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How to Implement a Security Risk Assessment for SMBs?

Published: October 5th, 2017

SMBs need security policy template and security risk assessment more than ever before. Learn what steps you have to take.

A security policy template is a must for any organization, irrespective of its size and the nature of its business. Small and medium businesses (SMBs), just like large organizations, need to have a clear policy on how they are going to face a cyber attack. A security policy template works as a starting framework that your practice can customize in a way that meets your organizational and legal requirements.

Security Risk Assessments

The first step in formulating a security policy template is to assess your needs and regulatory requirements. Second comes the critical security risk assessment (SRA) process. In this article, you will get insight into SRA, its goals and common mistakes to avoid.

Security Risk Assessment: A Stitch in Time (Saves Nine)

A security risk assessment is a part of a broader risk management program. SRA is a proactive approach of problem-solving that focuses on identifying potential sources of security hazards. With the knowledge of an where potential threats may arise, you will be able to take appropriate measures to reduce their impact on your business.

Preparedness is key to reducing security risks and dealing with the aftermath of a data breach. This is even more critical for SMBs, as the instances of the companies going out of business following an attack are increasing alarmingly.

How Often Do You Need SRA in Your Organization?

Maybe once, twice or thrice a year. There is no one fixed number. Nonetheless, you should always comply with your regulatory requirements. For example, if you practice is covered by the HIPAA law, you have to do it at least once every year.

What Does an SRA Cover?

SRA covers all parts of the organization that support the business processes for the organization. Both direct and indirect contributors to your business come under the assessment. It includes applications and systems in the organization, corporate network, servers, email, websites, employees and their mobile devices, cloud providers, apps, etc.

 

3 Most Common Misconceptions of SRA

Many organizations are reluctant to conduct routine SRA because of one or more of the following reasons. Also, know why they are wrong.

  1. It eats up a big chunk of the earnings. Frequently, the owners of the organization raise a question “Why shall we spend on the assessments when we have every security measure in place?” While this might seem like an obvious question, it has little to do with how the systems are functioning. Don’t you need to check your blood sugar routinely even if you are taking an anti-diabetic pill daily?
  2. It is time-consuming. No doubt, analyzing your system is going to take some time. But this, in no way, means you should avoid an SRA. Better technologies, innovative strategies, and experience can speed up the whole process and complete it within a month or even weeks.
  3. It is only about technology. This misconception stems from the fact that most managers are wary of adopting new technology. However, SRA is not just about technology, it’s about the overall security profile in your organization, including its employees.

 

Mistakes to Avoid When Performing an SRA

  • Going out without a clear vision. Lack of vision often mars your efforts. Have a brainstorming session before beginning. Think how would a bad guy try to tarnish your image or cost you money by stealing sensitive information; use this as a basis for prioritizing risk.
  • Keeping compliance above all. Conducting an SRA just because the law requires it does not reflect your seriousness towards protecting data privacy. Instead, put all your efforts in the right direction by keeping security and privacy at the top of the list. e., do it right … don’t just do it to tick off a checkbox.
  • Preparing a report that contains problems only. A report full of problems without a hint of the solution is nothing more than a bundle of paper. Since SRA is about finding solutions, you should look for the solutions when pointing at the problems.

 

Exploring the Goals of Security Risk Assessment

SRA helps organizations including SMBs:

  • Determine the most appropriate preventive and remedial actions the organization should take to combat ongoing cyber attacks.
  • Make changes in the existing security policy template for effective protection from cyber attacks. Thus, security risk assessments help protect organizational missions, functions, image, reputation, assets and individuals. Also, it may provide a reference point for other organizations that might come under similar threats in future.
  • Stay aware of the security situation regarding the organization’s information systems.

 

The Steps of an SRA

Following steps are conducted during a security risk assessment.

  1. System Characterization. Describe the features of hardware, software, system interfaces, people, and system mission of your organization. With this information, an analyst figures out the system’s boundaries, functions and customer data sensitivity.
  2. Threat Identification. Information from previous system attacks (if any) and data from intelligence agencies or mass media are analyzed to create a threat statement.
  3. Vulnerability Identification. This aims to create a list of potential vulnerabilities based on the reports from previous risk assessments, audit comments, security requirements and security test results.
  4. Control Analysis. A control analysis is used to prepare a list of current and planned security controls.
  5. Likelihood Determination. This step rates the likelihood of an attack based on the motivation of the source of the attack, its threat capacity, nature of the vulnerability and the current controls in your organization.
  6. Impact Analysis. If an unfortunate data breach occurs in your organization, this step categorizes the data loss as the loss of: Integrity, Availability, and Confidentiality. With this information, you will be able to rate the impact of the attack.
  7. Risk Determination. In this step, the analyst ranks the risks based on their potential impact and their likelihoods.
  8. Control Recommendations. This step recommends appropriate measures that could mitigate the identified risks. In essence, it aims to reduce the risk level to an acceptable standard.
  9. Results Documentation. After all the steps mentioned above are completed, an official security risk assessment report is prepared and presented to the policymakers of the organization. Then, the board members decide to prepare a new security policy template or make changes to the existing one based on a number of parameters. Most notably, the level and severity of risk and financial and human resources needed to implement the policy.

One of the most crucial aspects of the Security Risk Assessment is commitment to actually make changes based on the control recommendations.  If you perform a SRA year after year and never actually mitigate your major identified risk factors, then you all you are doing is converting ignorance into neglect.

Use your risk assessment to lower your risk

Now, it’s clear that SMBs need a security policy template and an SRA. But most probably, you are stuck with a question. That is,

Should you hire a consultant or can you do it on your own?

Well, it depends on the sensitivity of the information that you hold, your financial resources and your inherent perception of how vulnerable your organization is. But when you look at the disastrous impact of data breaches on SMBs, you should definitely give it a second thought.

The major concern for SMBs why they are not hiring enough IT-related staff is the fear of overspending. But note that “effective spending demands that an organization focus resources on what the business needs to protect and where it is most vulnerable.” In essence, sensible spending results in better protection.

Here’s how a consultant benefits your business.

  1. They probably have a more expertise and experience than you or your staff when it comes to performing a risk assessment.
  2. They have “fresh eyes” and may find areas of risk that you may overlook.
  3. They design, implement and monitor security solutions in accordance with the organization’s needs and goals.
  4. When you hire a consultant, you will have more free time to think about how you can expand your business.
  5. A consultant may also help in other IT-related matters of the organization.

Want to Know More?

To know more about finding the right security, especially in terms of how it applies to your web sites and electronic communications, talk to the experts at Luxsci for a Free Consultation.

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