Cybercrime is a multi-trillion-dollar annual problem. If you think your organization isn’t large enough to worry about it, think again: Today’s advanced attackers are targeting companies up and down supply chains, attempting to leverage a single weak point into a treasure trove of valuable data.
So how does one prevent such an outcome? Conducting cybersecurity risk assessment activities on a regular basis — and supporting such activities with powerful software tools — can help ensure that your security posture is as resilient as it needs to be.
The Fundamentals of IT Security Risk Assessment
To effectively protect your systems, it’s imperative to identify your most critical data and devices, understand where any vulnerabilities lie and fully appreciate the potential consequences should a successful attack be staged.
Cybersecurity risk analysis helps accomplish these goals, which is why most organizations schedule one on an annual or bi-annual basis. Let’s take a closer look at the core steps to take when performing risk assessment in cybersecurity.
Risk Assessment Steps
- Identify the scope of the assessment. Which elements are critical enough for evaluation?
- Define the parameters or characteristics of the system. What kind of data does it use and how does that information flow? What is the value of this data? How sensitive is it? Who are the vendors in the system? Who uses the system?
- What potential threats exist inside the system? Is there a risk present from unauthorized access, inappropriate privileges, data leakage or loss, service disruption, etc.?
- Define the vulnerabilities and the level of the risk present. How badly could each of the identified vulnerabilities hurt the organization if exploited?
- Analyze security controls. Identify controls by category (threat identification, detection, mitigation, etc.) and determine whether these controls are operating effectively.
- Determine the likelihood of existing vulnerabilities being exploited, and use this information (along with the data gleaned from earlier steps) to create an overall risk profile.
The Benefits of a Cyber Security Risk Assessment Report
Creating a regular cybersecurity risk assessment report helps give organizational decision-makers a much more informed view of the strength of the current security posture and whether improvements are needed. A rigorous assessment helps make evaluations more objective and can provide actionable evidence of what needs to be done. Given that most C suite leaders do not have the time (and perhaps lack the technical ability) to get into the weeds of cybersecurity, an annual risk report can serve as a useful summary of current issues and identify what, if anything, should be done about them.
Using Breach and Attack Simulation Platforms in Cybersecurity Risk Assessments
As mentioned above, the process of identifying vulnerabilities and determining the risk they pose if successfully exploited is a crucial part of any cybersecurity risk assessment report. There are a variety of tools one can use for this: Audit reports, vendor data, incident response teams, etc. Yet one of the most powerful software-based approaches is the use of breach and attack simulation (BAS) platforms, such as the one designed by XM Cyber.
These platforms work by flipping the script on attackers. Instead of working in IT environments with poor visibility and hoping for the best, BAS platforms allow you to mimic the behavior of the most advanced adversaries and test your own systems by launching simulated attacks. In other words, it’s defense through offense.
These simulations, which run 24/7, can then identify vulnerabilities and show how they are likely to be exploited. This information is followed by detailed remediation guidance to help quickly close any uncovered security gaps.
This means that BAS tools are often the most efficient method for uncovering vulnerabilities and evaluating risk, which makes them a powerful tool to be wielded during the performance of regular assessments.
Integrating BAS tools into your next cybersecurity risk assessment — and using such tools on a continuous basis to manage the evolving risk associated with fast-changing cloud and hybrid environments — can help make your security posture far stronger and more resilient. Because XM Cyber’s BAS technology is capable of operating in AWS, it is ideally suited for the identification and remediation of hybrid cloud security risks
For more information on how this works, please visit XM Cyber’s product page.
Dan Anconina is Customer Operations Manager at XM Cyber