Are IT Risk Assessments a Necessity?

Technology today has provided businesses with powerful tools, applications, and other resources that have changed the economy and how business is conducted. But along with those changes brings many risks in the form of cyber criminals. Individuals who infiltrate networks to leverage data for malicious purposes.

Cybercrime is a major concern for all businesses across the board today. As such, it’s important that businesses are prepared for any potential attack and to take preventative measures as best they can.

One good measure to consider is an IT risk assessment. These assessments provide proven strategies that can help any business mitigate risk while increasing the efficiency of cybersecurity programs.

What Are IT Risk Assessments?

Simply put, this is a comprehensive review of any business’s entire data security strategy. These are designed specifically to identify vulnerabilities, so companies are aware of them and to address the issues.

These risk assessments can be done internally; however, they are more effective when a third-party is involved. Independent firms remove the bias that could potentially be present and will be impartial in finding deficiencies or vulnerabilities. They also will provide excellent solutions to those issues.

Generally speaking, companies should perform these assessments once per year. However, depending on the size, what kind of data is being protected, and how much that data can be accessed by personnel, more frequent assessments might be necessary.

Furthermore, performing an assessment would be advised if organizations are making significant structural changes such as migrating data to a new platform, merging with another company, or transitioning staff from working in buildings to remote work or vice versa.

Overall, IT risk assessments are crucial to the success of data security programs. Many countries recognize this as well to the point that there are regulatory entities mandating annual or bi-annual assessments as part of compliance initiatives.

What Are The Three Types of IT Risks?

One of the common misconceptions about IT risk assessments is that all they do is prevent acts of cybercrimes. While that’s the core purpose, they are designed to address other concerns as well. Those concerns are as follows:

  • Cyber threats. These present a significant risk to any business. Every year, hackers illegally obtain millions of consumer records, perform hundreds of ransomware attacks, and close businesses for good. The costs can easily reach tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars – some in real money or just from loss of potential customers. The assessment will have a section devoted to vulnerabilities and how companies can patch that area for better protection.
  • Data loss/Physical security. Cybersecurity audits will also point out vulnerabilities on-site. For example, some businesses will store backup data with on-site servers. This isn’t secure especially when cloud-based backups are available. Beyond that, they’ll look at security measures taken right now such as whether employees are bringing work computers home, whether desktops are password protected or not, and so on.
  • Non-compliance. The last type is to look at laws that issued from local and federal governments and compare those standards with the company’s policies and procedures. This section is devoted to ensure companies are providing their due diligence.

Benefits Of Performing IT Risk Assessments

From small to medium-sized businesses, conducting a comprehensive IT risk assessment can seem unnecessary. Especially when the company itself has limited resources to work with. However, the costs of not performing these assessments often can be massive in retrospect.

Some reports estimate that a single cyberattack can cost SMBs roughly $200,000. Worse, half of those businesses that were attacked went under after six months.

Performing these assessments on a regular basis can ensure current businesses avoid that same fate. This is on top of other benefits such as:

  • Gained perspective on vulnerabilities. Each of these assessments provide detailed reports on what can be done and provides clarities on vulnerabilities. They will also provide a breakdown of the findings and a prioritization list to ensure companies deal with the most pressing problems first and foremost.
  • Remedy any weaknesses. Weaknesses in digital infrastructure isn’t good and risk assessments identify exactly what they are. These assessments also often consult ethical hackers – hackers who hack for the sake of boosting security and determining efficiency – which will boost security too.
  • Keep stock of digital assets. Each of these risk assessments also has an auditor who will provide a complete view of all IT assets. Knowing what assets companies have, owners will be able to provide further protection to their digital assets.
  • Lower costs. Even though risk assessments have upfront costs, the costs long-term are negligible. Beyond that, these assessments will also reduce maintenance costs as they will pinpoint unnecessary spending and address other tools that aren’t being fully used.
  • Ensure compliance. The non-compliance assessments can save companies from legal fees. As mentioned before, local and federal levels may have enforced specific mandates on security, and non-compliance can result in fines. In the case of breaches, if companies aren’t compliant, they may be liable to get sued by users. All of that can be avoided by doing an assessment.

When Is The Best Time For A Risk Assessment?

Ideally, doing one in the very near future would be the best. As soon as companies are aware of gaps in security protocols, they can guard against cyberattacks. Furthermore, it’ll be ideal to enlist the help of a third-party to conduct the risk assessment. There are many IT firms that specialize in consulting and auditing and can provide businesses with a broader scope and the best course of action.

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