your potential losses if all of your vulnerabilities are exploited. However, this is a method that you can employ when figuring out an exact dollar amount of annual risk is difficult or impossible.

If you have a highly-integrated system that is subjected to many potential risks and houses numerous assets, then this might be preferable to the quantitative approach.


The Hybrid Method


The hybrid method strikes a balance between these two methodologies. Quantitative data might be used as a single input in determining your potential loss expectancy, but it will not be the only one. You'll also get the interviews, group sessions, etc., that make up the backbone of the qualitative version.

The approach is a credible one because you get hard data along with valuable information from the individuals who make up the nucleus of your business. This method might take longer, so if time is of the essence for you, then it's likely you won't want to go this route. However, if you have the luxury of time, and you want to be thorough in your assessment, then it is certainly something you may wish to consider.


What Can You Expect to See During an Assessment?


When you bring in a company to do an information security risk assessment for you, you can expect them to tackle the assignment from several different angles.

They will likely want to make a list of all your assets. They will look at your systems and all of the data contained therein. They'll take note of what parts of your system are most vital for your continued success, and they'll check on their availability, integrity, and confidentiality.

Next they will move on to identifying threats. They might try to figure out whether there are any glaring software vulnerabilities or weaknesses in organizational processes. They may try to ascertain whether any of your industry peers pose a threat to you. They will probably engage in some threat modeling to add context and determine whether any of your fears concerning your company's ongoing viability are justified.

They will likely finish up by taking a look at the controls that you have in place. Wherever a possible threat or vulnerability is detected, there should be some type of control method or application to block an attack in that specific area.

When they are done, they will give you an itemized report. Wherever they feel that you are most vulnerable, they might recommend upgrading your security measures or even replacing them if they are found to be woefully inadequate.

Speak to our team at VantagePoint, and we’ll get started on an assessment that will work for you.


What Does a Security Assessment Do for You and What are the Benefits?


The most obvious answer to this query is that a systematic security assessment identifies potential vulnerabilities. Then, presumably the company or entity that you hired will give you some suggestions on how to fix them. If you neglect to do this, then you might potentially be taken by surprise if there is a system failure or an intentional attack on your network.

A security assessment of this nature is also useful, though, because it reassures both your employees and potential investors that you're taking all necessary precautions to protect your assets. Investors will be more likely to back your company, and clients will feel better about giving you their sensitive data. Security assessments can also make sure that you comply with governing bodies that insist on a specific level of security from you.

Managing risk should be regarded as an ongoing task for any business entity. In other words, you shouldn't feel secure about your company because you conducted a security risk assessment and audit five years go. There are always going to be new and evolving threats that arise, which is why you should have an ongoing relationship with a company or entity that does these types of assessments.

Figure out a timetable that makes sense for you, and allocate financial resources for these tests and probes. If you don't, then there is a much higher chance of your company being caught off guard. You could see a significant financial loss if that happens, and a drop off in consumer confidence as well.

Let our experts help you assess your exposure and close gaps.