The Importance of Security Risk Assessments

Even with robust cybersecurity technology and practices in place, many organizations are still vulnerable to cyber threats. It could be a malicious link in a phishing email, a compromised vendor account, or legitimate user credentials purchased from the Dark Web. As threat actors find more ways to gain access to networks and data, businesses need to understand their current security stance and adopt a layered approach to data defense. If you are ready to make improvements to your cybersecurity efforts but aren’t quite sure where to start, consider conducting a comprehensive security risk assessment. A security assessment provides an in-depth look at an organization’s overall security posture– including technologies, network configuration, policies, and employee security awareness– and is generally the first step in any type of long-term security planning.

What is a security risk assessment?

A security assessment is a comprehensive look at an organization’s security stance. During an assessment, a security vendor audits existing security controls to gauge an organization’s risks. At a minimum, a security assessment includes a technical vulnerability scan that will identify vulnerable ports on network hardware and any misconfigurations that may create vulnerabilities. A more robust assessment, like those conducted by Bluestone Analytics, will also evaluate policies and procedures, comparing existing security controls against NIST, industry best practices, and any other security regulations an organization may fall under. The process is generally non-disruptive and can be conducted without impacting daily business operations.

Why is it important?

Provides insight into your organization’s overall security posture

A security risk assessment gives a summary of your organization’s security stance, identifying security measures that have been implemented effectively and also areas where your organization can improve. Because an assessment scores risk for various security controls, an effective assessment can also help security executives understand and explain their current cybersecurity posture in business terms.

Identifies technical and strategic vulnerabilities

Security can be complicated, and it is difficult for organizations to evaluate their own security posture. A third-party assessment gives your organization an un-biased, expert look at all facets of your security strategy. The assessment will identify vulnerable ports, suspicious network activity, configuration errors, and missing or ineffective controls that an in-house security team may have missed. A comprehensive assessment will also use Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) to identify areas where an organization may be vulnerable to compromise, such as spoofed domains or typo-squatting.

Allows you to track changes in your security posture over time

You can’t set goals or make comparisons without understanding your baseline. Conducting a yearly security risk assessment is one of the best ways to measure your organization’s security, identify areas for improvement, and track changes in your security measures over time. Many security improvements can take a long time to implement, and periodically evaluating your progress can help ensure your organization stays on-track. 

Regulatory compliance

Depending on your industry, a security risk assessment may also evaluate how your organization’s existing security controls stack up against the requirements of regulations such as HIPAA, DFARS, NYDFS, GDPR, HITRUST, or PCI. This can provide valuable information about steps needed to obtain or maintain compliance.

Gives guidance for remediation

Following a security assessment, you will likely want to make improvements to your security efforts and close any identified vulnerabilities. Many vendors simply reformat the results generated by automated tools during the technical vulnerability scan and present it as a security assessment report. At Bluestone Analytics, our reports simplify the findings of the assessment and provide actionable data that can be used to plan and prioritize security projects. We focus on identifying projects that are high impact/low cost and explaining how these projects would impact your organization’s overall security stance. 

Whether your organization is simply looking to assess its existing security measures, audit controls for regulatory compliance, or develop a long-term security improvement plan, a comprehensive security risk assessment is the place to start. The assessment can find and suggest remediation for previously undiscovered vulnerabilities and identify areas where additional focus is needed. Additionally, the assessment will provide specific, actionable recommendations that can help you develop your long-term security strategy and determine how your organization will prioritize security projects going forward.