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]Thinking about upgrading your Cybersecurity with various advanced security products? You may want to think about doing risk assessments first.

For several years now, many companies have heard about—and been afraid of—security threats posed by hackers. The recent news reports are full of these accounts. Russians hacked the US presidential election. More than 270 million email accounts have been compromised. Celebrity photos and videos stored in the cloud have been published online. Hackers have also made millions hacking into several Asian financial institutions.

The UK government released data that showed that almost 3 out of 4 small companies went through a cyber-security breach. The larger companies had it worse, as 90% of them were targeted. Some of the security breaches resulted in millions in losses.

All these are enough to get you on a buying spree for multiple security products. The problem with this panicked approach is that you may end up with expensive products that don’t really solve anything. You end up with a bunch of programs with features you don’t really need.

The proper approach is to first find your security problems and vulnerabilities. Only then do you try to find the right products that address these issues. And to find these problems, you need to conduct a proper security risk assessment.

Reasons for Risk Assessments

Risk assessments gauge the current health of your cyber security, just as a medical checkup provides you a clear picture of your medical health. You can’t just wait for things to go wrong. You have to actively find the various ways of how things can go wrong with your security, and then you have to find solutions to these potential problems.

Here are some good reasons why risk assessments are important:

  • Security risk identification and solution. With the proper risk assessment procedure, your IT department can find the various existing security holes in your infrastructure. Once found, you can then put up a solution.

There are many potential nightmare scenarios when it comes to security breaches. Money and secret data can be stolen. Various workers may have to go idle as the problem continues. You may have to overhaul your entire network.

  • Protecting brand reputation. Security is one of the aspects where your company’s effectiveness will be judged. When your company experiences a security breach, the perception of your brand can plummet among clients, customers, partners, and employees. Current customers and partners may stop doing business with you, while potential customers and partners may stay away.
  • Greater security efficiency. With a risk assessment procedure, your IT team will be able to find redundant or ineffectual solutions to problems, so these can be upgraded and improved.
  • Justifying the cost of extra security. In some corporate structures, it may be too difficult to justify the additional costs of improved cybersecurity tools. After all, it’s not exactly something that generates income for the company.

However, you can estimate how much it will cost the business when your network does get hacked. You can show figures of downtime, and of the number of IT man-hours that will be needed to fix various problems. You can also mention how public perception of your inadequate cybersecurity can affect your brand reputation and bottom line.

  • Encouraging security awareness and diligence. The risk assessment helps educate employees on proper security habits. They’ll be less likely to commit security lapses because of the procedure.
  • Boosting morale and productivity. Some employees may be worried about security, and sometimes they may even try to fix things themselves when a security problem arises. But with a proper risk assessment procedure, these employees can just focus on their job without worrying about security concerns.

What Risk Areas Does a Risk Assessment Focus On?

To get a comprehensive picture of your current security setup, you will need a proper look at various areas of security. You can then protect your network from common ways of getting hacked (“low hanging fruits”) to less likely but still costly threats.

Here are the areas you need to focus on:

  1. Proper risk management policies

Companies usually have to balance the needs of data access and security, so you need a proper set of policies to come up with this balance. You also need to educate workers on proper security habits, and you also need suitable cyber insurance.

  1. User education and awareness

You need to set up a set of policies for the acceptable use of your system and equipment. Then you need a proper training method to educate your workers on these policies.

  1. Safe home and mobile working

You need to set up a policy for workers who work at home or who use mobile devices in their work, and your workers must be trained to follow those policies. You need to have a secure baseline device build in place. Your data must be protected at all times, whether they’re at rest or in transit.

  1. User privilege management

You must have proper oversight over the various network system accounts. Your policies must include the use of strong passwords, and privileged accounts must be limited to those who actually need them. You still have to monitor user activity, and access to audit and activity logs must be controlled and limited.

  1. Removable media controls

Another policy must cover mobile removable media. You should have a process that scans for malware before any piece of equipment is connected to your network. Sensitive devices must also be encrypted.

  1. Activity monitoring

You need to have a monitoring strategy regarding activities on your networks. You should be able to analyze network logs in real time to search for proof of mounting attacks. You also have to monitor for undiscovered security vulnerabilities.

  1. Secure configurations

A patch management program is mandatory, so that your equipment, operating systems, and applications will get the patches available for security fixes.

  1. Protection against malware

You need to be able to prevent workers from installing malware into the system. This also means you must be able to scan for malware in the system, which can come in the form of email attachments.

  1. Securing your network

You have to find out how well your firewall is working and see if you can filter out malicious or unauthorized content from your network. Your security controls must be tested and monitored.

  1. Security incident management

This will include reporting cyber-attacks and events, as well as having recovery contingency plans for various security disasters.

So don’t just stock up on expensive a security products that you may not actually need. Perform risk assessments regularly, and then find the appropriate solutions to the vulnerabilities you actually have.

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