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Completing IT Risk Assessments

September 22, 2020

In the world of Compliance, risk assessments are the foundation of a protected business. Knowing what risks are out there, how to mitigate them, and what your risk appetite is, will all help to ensure vulnerabilities and shortfalls can be addressed and managed properly. Just like with compliance, IT risk assessments are especially important because the risk landscape is constantly evolving, making it harder to keep up with the changes in risk to your business. Risk assessments can also help to keep costs under control and make audits more efficient. The following steps will assist your business in undertaking a quality IT risk assessment.

  1. Identify all possible vulnerabilities
    Make time to document all the possible vulnerabilities that could pose a risk to your business. Include ransomware, DDoS attacks, phishing campaigns, possible routes into your networks and which departments or personnel are more vulnerable than others. Also note any gaps in your current security posture that need to be covered.
  2. Put together an IT risk team
    Involving the right people in a risk assessment makes the whole process more effective. Create a team that includes representatives from all areas of your business and use their expertise to identify risks and their skills to mitigate them.
  3. Communicate to your entire staff
    Communication is key to ensuring that the right information is being relayed to your team. Informed and engaged staff are far more likely to identify risks and report them to the right people. You can have formal, periodic meetings to allow for staff to ask questions about the process, or simply send an email to your organization telling them what they need to know.
  4. Review your current infrastructure
    Before you can determine how different risks might affect your business, it is important to assess the capabilities of your systems, hardware and software. A complete inventory of assets should be documented and assessed by IT personnel.
  5. Analyse the risks
    Based on the risks and vulnerabilities you identified in step 1, and the review from step 4, determine the impact they would have on your business and how likely they are to occur. This will be a similar process to any other risk assessments you undertake and will likely result in a risk score.
  6. Mitigate the risks
    Once you have determined the risk scores for each vulnerability, determine how to mitigate each one. Some risks are easily mitigated by utilising ready-made tools like firewalls and email filters, others may not be as easy and might be costly to implement. It is at this point you will need to evaluate carefully the impact to your business vs. your risk appetite. Cost is a big factor in determining which mitigations are worthwhile to implement so it is important to research carefully.
  7. Finalise a plan
    Once you have decided on your strategy to mitigate each different risk, make sure you outline a specific process for implementing them. Set goals for completion of each one and monitor them at periodic intervals.
  8. Implement
    Make sure that your entire IT risk team reviews your plan. Have them make changes if goals are not realistic and determine exactly how to measure when each step of the plan is complete. Once this is complete, implement the plan as soon as possible and get on the road to improving the security of your business infrastructure.
  9. Review
    Once your implementations are complete it is extremely important to review your control measures regularly. Digital threats and vulnerabilities are constantly evolving, and we must monitor them constantly to reduce exposure to further risk. If a new threat is identified, go through the process of determining a control measure for it in the same way you did before.
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