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Using risk mitigation to protect your business from cybersecurity threats

22 Jul 2020

Article by Reciprocity.

Today's business world is turning into a digital-first space, and it isn't tough to see why. From how businesses conduct their transactions to their recruitment processes, everything seems to be going through digital channels. 

Embracing digitisation comes with the promise of better service delivery, more in-depth data analytics, and efficient data handling practices. Sadly though, digitisation also comes with the risk of cybersecurity threats. 

If your business isn't prepared for these cyber-threats, you risk damage to your reputation, customer retention rates, corporate secrets, and data. While there are many options for preventing these threats, not all will be effective enough for your business. 

Approaching your cyber-threats through a risk analysis and mitigation approach could help you pick a worthy solution.

How risk analysis can help

It’s tough to try and stop specific risks from happening if you don’t know what you are fighting against. 

Ideally, you need to have a birds-eye view of all your IT assets, the kind of value they hold for your business, and how they affect product and service delivery. You also need to know the threats to your business's normal functioning and how impactful they can be.

Having such intricate details concerning your business at your fingertips will help you make informed decisions to protect your organisation. It will also ensure that you can uphold high levels of data processing, integrity, availability, and confidentiality. 

Luckily, you only need to follow a few steps to understand the cybersecurity status of your business and pick effective risk mitigation measures.

Start with risk assessment

What makes your business attractive to cybercriminals and threat actors? Is it where you store your data or the people who have access to it? Cybercriminals will always be looking for windows of opportunity before they can attack your business.

During the risk assessment, you need to understand the 'what,' 'how,' 'where,' and 'who' of all of your IT assets. For instance, in the cases of data, you should know where it is stored, who has access to it, how it is stored, and what threats it faces.

Consider listing down all your IT assets, regardless of whether they are prone to high severity threats or not. This step will help you measure the threats around your data in step two.

Quantify cybersecurity threats

Cybersecurity threats can come from both inside and outside your organisation. 

In the case of the former, a disgruntled employee could easily lead to a breach. While most businesses are quick in taming outside cyber-threats, they often ignore insider threats. When quantifying risks, be sure to factor in both internal and external threats.

Quantifying risks can be done in two ways- through the impact of the threat and the likelihood that it will happen. 

For instance, a threat could lead to five hours of downtime for your business, but the likelihood of this happening could be quite low. Having both figures concerning a threat could help you create a risk assessment matrix to rank the different cyber-risks.

While it is easy to quantify the threat posed by some data, other data will require hiring professionals. 

For instance, you could have to hire a security specialist to do some penetration testing on your business. This will poke holes in your security framework and showcase IT assets that have been greatly ignored. These specialists could also offer ideas on how to deal with the threats they unearth.

Prioritising risk responses

While there are multiple ways to deal with cybersecurity threats, some options will be more effective than others. 

Similarly, the way you deal with common cyber-threats will depend on your resources and budget. 

This is where your risk assessment matrix can help. It will make it easier to know what risks need a more serious approach than the rest.

For risks that are easy to control in-house, you should consider mitigating them through appropriate solutions. If a risk can be handled better by a third party, transferring it to them may be better. 

For risks that are too trivial to impact your business, ignoring them won't hurt. Lastly, any risk that might demand more resources than you currently have should be completely avoided.

Educating employees

Risk mitigation policies will only be as effective as the people running them every single day. If an employee forgets to comply with these policies or doesn't know that they exist, your business stands to lose a lot. 

Take your time educating your employees on different policies. They should understand, for instance, that software updates should never be ignored.

Training your workforce on cybersecurity best practices shouldn't be a one-time thing. Retraining should happen fairly regularly to not only refresh their memory but also update them on any changes made.

Most of the cyber-attacks that plague today's business world could have been prevented through being proactive. Hackers and threat actors take time before they can identify vulnerability worth exploiting. 

Assessing your risk landscape and mitigating common threats ensures you can cover those threats before they can act on them.

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