IT Risk Assessment is a major preventive measure that actively mitigates the risk of vulnerabilities and threats negatively impacting the organization. The service is a comprehensive review of the IT infrastructure of an organization, with the objective of identifying existing flaws that could be exploited to threaten the security of the network and data. It serves as the basis for deciding what countermeasures, if any, to take in reducing risk to an acceptable level, based on the value of the information resource to the organization.
A traditional IT risk assessment reviews IT-related issues comprises three main phases:
Evaluation phase. This phase focuses on understanding the critical resources that may be affected by the threat or vulnerability. Business evaluation can be conducted by:
- Identifying critical business processes and assets: The first step is to identify all the information, processes, and information assets that are crucial or important for the functioning and security of the business. Identifying these critical components will help to decide what you want to protect, and what the consequence of losing them would be.
- Identifying vulnerabilities: A proactive review process to check for inherent vulnerabilities that could be exploited and affect the organization. When identifying vulnerabilities, remember to view them within the context of the business, i.e. how they will affect your business as a whole.
- Gathering information on potential threats to organization’s data: Knowing what threats each of IT assets may face and from where those may originate can help formulate a plan of defense.
Risk Assessment phase. The risk assessment phase consists of determining the likelihood and the severity of threats and vulnerabilities. Not all threats are equal—some happen more often than others, and others are more devastating to the organization’s infrastructure. The first step in identifying the worst threats is to find out how likely it is that the threat will occur. Next, quantify the impact the threat could have on the enterprise. Then, by mapping threats and vulnerabilities, likelihood, and impact to critical information, processes, and information assets, can be determined a scale to rate the severity of the consequences of an event or a breach in security. This will help determine which threats or vulnerabilities needed to prepare for.
Risk Mitigation phase. Risk mitigation is all about preparing to face a potential threat or tackle a possible vulnerability. It requires the organization to take many steps, either on its own, in collaboration with the IT infrastructure providers or with the aid of IT security organizations. There are three measures the organization must have in place:
- Preventive measures identify threats before they occur. These notify the security team when they spot a threat or locate vulnerability, so they can begin taking steps to deal with the event.
- Mitigation aims to reduce or minimize the consequences of an event or breach of security. These measures ensure that the threat does not impact the entire infrastructure or all the information resources.
- Recovery operations enable the organization to resume business activities post the event. This includes recovering data from remote/offsite data centers and getting systems up and running in safe environments
IT Risk Assessment benefits are:
Identify security threats and vulnerabilities. Conducting an IT risk assessment can help locate vulnerabilities in an existing IT infrastructure and enterprise applications, before these are exploited by hackers. Appropriate action can then be taken to patch and fix these vulnerabilities, reducing IT risk and the potential impact of any breach.
Identify the maturity level of existing security controls and tool usage. An IT risk assessment can help evaluate the existing defenses and preventive / corrective controls in place. The identified areas of improvements can then be mapped against the current technology landscape to ascertain if improvements are possible (additional security controls or a possible correlation of data arising from these controls that can result in advanced threat intelligence, for instance). The IT assessment thus highlights remediation measures to maximize current investments.
Enhance enterprise-wide security policies. Not only will the assessment help plug holes in the security, but by tying IT risk to enterprise-wide risk management, it can help create more secure solutions, practices and policies within the organization. This will improve the overall security of information in the organization, and help identify what security strategy best suits to the organization.
Gauge security awareness and readiness. An IT risk assessment needs the involvement of various IT security personnel, as well as other employees and managers, which will help gauge how aware various individuals and departments are of security threats, vulnerabilities, practices and solutions. It also gives a measure of how well the employees and contractors understand and follow the enterprise’s security policies and standards. An IT risk assessment may thus, point to the need for security awareness campaigns or workshops for the employees.
Justify security investments. Reviewing existing IT infrastructure and studying the potential business impact of a compromised system can help make a business case for security spending. An assessment can present a fair analysis of security investment versus potential losses and costs from security breaches.
Prove security due diligence. With IT risk assessment regulations likely to come into play in the next few years, it is important that the organization have documented proof of conducting assessments on a regular basis. Moreover, if the organization have been insurance for data loss, the insurance company will demand proof that the appropriate security measures were in place (in case of an incident). IT risk assessment documentation can help prove that.
Understand the security maturity of partners. One of the biggest challenges to security today is from internal (employees and partners), not external threats. A robust IT assessment includes assessment of security measures within the partner network.
The findings from an assessment can help plan better defenses against third-party attacks. The overall objective of an organization’s security strategy is to ensure the protection of information (whether its own or that of customers, suppliers, and other parties) and assets.
An IT risk assessment is a major preventive measure that actively mitigates the risk of vulnerabilities and threats negatively impacting the organization.
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