How to Minimise Potential Threats with an Effective Cyber Risk Assessment


Tech Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for IT pros

Thursday, July 29, 2021

With the likelihood of cyber attacks growing for all businesses, conducting a cyber risk assessment is the best way to ensure you’re adequately protected.

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How to Minimise Potential Threats with an Effective Cyber Risk Assessment
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Security threats to your business are an ever-present yet silent risk, from misconfigured services and weak passwords, to hacker’s searching for information and malware lurking on a system. So how can you ensure your business is as safe as it can possibly be?

The pressure for businesses to meet deadlines, grow fast and hit targets creates a growing pool of security risks. Every organisation is under threat, and can only be separated into those who understand the risks and those who don’t.

Whether it’s expanding the number of apps your company users or not training new staff about IT security properly, every misstep expands that pool of risk, increasing the likelihood of a breach or hack. Follow these security best practices to better understand the risks and avoid them happening to you.

1. Map out the digital footprint of your business

Get an idea of every smartphone, each laptop, every cloud service and WiFi access point or security tool in your business, as any one of them could be the weak point that leads to your company getting hacked. Having a comprehensive map of the hardware and software or services your business uses is key to understanding where the weaknesses are and how to defend against them.

Updating it regularly when new workers, apps or devices arrive is key, and will help as part of any cyber risk assessment. Tools for digital footprint discovery can help automate the mapping process, with many offering scoring tools to identify the greatest risk.

Some additional benefits include monitoring and providing visibility into workers’ online behaviour and their productivity. The assessment can highlight websites and apps that may suggest unofficial applications being used or that may compromise security or impact productivity.

On top of this, businesses gain a better view of network performance, highlighting where the business may deploy resources (say, with big-data users) to boost productivity.

2. Learn about the threats

IT security professionals spend a good part of each day learning about the latest threats. Smaller companies lack such luxuries, but it should still be someone’s responsibility to understand what the threats are against you, or any company.

Partnering with a specialist or hiring an expert can help bridge the security threat knowledge gap and ensure your company starts to protect itself against the risks. From hacker attacks to misconfigured services, someone who knows how to deal with them provides far more value to a company, compared to one that’s prepared to accept massive risks or is blissfully unaware of them.

3. Undergo a cybersecurity risk assessment

With a better idea of your digital footprint and the risks out there, a cybersecurity risk assessment is the next key step to establishing your level of risk. This will identify the risks, vulnerabilities, impacts and likelihood of damage or loss to your data and information assets, and will identify the best ways to protect them.

Risk assessments can also identify any areas that you might have missed and help businesses with limited IT knowledge understand how they can go about building more robust defences.

4. Build solid cybersecurity defences

A busy company might look at the built-in protection applications that come as part of Windows or from a cloud service provider and assume they’re capable of handling all threats. Unfortunately, in the current adversarial online climate, criminals and hackers use a whole range of exploits to get around traditional security and find novel ways to access company data.

A layered or blended defence is the best way to protect a business, using next-generation firewalls, malware detectors, encryption or tokenisation tools for critical data, vulnerability scanners and penetration testing will all help defend the business. 

5. Teach all workers about potential security threats

While having lots of technology to defend the business is vital most exploits come down to human error. Either through a weak choice of password, a misconfigured service or falling for a phishing scam, all workers need to be trained to be on the lookout and learn about what to do if they see a phishing email or ransomware notification.

Strong passwords should be mandated for all applications, two-factor authentication a part of any business-critical tools and regular testing with realistic phishing and other attacks will help stress the importance of digital safety to all workers.

And if someone isn’t a technical expert, they should ensure someone suitable makes security decisions when it comes to signing up to cloud services, no matter how trivial. Yes, hackers are just as interested in breaching your marketing tools as they are finance or account spreadsheets.

6. Patching and updating is everyone’s business

With all those devices and apps mapped, ensuring they stay up to date is a key part of avoiding potential security threats. In enterprises, most updates are managed automatically, but for smaller firms, it can be one individual’s job or everyone’s responsibility to know what to update and when.

From OS updates to antivirus patches, router firmware updates and WordPress upgrades, staying on top of these will help fight against zero-day exploits and other risks that threaten the business.

7. Ensure backups are protected and readily available

Assume at some point your business will be breached or hacked. With that assumption, what will you do next? Companies often have some degree of data backup, but rarely test how easy it is to rebuild systems and restore access to data.

Thorough testing will help establish how practical your backups are, and what steps are missing or need refinement to ensure business continuity. In extreme cases, this could mean buying all-new hardware for workers, recreating all your cloud services and applications, and then copying data over from a safe source.

How many days of lost business could your company survive? All that information is worth knowing in advance, and is vital when it comes to taking out cyber insurance cover. This can save a business affected by a cyberattack, covering first- and third-party financial damages, plus reputational costs, depending on the policy.

Each of these tips play a vital part in protecting a business, but in this never-ending battle, they can never be done and consigned to history. Hackers and their automated tools never take a day off, and neither should your business when it comes to protecting data and services.

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