Cybersecurity Risk Assessment


Running a business comes with numerous risks. And few are as impactful as the potential of getting your data stolen or damaged by hackers. But just as with any other threats, you can prepare for and manage cybersecurity risks by evaluating your situation and looking for ways to shore up your defenses.

But unfortunately, 75% of executives report that their company is underprepared to measure the most prominent security risks it might be exposed to.

That’s why it’s crucial to go through a thorough cybersecurity risk assessment that can help establish what risks are the most likely to occur and which ones would cause the most damage.

Let’s explore the essentials of a cybersecurity risk assessment below.

What is a Cyber Risk?


Before digging deeper into the specific steps of a cybersecurity risk assessment, it’s a good idea to establish what constitutes a cyber risk in the first place.

The term actually includes a broad range of risks or disruptions that could target your data, business operations, infrastructure, or anything else related to storing or using digital data.

Whether it’s phishing scams, ransomware, malware, cyberattacks, leaked data, or a variety of other situations, each of them could be categorized as a cyber risk since they all try to target your digital assets.

However, because the technology for storing, managing, and protecting data is continually evolving, so are the methods that hackers use to gain unauthorized access. And because of that, cybersecurity risk assessments must be regularly updated and revised if you don’t want them to become outdated.

What is a Cyber Risk Assessment?

A cyber risk assessment is used to evaluate the different types of digital risks that your company could be exposed to. Since it’s an umbrella term, it can mean different things for companies depending on their size, industry, and a variety of other factors. However, the underlying themes and the steps behind every cyber risk assessment will be similar.

The primary idea behind a cybersecurity risk assessment is to list the risks and create a plan for mitigating those risks, as well as responding effectively if they would occur.

When developing a cybersecurity risk assessment, some of the things you should look into are:

  • Your most valuable digital and technology assets;
  • Threats that are the most likely to occur;
  • Threats that would be the most damaging if they were to happen;
  • Any internal or external vulnerabilities you might have;
  • How much risk is your company worth taking on?

The last one might be a bit surprising, but it’s actually a crucial step if your cybersecurity risk assessment is going to be useful. It’s virtually impossible to account for every possible scenario, so you need to evaluate each one individually, deciding if its likelihood and potential impact warrant investing time and money towards mitigating the risk.

Related post: Yes, Ransomware Is Still a Thing

Cybersecurity Risk Assessment: Checklist

The best way to perform a cybersecurity risk assessment is to break down the process into actionable steps. That’s the only way to prioritize the risks accordingly and deal with them in a logical order.

Here are six essential steps you need to go through:

  • List Your Assets. Before you can begin identifying cyber risks your company is facing, you need to list all of the digital assets that you want to protect. That way, you can see the complete picture of what you have and what hackers might be the most motivated in gaining access to. It will also serve as the starting point for the steps that follow.
  • Determine the Scope. Before implementing specific steps, you need to decide how much time and resources you can allocate right now. And that requires you to determine the scope of the assessment, as it will decide how broad or specific you can get when listing the various risks that your company might be exposed to.
  • Prioritize Your Assets. Since you won’t be able to implement strategies for all of your digital assets at once, you need to prioritize the assets based on the vulnerabilities you have and the potential damage they might cause. It’s crucial to prepare for the most pressing risks first to minimize the chances of an attack.
  • Evaluate the Likelihood of Risks. Some cybersecurity risks can be absolutely devastating if they were to happen. But if the chance of them happening is extremely low, they might not warrant being on the top of your priority list. Therefore, it’s essential to evaluate the likelihood of each risk occurring.
  • Consider Whether Risk Mitigation is Worth It. Once you have a list of cybersecurity risks, including the potential damage and the likelihood of them occurring, you can consider whether each of the risks you identified for your key assets is worth mitigating. You can also decide how you want to prioritize your risks and the most productive way to tackle them.
  • Implement and Evaluate. Finally, once you have everything in place, you can start going through the process of mitigating the top risks. But then, it’s crucial to regularly perform a cybersecurity risk assessment and evaluate the progress you’ve made, any new risks that might have developed, and the main challenges you should prioritize right now.