Cybersecurity Risk Assessments: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

Cybersecurity risks are among the most significant threats faced by organizations today. You can scarcely pick up a newspaper without reading about the latest data breaches and the staggering costs they entail. Business leaders are well aware of the hazards — recent surveys indicate that cybersecurity is a top priority for CEOs and CIOs alike. But ask business owners or executives about their cybersecurity strategies, and all too often the answer is that they don’t know where to start.

What’s the obstacle? In most cases, the problem is that business leaders “don’t know what they don’t know.” In other words, they have a general understanding of cybersecurity risks but they haven’t identified risks specific to their organizations. Without pinpointing and quantifying their organizations’ actual vulnerabilities, it’s impossible to formulate and prioritize strategies for addressing them.

Another stumbling block is that many leaders view cybersecurity risks strictly as a technology issue. But these risks are inextricably linked to other enterprise risks, including financial, compliance, operational, and reputational risks. So it’s critical for organizations to incorporate cybersecurity risks into their overall risk management programs.

Assessing Your Risks

At Smith & Howard, our Enterprise Risk Security experts take a unified approach to cybersecurity risk assessments, presenting their findings and recommendations in the context of overall enterprise risk and demonstrating the potential impact on every aspect of your organization.

We review your policies and procedures, scrutinize your operations, and run tests and vulnerability scans on your network infrastructure. For each identified risk, we assess the likelihood the threat will be realized and quantify the potential impact in monetary terms — not just on the IT department, but on the organization as a whole. For example, how would a breach or other incident affect the value of your brand or reputation? Could it cause you to lose one or more large customers? Could it disrupt your daily operations or processes, resulting in significant downtime or outages? Could it lead to litigation — for breach of contractual cybersecurity requirements, for example — and, if so, what is your potential exposure? Could it result in fines for failure to comply with applicable cybersecurity laws or regulations?

Armed with this information, business leaders can prioritize identified risks and make informed decisions on how to manage them. There are several options for responding to a risk, depending on the significance of the threat, the cost of corrective action, and your risk tolerance. Suppose, for example, that an assessment reveals significant risks associated with employee use of mobile devices to connect to your network. Options include:

  1. Accepting the risk
  2. Avoiding the risk, by ending the practice
  3. Mitigating the risk — for example, by tightening policies, procedures, and internal controls related to such devices or implementing hardware or software solutions
  4. Transferring the risk, by purchasing cybersecurity insurance

The only way to make these decisions effectively is to integrate cybersecurity into your overall business risk management program and to foster communication and collaboration among leaders in information technology, information security, and other departments within your organization. By involving all senior leadership in the process, our unified approach facilitates this type of decision-making. We provide an all-encompassing set of risk metrics that enables business leaders to address their risk concerns in an informed and systematic way.

No Surprises

When it comes to cybersecurity risk management, no one likes surprises. A thorough risk assessment brings visibility to your organization’s exposure to data breaches and other information security threats, avoiding surprises and empowering your leaders to respond accordingly. In addition, your organization may be subject to contractual or regulatory provisions that require you to obtain a certification or otherwise demonstrate compliance with an approved cybersecurity framework or standard. A risk assessment is the first step.

If you have questions about risk assessments or your security environment in general, please contact Martha Raber at 404-874-6244 or fill out the form on the right side of the page.

Questions? Contact Us