Cybersecurity Risk Management

What is Cybersecurity Risk Management?

Risk management is the process of identifying potential risks to an organization, assessing their likelihood and potential impact, and working to mitigate those risks to an acceptable level. The discipline of risk management is widely applied in the public and private sectors, especially in areas like manufacturing, banking, and insurance.

Cybersecurity is the application of risk management principles with a focus on shielding the organization from the financial losses, reputational damage, unplanned downtime, and legal exposure that can result from a successful cyberattack or data breach.

An effective cybersecurity risk management program aims to identify the most important cyberthreats against the organization, assess the potential impact of those threats and their likelihood of occurring, and to implement controls that reduce the risk of a successful cyberattack.

How Does Cybersecurity Risk Management Work?

A comprehensive approach to cybersecurity risk management begins with risk identification and assessment, followed by cybersecurity risk evaluation, the implementation of risk mitigation measures, and an ongoing risk monitoring program. 

Cybersecurity Risk Identification

Risk identification is the process of identifying potential risks to organizational cybersecurity. This activity can be broken down into three key components:

  • Identifying IT Assets – The first step to securing an enterprise IT environment is to map out all physical and digital assets that comprise the attack surface for cyberthreats. This includes networks, software applications, and endpoint devices, as well as email, domains, and owned social media profiles.
  • Identifying Digital Threats – Next, enterprise SecOps teams should document all of the digital threats that could materialize against those assets. Digital threats come in two basic types: there are software exploits that use malicious code to exploit application vulnerabilities, and social engineering attacks that use deception to trick human users into compromising secure systems.
  • Identifying Vulnerabilities – Having identified IT assets and potential digital threats, SecOps teams should identify vulnerabilities or potential weaknesses in the IT environment based on the threat landscape and existing security controls for IT assets.

Cybersecurity Risk Assessment

Risk assessment follows a simple formula that has existed in risk management for more than fifty years: Risk = Likelihood * Impact.

The relative risk for any given digital threat is a product of:

  1. The likelihood of that threat occurring, and
  2. The impact that the threat would have on the organization if it did occur.

For each threat identified in the Risk Identification step, SecOps teams should assess the likelihood of that threat occurring and document the potential consequences to the organization if it were to occur. These consequences may include financial losses, regulatory sanctions, legal exposure, reputational damage, or a combination.

Cybersecurity Risk Evaluation

Having identified and assessed potential cyberthreats, the next step is to perform a cybersecurity risk evaluation. At this stage, SecOps teams should:

  1. Based on identified security vulnerabilities, assign each assessed threat a likelihood of occurrence using a 10-point or 100-point rating scale, 
  2. Assign a dollar value to the potential impact or consequences of each digital threat, and
  3. Use the Risk = Likelihood * Impact formula to assign a relative risk value to each digital threat.

Assigning relative risk values in this way helps enterprise SecOps teams quantify the greatest sources of cybersecurity risk to the organization. This allows them to effectively prioritize and allocate their resources to mitigate the greatest sources of enterprise cybersecurity risk.

Cybersecurity Risk Mitigation

After completing a risk evaluation, the next step in the cybersecurity risk management process is to implement new controls and measures that will mitigate the greatest sources of risk. These measures can include things like:

  • Application whitelisting,
  • Upgrading software or patching known security vulnerabilities in critical applications,
  • Implementing multi-factor authentication to safeguard secure systems against brute force attacks,
  • Implementing roles-based access controls (RBAC) to restrict access to sensitive data,
  • Scheduling data back-ups to reduce the potential impact of a data breach,
  • Creating a disaster recovery plan to rapidly restore critical systems after an unplanned outage, or
  • Deploying Digital Risk Protection (DRP) software to automate threat detection and remediation across the public attack surface.

Monitoring and Reviewing the Cybersecurity Risk Management Strategy

Enterprise cybersecurity is a cat-and-mouse game between SecOps teams and digital threat actors who wish to infiltrate secure networks, steal sensitive data, and commit fraud. 

For SecOps teams, staying one step ahead means monitoring and periodically reviewing the organization’s cybersecurity risk management strategy to ensure the organization is adequately defended against the newest and greatest threats.

Support Your Cybersecurity Risk Management Strategy with ZeroFOX

ZeroFOX supports your cybersecurity risk management strategy with AI-driven protection, threat  intelligence, and disruption to dismantle external threats to brands, people, assets, and data across the public attack surface in one, comprehensive platform.

Check out our white paper A Taxonomy of Digital Threats to learn more about the digital threats your organization could be facing and how to safeguard your enterprise with ZeroFOX.