Many small to mid-size businesses are unaware of the cyber security risk management and mitigation techniques they should employ in order to protect themselves from hackers.
The measures you need to take depend on your company size and needs. Most companies will need a multi-layered approach that helps them manage both network risks and data privacy issues.
This blog post will provide a dedicated 4-stage approach to managing & mitigating cyber-risk within your business. You will also find some actionable tips to securing your business sprinkled throughout so look out for any “Quick Tips” or “Insider Insights”.
Let’s breakdown that 4-stage process I referenced earlier:
Evaluating your businesses current technology “environment” to determine any current (or future) risks that could affect your business operations.
Quick Tip: You can only patch holes that you can find. The identification step is the foundation that the rest of your cyber security risk management process will be built on. Be meticulous.
Here we will determine the potential severity of each risk if it were to come to fruition. What would the impact be? How likely is to happen? Here we are trying to determine where our priorities should be moving forward.
This is where the rubber meets the road. Here we are going to implement new procedures/methods & technology to mitigate those risks. This means taking a comprehensive approach and covering all of our bases.
Insider Insight: This is where working with a cybersecurity team of industry veterans is so vital. Controlling cyber security risk is a complex, arduous, and time-consuming process that requires a dedicated team to do so.
There is no “one-and-done” cyber security risk management solution (unfortunately). That means you have to review, manage, and update your cybersecurity controls on a consistent basis. If you don’t, all of that work you put in will be for nothing. Cyber threats are constantly evolving, you have to stay ahead or you risk being breached.
Typically, a cyber threat refers to any attack-vector that can be exploited to breach your security and/or damage your organization. This can include anything from malware, ransomware, social engineering attacks, DDOS attacks and even natural disasters.
Make sure you have a comprehensive security solution that includes firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems (IDS/IPS), antivirus software, etc.
Sound complicated? We can help you out.
The cyber threats that pose the greatest risk to your business will vary depending on your industry and the type of data you store. However, some general cyber threats that all businesses should be aware of include:
These are the “bad guys” you hear so much about. These threat actors are attempting to circumvent your security for financial gain. They do that via a ransomware attack and/or by extracting sensitive data. Small to mid-size organizations often mitigate these risks by implementing proper cybersecurity controls within their organization. In the most broad sense, a properly configured security environment should include:
Insider Insight: Managing cyber risk a complex task with a multitude of variables. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Your best bet is to work with a cybersecurity provider. They should be able to help you configure a secure business environment (and continually update & manage that environment).
The threat of natural occurring events damaging your technology is realistic (and can cause as much damage as a malicious attack). A natural disaster can result in data loss, service disruption, and your digital and physical assets being destroyed.
Insider Insight: Techfive is from the Joplin Missouri area. If you are familiar with the tornado that ravaged the city back in 2011, I’m sure you can imagine the damage that event did to every business that was unfortunately caught in it’s path.
That is an extreme example but smaller events can still cause significant damage.
People make mistakes. Cybersecurity is no different. In fact, some of the most damaging cyber incidents have been caused by someone within the organization clicking on a malicious link, using weak passwords, or simply making an honest mistake. Remember, threat actors are intentionally attempting to prey on the good-will of your employees. Stop thinking of employees as a potential liability and begin to recognize how valuable of an asset they can be in your cybersecurity risk management processes.
The best way to mitigate these risks is through cybersecurity training & awareness programs and implementing role-based security controls that limit what users can access (and what they can do with said access). For example, if someone only uses their account for email and browsing the internet, they shouldn’t have administrative access. Read more about access management in our Small Business Cybersecurity Ultimate Guide.
Unfortunately, most organizations are not prepared for the financial impact of a security breach.
The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) states that 60% of small businesses go out of business within six months after a cyber-attack. That statistic should convince you to take action on your cybersecurity risk management processes.
For the 40% that survive, they will likely face significant financial turmoil and increased operational complexity. There really isn’t an easy way out if your business suffers from a data
Quick Tip: One of the most effective ways to manage cyber risk is by implementing insurance products that protect your business from financial damages in the event of a data breach or other cyber incident. This doesn’t work as a stand-alone strategy but is a necessary part of secure business environment.
Essentially what we are trying to do here is determine the odds of a threat exploiting a vulnerability in your business systems/security and what would the impact of that exploit would be.
Understanding the current threat landscape is a vital step in the cyber security risk management process and serves as the foundation for the remainder of the process.
So have your cybersecurity team take their time and be meticulous in their reporting. You won’t regret it.
Quick Tip: When identifying risk, you have to start by intimately understanding current threats, your businesses most glaring vulnerabilities, and what would the impact be if any vulnerabilities were exploited by those threats.
“A threat is any circumstance or event with the potential to adversely impact organizational operations and assets, individuals, other organizations, or the Nation through an information system via unauthorized access, destruction, disclosure, or modification of information, and/or denial of service” source
“A vulnerability is a weakness in an information system, system security procedures, internal controls, or implementation that could be exploited by a threat source.” source
“The level of impact from a threat event is the magnitude of harm that can be expected to result from the consequences of unauthorized disclosure of information, unauthorized modification of information, unauthorized destruction of information, or loss of information or information system availability.” source
Once we have a good understanding of the threats that our business is facing, we need to start assessing the potential severity of each risk. What would be the impact if this threat were to happen? How likely is it to happen?
This step can be difficult as there are so many factors to consider, but by taking a comprehensive and holistic approach, we can begin to get a better idea of where our priorities should be.
One thing to keep in mind is that not all risks are created equal. Just because a risk has a high impact doesn’t mean it’s more important than one with a lower impact. We need to weigh all the factors and determine which pose the biggest threat.
Once we’ve determined the likelihood of risk and what the impact would be, it’s time to develop a plan that will allow us to mitigate or remove those risks.
Insider Insight: You need a cyber security team who understands your business goals and objectives inside out. This is crucial as they will have an intimate knowledge of your business processes which allows them to tailor their solutions for optimal effectiveness.
The first step in controlling cybersecurity risks is creating policies & procedures for all aspects of IT within your organization; this includes data backup/recovery plans, disaster recovery planning, and password management tools. These should then be tested regularly to ensure that everything works exactly how it’s supposed to.
The second part of risk control is educating employees on cybersecurity threats and how they can protect themselves and the company’s data. This should include things like safe browsing practices, email security, social media safety etc…
Lastly, make sure you have the right cyber security tools in place to detect and prevent attacks before they happen. Tools such as firewalls, intrusion detection/prevention systems (IDS/IPS), and malware protection.
The final step in our process is monitoring and reviewing cybersecurity risks on a regular basis. Threats are constantly evolving so it’s important that we take a proactive approach to managing them.
This means monitoring activity on all systems, reviewing policies & procedures as well as educating employees about new threats that may arise in their daily work environment.
Monitor system logs for unusual activity such as failed login attempts or outgoing traffic from unknown IP addresses.
Conduct regular penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities and ensure that the network is secure. This should be done at least once every three months but preferably more often if possible.
Review your cyber security policy annually (or whenever there are changes) with management team members so they’re aware of what’s required by law/regulations, how to protect themselves from cyber-attacks and what steps need taken when an incident occurs.
Important: Monitoring & reviewing cybersecurity risks & risk-management implementations is typically a very people-centric process. It’s important that employees are aware of all potential threats they might face in their daily work environment. This allows your team to take steps to prevent becoming victims themselves or putting company data at risk by not following proper procedures for handling sensitive information.
Consistently updating this training is vital. Cyber threats are not static and are becoming increasingly complex.
There are a number of different cybersecurity frameworks that can be used to help your organization manage cyber risk. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has a few options, the most popular being the NIST 800-53 Cybersecurity Framework.
This framework is used by both the public and private sector to manage cyber risk. The NIST Cybersecurity Framework was developed with flexibility in mind so it can be tailored to meet specific business needs.
NIST is the baseline for most cybersecurity frameworks. Your cybersecurity provider may vary in their go-to framework but most frameworks are heavily influenced by NIST. At Techfive, we follow the CIS implementation framework. (Hint: It’s pretty much just NIST repackaged to allow more granular implementation.)
Important: Different industries have varying compliance requirements, that means
your business may require a different framework. A good example are
defense contractors. If you are a contractor for the Department
of Defense, you will need to familiarize yourself with CMMC (which,
once again is based off NIST-171.)
Marketing Manager @ Techfive | Working to make B2B brands more personable & human.
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