There are daily risks to your business. Technology has improved how business is conducted, but it has also opened the door for cybersecurity risks. There are standards and regulations designed to prevent hackers that organizations must be in compliance with. However, it’s not easy identifying all potential vulnerabilities in a system or network.
This is when a FAIR methodology risk assessment comes in. This is a process that can be done on any function, application, or process used by the company. It identifies risks so you can manage them before cybersecurity breaches occur. Completing a risk assessment often isn’t a simple process, but there are steps you can take to make it easier.
In this guide, you’ll learn the basics of completing a risk assessment along with tips that will simplify the process.
What Are Fair Assessment Practices?
Factor Analysis of Information Risk (FAIR) is a group of factors that identify vulnerabilities and how each one affects the other. In layman’s terms, FAIR assessment practices find weak spots in systems so adequate cybersecurity protocols can be implemented to prevent costly data breaches.
Both large corporations and small businesses will benefit from regular risk assessments. A study conducted by the University of Maryland noted that every 39 seconds a computer with Internet access is attacked by hackers. With cyberattacks becoming common daily events, it’s vital that businesses are managing their security risks.
It is recommended by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) that you should run a risk assessment at least once every two years. This will help ensure that your cybersecurity practices are up-to-date with changing technology.
A FAIR methodology risk assessment will take time, regardless of the size of the business. There are some steps you can take to make the process go faster and more smoothly.
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How to Prepare for a FAIR Assessment
Preparing before starting a FAIR assessment is important. Not only will it save businesses time and money, but it will also help ensure that all risks are identified.
The first step is to identify the network’s cybersecurity framework. Consider its size, scope, and complexity. The risk assessment plan that you develop must address all three. When you’re identifying the systems, it includes both internal and external.
Any third-party suppliers with access to protected healthcare, financial, or credit card data must be identified and included in the risk assessment. A common mistake made by organizations is omitting third-parties from the FAIR methodology risk assessment. This can be a costly error if a third-party affiliate suffers a cybersecurity breach since you will also be penalized.
After you’re finished identifying the framework, you can create a schedule for a risk assessment. When you’re getting ready to start the process to complete an individual FAIR assessment, remember that risks are classified into various categories. This means that not all cybersecurity risks come with the same potential penalties.
- Strategic risks are harmful to the business goals of a company and are usually related to poor business decisions.
- Reputational risks hurt the public view/opinion of the organization.
- Operational risks occur when internal systems, processes, and/or people fail and result in financial or other loss.
- Transactional risks are an issue with a supplied service or product.
- Compliance risks are violations of compliance laws, regulations, or rules from an organization’s internal and external policies and procedures.
For some organizations, the potential for all of these will exist while only a few apply to small businesses. After familiarizing yourself with the risk categories, you’re ready to complete a FAIR assessment.
Basic Steps For a FAIR Assessment
FAIR assessment practices are designed to help businesses strengthen their cybersecurity. It is a proactive step that businesses are encouraged to perform at least once every two years. An individual assessment does not mean that you’re automatically in compliance. You still have to undergo annual audits, but documenting the FAIR process will help reduce or eliminate penalties if a cybersecurity breach does occur.
Here are the steps to follow when you’re performing an individual FAIR assessment.
- Classify the System
Classifying the system, whether it’s a process, function, or application, will make it easier to identify any threats. When you’re classifying the various system components, there are a few aspects to consider.
- What kind of system is it?
- What type of data is used?
- Who is the vendor/supplier?
- Are there any internal and/or external interfaces present, and which ones?
- Who has access to the system?
- Where does the data flow, and how is it managed?
Other factors may apply depending on the size and type of the business.
- Identify All Threats
There are different types of threats to cybersecurity. Many are specific to certain types of businesses. For example, cardholder data instead of protected health information. However, there are some common threats that are in every FAIR methodology risk assessment.
- Unauthorized access to the system by accident or maliciously is an indication of a problem. It can be the result of a direct attack, comprise of an internal threat, or signal the presence of a malware infection.
- An authorized user misuses data is often a sign that data was used or altered without authorization or approval from management. It is often a clerical error, but it will still have negative effects on compliance.
- Data leaked or unintentionally exposed can be caused by several factors. This includes allowing the use of unencrypted USB and or CD-ROM without adequate security protocols. Transmitting nonpublic personal information (NPPI) that is not encrypted or over unsecured channels is another. Sending NPPI to the wrong individual is also considered an unintentional data leak.
- Losing or failing to back up data is often due to a system failure or lax back-up procedures, but it is still a cybersecurity risk. This also includes losing or incorrectly destroying paper documents that contain NPPI.
- Service or productivity is disrupted by the system. If the system fails, seems to be slower, or has a “glitch,” this often indicates a threat. It can indicate the presence of malware or that hacking is creating a backdoor into the system.
- Calculate Perceived Risk and Impact
In this step of the FAIR assessment, you need to ignore your control environment. Instead, focus on how you classified the system’s components. Factor this into how the organization would be impacted if the threat became reality. In other words, think about what would happen if the threats occurred at that moment. From these calculations give each category an impact rating.
- High – Substantial impact resulting in high costs if the damage is repairable.
- Medium – Even though there would be damaged, it is recoverable.
- Low – Little to zero noticeable impact damage.
Calculating the risks for each category will help you know where cybersecurity breaches can do the greatest damage to the company.
- Assess the Control Environment
You will need to assess several information categories to analyze the control surroundings. The goal is to identify threat prevention, detection, mitigation, and/or the compensating controls, along with their relationship to potential threats.
Some of the control categories are:
- Organizational risk management controls
- User provision controls
- User authentication controls
- Administrative controls
- Datacenter physical & environmental security controls
- Infrastructure data protection controls
- Continuity of operations controls
The control categories need to be assessed, usually with a rating. This allows you to review the completed FAIR assessment and easily see which categories need improving. An example of control category ratings are:
- Satisfactory – All objective and policy criteria are met, along with compliance standards.
- Satisfactory with Recommendations – All criteria and standards are met, but additional improvements are needed to existing procedures, policies, and/or documentation practices.
- Needs Improvement – The objective policy and criteria, along with compliance standards, are only partially met.
- Inadequate – Objective policy and criteria, along with compliance standards, are not met.
- Calculate a Possible Rating
During this step, you’ll take into account your organization’s control environment and determine how possible it is for a cybersecurity breach to occur. Examples of this rating system for a potential threat are:
- High – The threat is capable and motivated. Implemented controls are ineffective.
- Medium – The threat is motivated and capable, but security protocols may be adequate enough to prevent a breach.
- Low – The threat is not capable or motivated, and/or the security controls in place are adequate to prevent a vulnerability from being exploited.
- Determine the Risk Rating
After completing the work that goes into the first five steps, the final one is to calculate your risk rating. The equation to determine it is simple:
- Impact of a threat x possibility (in the control environment assessed) = Risk Rating
Examples of risk ratings include the following:
- Severe – There is a credible and urgent threat to the business, and protocols to prevent the cybersecurity attack must be created and implemented immediately.
- Elevated – There is the possibility of a cybersecurity breach, and protocols should be addressed in a reasonable amount of time.
- Low – There aren’t any immediate threats, but the business might still be impacted at a later time. Additional cybersecurity practices will provide further protection from threats.
As you can see, even a “low rating” indicates that cybersecurity protocols need to be regularly monitored and updated.
In NIST Special Publication 800-30 you will find the values for impact and possibility (likelihood). Your completed FAIR Assessment should include the same information, only the data will reflect your business’ system.
You already understand how important cybersecurity is to your business. If you handle any type of non-public personal information, it must be protected from hackers and other types of breaches.
It doesn’t matter if a security breach occurs due to an employee accidentally sending NPPI to the wrong person or a third-party vendor isn’t following protocols. You will also be held responsible. This will result in fines and penalties that can cripple small businesses.
A FAIR methodology risk assessment is a tool that will identify threats and vulnerabilities. It examines every aspect of the company’s cybersecurity practices and systems. This allows you to implement the necessary procedures to prevent threats before they become expensive breaches.
Whether you need assistance with a risk assessment or have questions, the experts at RSI Security are here to help. Contact RSI Security today for a free consultation!