Risky Business: A Guide to Information Security Risk Assessment

Risk assessment is an important process in information security that involves identifying potential risks and evaluating the likelihood and impact of those risks. The process involves identifying assets, evaluating threats, assessing vulnerabilities, and determining the potential impact of a successful attack.

There are two main types of risk assessments: qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative risk assessments are based on subjective judgments and focus on identifying risks and their potential impacts, without assigning numerical values to those risks, such as low, medium, and high-rated risks. Quantitative risk assessments, on the other hand, involve assigning numerical values to the likelihood and impact of a risk, allowing for a more objective assessment of the potential impact of a successful attack, for example, less than £1000, £1000 – £5000, and in excess of £5000.

The risk assessment process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Asset Identification: Identify the assets that need to be protected, such as information, hardware, and software.
  2. Threat Identification: Identify potential threats to those assets, such as natural disasters, cyberattacks, and human error.
  3. Vulnerability Assessment: Assess the vulnerabilities of those assets, such as weaknesses in software or physical security.
  4. Likelihood Assessment: Assess the likelihood of a threat exploiting a vulnerability and causing harm to an asset.
  5. Impact Assessment: Determine the potential impact of a successful attack on an asset.
  6. Risk Evaluation: Evaluate the level of risk associated with a particular threat, based on the likelihood and impact assessments.
  7. Risk Treatment: Develop strategies to mitigate or manage the risks identified in the risk assessment, such as implementing security controls, transferring risk through insurance, or accepting the risk.

The risk assessment process is ongoing and should be reviewed regularly to ensure that the risk assessment remains up-to-date and reflects changes in the environment, such as changes in the threat landscape or changes to the assets being protected.

There are several risk management frameworks that are used to guide the process of managing risks to information security. Some of the most commonly used frameworks are:

  1. ISO 27001/27002: The ISO 27001/27002 framework is a set of international standards for information security management. It provides a systematic approach to managing risks to information security by identifying, evaluating, and treating risks to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information.
  2. NIST Cybersecurity Framework: The NIST Cybersecurity Framework provides a set of guidelines for organisations to manage and reduce cybersecurity risks. It consists of five core functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover.
  3. COBIT: The COBIT (Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology) framework is a governance and management framework for IT-related risks. It provides a comprehensive set of guidelines for managing risks to information security, including identifying risks, assessing their likelihood and impact, and implementing controls to mitigate or manage them.
  4. FAIR: FAIR (Factor Analysis of Information Risk) is a quantitative risk assessment framework that uses a data-driven approach to identify and prioritize information security risks. It focuses on the analysis of potential loss events and the calculation of the likelihood and impact of those events.
  5. CIS Controls: The Centre for Internet Security (CIS) Controls is a set of 20 critical controls that organisations can use to manage and reduce cybersecurity risks. These controls are based on a prioritized list of actions that can be taken to improve an organization’s security posture.

These frameworks provide organisations with a systematic approach to managing risks to information security. They can be tailored to fit the specific needs and requirements of an organization and can be used to guide the development of policies, procedures, and controls to manage risks to information security.

If you require help or assistance with your Information Security Risk Assessments, then get in touch today!