Risk assessment checklist

A step-by-step guide to performing an internal cybersecurity risk assessment

Cybersecurity is a very real risk facing modern-day businesses. As the shift to cloud computing sees more and more critical information stored online, there is more at stake than ever before. In fact, research suggests that cybercrime could cost a staggering $5.2 trillion over the next five years.

“We face a constant battle in today’s mobile-connected world. There is an ever-increasing threat landscape. Data breaches continue to hit headlines… Considering this, shouldn’t the board be throwing money into security investment?”Forbes

Performing an internal cybersecurity risk assessment is a critical step in mitigating any potential threats and safeguarding your business’s data. The process is, most definitely, something your board should be investing time and resources in.

To help you undertake your internal cybersecurity risk assessment, we’ve detailed the process step-by-step below. Let’s get started right away.

Step 1: Define the scope of the assessment

Before you jump into the nitty-gritty, create a list of everything that needs to be assessed. This might include things like:

  • Data groups
  • Vendors
  • Code
  • Script
  • Data exchanges
  • Data centers
  • And more

Take your time with this list. We suggest working with a trusted IT partner. That way, you can rest easy knowing you aren’t missing any potential weaknesses and are meeting industry compliance standards and processes.

Once you’ve got a clear picture of the size and scope of the assessment, as well as the complexity of your business’s assets, you can plan your assessment schedule and better allocate your time.

Step 2: Determine the value of each asset

This step is a little tricky but taking the time to work your way through each asset and determine its value will prove critical further down the track. Once you grasp the value of an asset, you can decide just how much time and money you are willing to put in to protect it.

To help you decide the value of each asset, ask yourself questions like:

  • If my business lost this data tomorrow, what would happen?
  • How much time and money would it take to rebuild this data from the ground up?
  • How critical is this data to the core operations of my business?
  • What would happen if a competitor got their hands on this data?

Step 3: Identify vulnerabilities and threats

Now it’s time to name the potential vulnerabilities and threats facing your business and its data. Here are some examples to get you started:

  • Unauthorized access to your customers’ data by an unidentified hacker
  • Malware threats and infections, including phishing emails and ransomware
  • Human error and other employee vulnerabilities, such as sharing passwords or a staff member using an unsecured Wi-Fi network, leading to unauthorized access
  • Hardware malfunction or natural disaster leading to data loss

Once you’re armed with a list of threats, it’s time to move on to the next step.

Step 4: Consider the cost of prevention

At this point, you should have a clear understanding of your assets, their value, and any cybersecurity risks your business is facing. Now, use this information to determine whether or not the cost of preventing these risks is worth it.

For example, there is no point sinking a large number of resources into protecting data that, if lost, would only take a few hours to recover. Instead, allocate your resources to mitigating threats targeting critical data, such as your customers’ personal information.

Step 5: Implement any risk mitigation activities

You’ve uncovered the threats and vulnerabilities putting your business and its data at risk of a cybersecurity breach, and you’ve weighed your priorities and determined which assets are worth the cost of prevention.

The final step is implementing proper risk mitigation activities.

Just one last note before we sign off: performing a cybersecurity risk assessment is not a set-and-forget process. As your business practices evolve and threats become more sophisticated, it’s essential to revisit your assessment on a regular basis and account for new vulnerabilities.