Risk management review reports are essential for any organization’s cybersecurity success. A thorough and comprehensive report helps you identify vulnerabilities and other threats, both internally and externally, that pose an immediate risk to your organization’s day-to-day operations. But even the best reports won’t help you unless they’re filled with genuine insights and actionable guidance that you can readily integrate into your cybersecurity program.
Closing the Gap Between Risk Management and Cybersecurity
Whether or not you realize it, your organization overcomes countless risks on an almost daily basis. Unfortunately, there’s no shortage of risks to consider, from insider threats like disgruntled employees to unidentified hackers and other malicious actors. Although detailed risk reports will help identify those that pose the most significant threats, you still need to integrate these reports directly into your cybersecurity program to maintain network and data integrity.
Closing the gap between risk rating reports and proactive cybersecurity can be accomplished through various ways, including:
- Understanding risk management
- Categorizing risks
- Merging risk management and cybersecurity
- The primary benefits of risk review reporting
Risk management review reports are only the first step to mitigating vulnerabilities and potential threats.
Understanding Risk Management
Risk management is an art form that’s learned and refined over time. But the best risk management review reports all have one thing in common; they offer actionable insight and guidance to help you mitigate and overcome these risks. It’s not enough to identify and highlight risks. Providing guidance on the steps you can take to avoid these risks sets apart expert risk review reports.
Ultimately, you must prioritize the risks that pose the greatest threats and occur most often.
For best results, try to classify risks according to their potential impact. Since this is what senior-level staff and board members really want to see, it makes sense to highlight the actual effect these risks might have on your organization.
To make understanding reports simpler, classify risks into one of four categories, but remember that some risks can impact multiple areas:
- Financial – These risks result in monetary repercussions, including regulatory fines, lost revenue, and incident investigation costs. The financial impact of replacement or remediation software or hardware purchases must be included too.
- Operational – Risks in this category directly impact your organization’s day-to-day operations. Sustained denial of service (DoS) attacks, malware, and viruses are typically lumped into this category.
- Reputational – Some risks affect your public image and reputation more than anything else. Data breaches and prolonged service outages fall into this category.
- Strategic – These risks are difficult to classify, but they include acts like network monitoring and penetration, social engineering, and more. If an attack is used to set your organization up for another, more significant attack, or if a risk poses a direct threat to your long-term organizational goals, it should be included in this category.
Now you can report on individual categories or provide an overview of every risk that’s currently facing your organization. It makes it easy to disseminate data to stakeholders, brainstorm solutions to specific risks, and track your total cybersecurity implementation.
The categories outlined above provide a good starting point, but you can make your risk management review report even more comprehensive by going into further detail. Start by rating each risk based on its potential severity.
- Low – These risks have very few repercussions to worry about. Network monitoring and penetration tests are often considered low-risk.
- Low-Medium – Falling somewhere between low and medium risks, this category is for viruses and other malware that has the potential to have a small impact on your organization.
- Medium – Most cyberthreats will likely fall into this category. While these risks do have the potential to cause harm, most are defeated by basic network security tools.
- Medium-High – Risks categorized here could result in lost revenue or angry customers. Threats that target service continuity for a brief time and small-scale data breaches are classified here.
- High – These risks represent major events and cybersecurity incidents, including those that target day-to-day operations or your client base. Ransomware attacks and some data breaches, depending on their scale, are classified here.
Establishing a severity rating as part of your risk review report helps you prioritize and delegate tasks when it comes time for corrective action.
Because some risks remain persistent threats and some aren’t very likely at all, it’s time to consider the likelihood of each risk occurring. Use the following rating system to further categorize financial, operational, reputational, and strategic risks:
- Rare or highly unlikely – Risks in this category are very uncommon. In some industries, data breaches and ransomware are rare, despite their prevalence in other professions.
- Unlikely – These risks are unlikely to occur at all. While they can be given a low priority, their impact should still be considered.
- Possible – This category covers risks that could occur at any time but don’t pose a constant threat.
- Very likely – Expected and forecasted risks more likely to occur on a daily basis fall into this category.
- Frequent or repeatedly – These risks are present more than once per day. Virus infections and network intrusions, for example, occur around the clock.
Using the classifications above will result in a risk rating report that provides clear, actionable guidance of which cybersecurity efforts should occur at higher frequencies. Remember that some industries and organizations are more prone to certain risks than others, so make sure to classify individual risks as they apply specifically to your organizational goals.
Merging Risk Management and Cybersecurity
After categorizing, rating, and prioritizing risks with risk rating reports, it’s time to begin merging this actionable insight into your cybersecurity program. There are several possible approaches here. Find a combination of different strategies that work best for your organization for optimal results.
Using Common Terminology
Try to translate complex terms and concepts into common terminology. While experts easily understand some technical jargon, project managers, program managers, board members, and other staff might not be as familiar with modern IT vernacular.
If necessary, use comparisons to further illustrate important points. For example, likening a ransomware attack to a real-world hostage situation highlights the importance of the matter. Conversely, explaining how a computer virus acts similarly to a virus in the human body makes it easier for non-tech-savvy individuals to understand complex topics.
Sharing and Collaborating
Promote sharing and collaborating at every opportunity, especially between risk managers and your cybersecurity team. You’ll want these staff members as synchronized as possible to effectively merge risk management and cybersecurity.
Start by having your risk management team share their risk management review reports with the entire IT department. Then, have senior-level IT staff review each report and provide feedback on individual risks, severity levels, and likelihood ratings. This kind of collaboration helps you address actual risks that pose an active threat to your organization.
Using Data Effectively
Ensure that your cybersecurity team is using all the data at their disposal. It’s all too easy to focus on one or two datasets and ignore the rest, but it’s a habit that will cause your team to miss out on certain risks and threats. Avoid problems like this by separating actionable data from useless information and applying it appropriately.
If the data says that your entire industry is at risk of a certain threat, it’s best to take an active stance against the issue—even if your organization hasn’t experienced it yet. Preventative actions like these help bridge the gap between risk management and cybersecurity while making it even more difficult for hackers to overcome your defenses.
Architecture and Patches
To immediately address discovered vulnerabilities, consider enhancing your cybersecurity architecture—especially with solutions and tools that automate detection processes. The more you automate your monitoring capabilities, the more security team bandwidth you’ll recover.
Some efforts may require full or partial architecture implementations and integrations, whereas others may simply require deploying patches.
Conducting Risk Response Exercises
Cyber risk management review reports also make great learning opportunities. This is another helpful way to ensure that your staff properly understands the nuances of cybersecurity. For best results, keep your exercises pertinent to the threats and risks faced by your organization.
Possible exercise ideas include:
- Phishing – One of the most common scenarios encountered by your staff, phishing attacks are becoming more sophisticated with time. Ensure your staff is aware of the latest tricks by regularly running phishing simulations and exercises.
- Social engineering – Hackers and other malicious actors often use other social engineering techniques beyond basic phishing to try and deceive individual users. By impersonating a senior-level executive, government personnel, or some other important entity, cunning hackers can easily fool unsuspecting users into giving up sensitive data, including, in some cases, their login credentials.
- Malware and ransomware – With the potential to encrypt your entire system, ransomware is one of the biggest threats facing organizations today. Other types of malicious software pose significant risks, too, so it’s helpful to educate your entire team on such hazards.
While your organization is likely facing more threats than this, some don’t translate well to a training environment. Trying to simulate a computer virus infection, for example, is far more difficult than mimicking a hacker or disgruntled employee who’s trying to gain entry into your network.
Managing Third-Party Vendors
Third-party vendors pose significant cybersecurity risks. Managing these parties and mitigating the risks they present can be a constant struggle in some environments. Vendors who are near the top of your organizational chain carry more risk than those in lower rungs, but they should all be properly vetted, monitored, and audited on a consistent basis.
Enterprise resource management makes it easy to assign risks to individual vendors. You’ll be able to identify and monitor low-performing vendors, making it easier to scan for suspicious activity. If a vendor fails to meet your benchmarks for success, don’t hesitate to look elsewhere for a vendor that can.
Promoting Employee Awareness
Your risk management review reports effectively promote employee awareness, but they’ll only achieve so much. So make every effort to ensure cybersecurity awareness throughout your entire organization.
Encourage your employees to take a proactive stance toward cybersecurity. Once they’ve learned how to identify the common traps and pitfalls, encourage them to report these issues to the IT department. Smaller, seemingly insignificant attacks are often precursors to larger, more aggressive attacks, so these warning signs shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Normalizing and Standardizing Risk Management
Standardizing risk management across your entire organization makes it easier to integrate with cybersecurity and other areas. If one department currently uses a different rubric for classifying and categorizing risks, try to synchronize their system, configuration, or method with that of cybersecurity and your IT department.
Making these changes helps bolster interdepartmental communications and collaboration, ultimately improving security across your entire organization.
Primary Benefits of Risk Management Review Reporting
Risk management review reporting has many direct benefits to your organization, including:
- Create a risk-focused culture – While you don’t want your staff worrying about every single risk or threat in cyberspace, ensuring their awareness of such issues goes a long way in combating threats like phishing, social engineering, and ransomware.
- Achieve compliance – Knowing and understanding your cyber risks helps drive regulatory compliance. In some cases, regulatory bodies can help you uncover risks that you would have otherwise missed.
- Use resources efficiently – The integration of risk management and cybersecurity helps steer the allocation of resources on a day-to-day basis. If one department is struggling with viruses or a specific attack is more likely to occur at a specific time, the appropriate resources can be allocated and prepared to tackle risks head-on.
- Perform faster audits – Merging risk management and cybersecurity helps your team perform audits quicker than ever before. Since your cyberdefense is based on actual risk review and risk rating reports, you’ll already have your documentation ready when it comes time for your next audit. It also results in increased visibility and transparency.
Using Risk Management to Strengthen Security Across the Board
The modern cyber landscape is rife with threats, vulnerabilities, and risks. Threat and vulnerability management is crucial for minimizing their potential likelihood and impact.
Contact RSI Security today for more tips on integrating your future risk management review reports directly into your cybersecurity program while strengthening your entire network infrastructure in the process.