How Do You Perform a Cyber Security Risk Assessment?

With most transactions going digital, every business must perform regular cyber security vulnerability assessments. Keeping information technology (IT) systems and internal and external processes safe and secure is a priority for all enterprises, and it’s paramount to keeping your company, contacts, and consumers safe and protected.

Worldwide, 30,000 websites are hacked daily due to vulnerable systems and 64% of businesses have reportedly fallen victim to unauthorised access and malicious attempts.

Knowing which elements and security tools to focus on can be challenging, especially with the numerous elements and business objectives to evaluate. In this guide, we’ll drill into the basics of cyber security vulnerability assessments and the steps and methodologies to safeguard your assets more effectively.

What is a Cyber Security Risk Assessment?

Also known as vulnerability analysis, a cyber security risk assessment is a key process for evaluating the security posture of computer systems, applications, and network infrastructure by identifying and labelling vulnerabilities. By scanning for Common Vulnerabilities & Exposures (CVE), organisations can prioritise their vulnerabilities to strengthen their security position against potential threats.

While some businesses prefer to conduct assessments in-house, working with experts is often necessary to get trusted vulnerability assessment services. These specialists provide customised and comprehensive solutions that align with your specific needs.

Why does Cyber Security Vulnerability Assessment Matter? 

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Data breaches can result in costly damages to any organisation. A report published in the Australian Cyber Security Magazine indicated that the data breach costs in the country have risen 32% in the last five years, reaching $4.03 million in 2023.

Periodic cyber security vulnerability assessments help you take a step ahead against online threats by safeguarding your assets proactively. While these may not guarantee full immunity from cyberattacks, they can minimise the damaging impacts of data leaks and online hacking.

Types of Vulnerability Assessments

Vulnerability scanners come in various types and address different parts of an IT infrastructure, such as network scanning, web applications, Application Programming Interface (API) security, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and container security.

A security team should identify the right scanner based on their organisation’s needs to conduct vulnerability assessments like host-based scans and wireless scans to detect software and security vulnerabilities.

Cyber Security Vulnerability Assessment Frameworks 

The key elements of the assessment must remain fixed, including vulnerability assessment techniques, vulnerability testing, security flaws recognition capability, and authentication of susceptible systems present within your digital ecosystem, among many other components.

Australia has the Essential Eight, developed by the Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC), to mitigate cyber security threats. They present best practices for preventing cyberattacks, limiting their impact, and establishing effective data recovery and system availability measures.

Getting the Right Vulnerability Assessment Tools

Vulnerability assessment tools are crucial in having reliable security scanning processes. An automated vulnerability scanner allows security teams to find weaknesses in their IT infrastructure using different vulnerability databases, vendor advisories, and threat intelligence feeds.

The right security assessment tools can help your company understand your overall cyber defence posture. It helps fight previously or newly detected threats. Effective management and utilisation of these tools help save time and resources and produce detailed records on which your company can base their next actions.

Understanding the Vulnerability Assessment Process

The vulnerability assessment process includes a few crucial steps to ensure organisations can identify security weaknesses efficiently. Here’s a guide to tackling cyber security vulnerability assessments:

  1. Define the Scope and Goals of Your Assessment

A vulnerability assessment can be time-consuming, and it doesn’t help that there are several factors to consider and analyse. To ensure you’re always on the right track, determine the scope and objectives of the assessment.

Define which systems, assets and locations are included and prioritise vulnerabilities of the operations most critical to your business. Moreover, specify your goals to address all necessary areas effectively within an allocated time frame, meeting the organisation’s security requirements and priorities.

Creating a remediation plan should also form part of this initial stage. It guides how any weaknesses discovered during testing should be addressed – improving overall safety measures companies adopt.

  1. Identify and Prioritise the Most Vulnerable Assets

Create a comprehensive list of your critical assets and understand why they’re valuable to your business. More than looking at the price tag, determine the asset’s purpose and imagine how you’ll function without such resources. Include all physical and logical assets, for instance, your software, servers, business devices, staff, and electronic data.

Reviewing your policies, reports, and other relevant documents, gathering inputs from stakeholders, and analysing your business IT infrastructure, wired and wireless networks, configuration settings, operating systems, and systems can also help you move forward.

Prioritisation is key when resources only cover some assets in the IT system, as it allows organisations to focus on addressing high-risk elements first. This approach is beneficial in identifying and studying the exposure risk factors relating to each vital security component.

The financial and health sectors remain the most vulnerable to data breaches in Australia and the rest of the world. Bank credit card details and personal information are highly attractive to cybercriminals because they give them access to an unsuspecting victim’s financial assets.

  1. Scan and Identify Security Vulnerabilities

Vulnerability scanning is an essential component of the vulnerability assessment process. It uses automated tools to assess computers, networks, or web applications for known security flaws.

A combination of automated and manual tools works best at this stage. That’s because manual penetration testing detects possible weaknesses that automatic scans might otherwise overlook. Combining these vulnerability scanning tools provides greater insight into an organisation’s security posture.

Vulnerability Assessment vs. Penetration Testing

Vulnerability assessment and penetration testing have distinct roles in cyber security. The former focuses on pinpointing weaknesses and providing remediation strategies to reduce the associated risks. Meanwhile, penetration testing aims to find vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to access sensitive data, your organisation’s infrastructure or the system.

Combining these two crucial activities allows companies to understand their safety profile better and determine loopholes within the organisation’s defences. They minimise risks associated with cyberattacks by helping companies accurately recognise any existing or emerging vulnerabilities before they become a problem for the business.

  1. Manage Identified Vulnerabilities

Vulnerability management involves:

  • Assessing risks
  • Prioritising identified vulnerabilities based on metrics like Common Vulnerabilities Scoring System (CVSS) ratings.
  • Developing strategies for mitigation or remediation.

This procedure helps organisations to pinpoint potential security threats in their IT systems more accurately and tackle the most serious flaws to reduce overall vulnerability risk.

  1. Study Cyber Security Risks

Risk assessment and prioritisation are crucial in minimising the potential threats that may damage IT systems. Tracking vulnerabilities should be done based on their CVSS rating, the scale of their impacts, and how easily exploitable they are.

This exercise will guide you in prioritising your resources and activities moving forward. You can assign severity levels for your identified risk scenarios based on the high, medium, and low scales.

Organisations can prioritise security measures and actions by eliminating the most serious vulnerability risks. Prioritisation enables appropriate levels of protection for a company’s network infrastructure. More importantly, it ensures that security teams can develop effective policies and safe operation practices to establish robust security procedures.

  1. Develop Remediation and Mitigation Strategies

Documenting these procedures helps companies consistently address vulnerabilities while maintaining an effective security posture. Strategies such as patching software, closing ports, updating system configurations, and employing firewalls or intrusion detection systems can help strengthen the networks, minimising data loss and ultimately boosting the systems’ long-term stability.

Integrating vulnerability assessment into your cyber security program

Incorporating vulnerability assessment into your cyber security plan helps continuously monitor IT systems and strengthen your defence. In doing so, organisations can maintain a proactive approach when safeguarding against cyber-attacks, protecting their digital assets more effectively.

Vulnerability Assessment Best Practices

Risk management lifecycles are fairly short, and newly discovered vulnerabilities crop up often. Vulnerability assessments should be regularly conducted to ensure a high-security profile, effectively safeguarding your company against new and existing threats. Automated tools and manual techniques should be used to examine the organisation’s digital infrastructure extensively.

Regular vulnerability identification, checks, and scans help unearth possible issues in advance. By following these steps, companies can protect their data from malicious intent online.

Concluding Thoughts

Cyber security risk assessments are essential for maintaining an effective security posture and protecting against cyber threats. It’s important to understand all aspects of such tests and establish best practices so businesses can better secure their digital assets from attacks.

Your organisation must be proactive by taking a multi-layered approach with threats, vulnerability, and risk assessments following specific frameworks, thus allowing them to keep updated on changing trends in malicious activities online. This helps to keep your networks and systems safe and protected.

BITS Technology Group understands how important your assets are to your business. We provide a wide range of services to keep your business protected. Contact us to know how our security analysts and IT professionals can help you.