For business owners, data security goes much deeper. They have much to consider regarding cybersecurity, including complex professional applications, role-based access control, secured network-connected devices, separated office and guest networks, customer data encryption, employee training, and regulatory compliance. With so much at stake, there are better options than ignoring security risks.
That said, business owners can quickly become overwhelmed with everything they must do to keep themselves and their clientele safe. So where do you begin? All good cybersecurity starts with a thorough data security risk assessment.
What Is a Data Security Risk Assessment?
A data security risk assessment is a proactive tool for identifying, mitigating, and preventing threats due to vulnerabilities in your company's network, software, devices, and systems. It works like an annual health checkup, assessing your company's ability to protect itself and aiming to catch and correct problems before they cause irreparable harm.
Some widely recognized risk assessment frameworks include The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Framework and the ISO 27001:2013 standard. No matter the specifics, all frameworks generally have the same goal: identifying areas for improvement and creating a prioritized plan to address them.
Why Are Risk Assessments Important?
According to Forbes Magazine, cyberattacks are the biggest concern for companies worldwide — and for a good reason. Cyberattack attempts are up by 50%, with 66% percent of small and medium-sized businesses reporting that they've experienced a cyber attack in the last 12 months.
Due to this recent rise in cyberattacks, nearly half of these businesses say their current data security practices are insufficient to mitigate their risks. These numbers leave little doubt that cybersecurity in business is a massive problem. Fortunately, there is a solution: regular risk assessments.
For many reasons, it is absolutely essential that you perform a yearly risk assessment for your business. The following represent three of the most important cybersecurity considerations for organizations of any size.
Regulatory compliance means conforming to rules, regulations, and guidance set forth by law. Businesses in every industry face regulatory compliance requirements, especially regarding customer data encryption and data breach reporting.
Hospitals and other healthcare-related businesses have an added layer of regulatory responsibility. For these companies, strict adherence to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (better known as HIPAA) is non-negotiable. And within organizations that have access to a patient’s protected health information (PHI), HIPAA laws require specific privacy and data security controls and procedures.
Businesses can face severe penalties for non-compliance and any resulting breaches — even if they didn't know about the vulnerabilities that led to the violation. Regular risk assessments can significantly reduce the chances of failing a data security audit or experiencing a data breach, as your business will be able to catch and patch vulnerabilities before an incident occurs.
Researchers from IBM and the Ponemon Institute estimate that the monetary cost of a single data breach is approximately $4.5 million when accounting for business downtime, breach detection, full investigation, stakeholder notification, and the post-breach response. For a small or medium-sized business, the expense may seem insurmountable.
Considering the likelihood that businesses will experience a cyber attack and the amount of money required to deal with its aftermath, regular data security assessments are a much better use of resources. These assessments act like preventive maintenance for your network, requiring a much smaller investment now to avoid more significant problems down the road. You can work on expanding your business into new territory with the time and money you'll save.
Money is not the only thing lost after a data breach. Many companies also incur severe damage to their reputation. When you notify customers that their data has been compromised at your business, they may become wary of allowing you access to their sensitive information. This mistrust could even lead them to stop doing business with you altogether.
Because you care deeply about your clients and customers, protecting them from harm should always be your priority. Strengthening your privacy and data security infrastructure is one more way to serve those who have put their time, money, and trust into your business.
What Does a Risk Assessment Entail?
Before the risk assessment begins, you need to determine the scope of the evaluation. You may assess the entire organization at once if you run a small or medium-sized business. If you are responsible for a large corporation, the risk assessment may only cover one department or entity at a time.
Once the assessment begins, it usually has a few distinct phases. Four typical stages of a risk assessment include:
After you determine the assessment scope, you must work to identify both your assets (such as trade secrets or customer financial data) and the threats to those assets. You can use a resource like the MITRE ATT&CK to identify threats or get help from an experienced security analyst.
Once you know what's at stake and what can jeopardize your business data, it's time to analyze those threats to determine their potential path and impact on your business. If a bad actor were to access your business data, how would they do it? What is the likelihood of that threat succeeding? How would your business integrity, uptime, or finances be affected if this happened? It is best that you answer these questions during the assessment phase.
Assessment should lead to a prioritization of risks and recommendations for mitigating those risks. Knowing all the problems your business could face is essential, but knowing which ones require more attention and resources is equally important. The threats with the most significant potential impact will likely receive priority in your plan.
Finally, after you have identified, assessed, and prioritized risks and threats, it is time to create a mitigation plan. This next section guides you through the process of mitigating risks and deciding what to consider as you formulate and implement a strategy.
What Happens After a Risk Assessment?
Once you have an objective opinion from a data security analyst, it's time to shore up those vulnerabilities in your network, applications, and devices. Every cybersecurity risk assessment should lead to actionable steps for your business to take to ensure maximum security for all stakeholders.
Each part of your security plan will include four options for dealing with the identified risks:
- Avoid risks with behavior modification
- Diminish risks by implementing new security measures and controls
- Transfer risks to someone else, such as an insurance carrier
- Understand and accept that the risks exist
You can fix some of your privacy and data security risks with a few hours of employee training on best practices, such as turning off the guest Wi-Fi before shutting down for the day and avoiding email phishing scams. Your business can mitigate other issues by consistently using controls like multi-factor authentication and role-based access control. Whatever your plan entails, make sure you implement it swiftly and completely.
Help from a Data Security Analyst Provides Peace of Mind
If your business is connected to the internet, it is at risk of a data breach or cybersecurity attack. Fortunately, many of your company's threats can be thwarted by implementing a solid cybersecurity plan. The first step to creating that plan is having a professional assess your risk and show you which areas of your business need the most attention.
Contact Davis Advanced Technologies, Inc. today to learn how a data security analyst from our team can conduct a thorough risk assessment of your organization. We’ll craft a thorough security plan to keep your business safe and help you build trust with those you serve.