As IT departments around the world modernize, hackers are also modernizing and finding new points of entry into what used to be fully secure systems. To combat these threats, Jack Jones and other cybersecurity experts developed the Factor Analysis of Information Risk (FAIR) assessment.
The goal of a FAIR assessment is to anticipate cybersecurity threats and measure risk in terms that all leaders can understand. Without a reliable framework for understanding and lowering cybersecurity risk, businesses around the world could lose valuable data and compromise the privacy of their customers.
For example, Americans witnessed one of the most notorious data breaches in history when Equifax, a leading credit agency in the United States, reportedly lost terabytes of personal identifiable client information. Cyber attacks cost consumers, banks, and creditors millions of dollars in identity theft crimes.
The breach started when a hacker entered through Equifax’s customer complaint page. And because Equifax neither layered their server security nor kept up with routine information technology (IT) maintenance, one thing led to another. Three years later, Equifax is working under new executives and spending thousands of dollars on penance projects and reputation damage control.
Unfortunately, most leaders won’t take cybersecurity seriously until a major IT breach occurs – as in Equifax’s case. But once the threat is clear, choosing a reliable measurement tool to report cyber-vulnerabilities is a critical response for business leaders.
If your organization is recovering from a similar catastrophe (or hoping to prevent one), IT experts regard the FAIR model risk assessment as the most comprehensive cyber risk tool available today.
Assessing Cyber Risk in 2020 and Beyond
Cybersecurity threats frequently materialize when company policies and procedures don’t enforce software updates or listen to concerns voiced by mid-level IT managers. Often, non-IT executives fail to comprehend the gravity of cybersecurity threats on their doorstep.
In the days just after a breach, the temptation by many decision-makers is to minimize the public fallout. Equifax represents an extreme case wherein company leadership exhausted resources – not to assess the damage and ongoing cyber risks – but to keep Equifax vulnerabilities a secret. Once the truth reached the public, decision-makers were unable to manage the consequences.
While the public justifiably blamed shady executives, the Equifax disaster represents embarrassing protocol breakdowns that touched all levels of management. In contrast, organizations that use the FAIR model risk assessment incorporate all vital personnel into a process of understanding and lowering cybersecurity risk.
Leadership and Risk Tolerance
Today, assessing an organization’s cyber-risk isn’t a question of whether or not one should prevent attacks. Further, cybersecurity discussions rarely involve compensating for a lack of available cyber risk tools.
In this day and age, assessing cyber-risk is more existential than it has ever been.
Because while the business and consumer market insist on faster and more intuitive digital tools, organizations only have so many available resources to do everything for both cybersecurity and product effectiveness.
Meanwhile, engineers and mid-level IT managers do their best to sound the alarm at every potential cyber threat. But by the time those alarms reach decision-makers, the urgency is lost in a cacophony of tech jargon. As a result, executives often fail to measure cyber-risk in actual dollar/cents terms.
It is precisely out of this need to measure cyber-risk that IT experts created the FAIR model risk assessment. FAIR is the leading cyber-risk tool in North America, and it is also the international standard for measuring threats to an organization’s cybersecurity.
Jack Jones from the FAIR Institute noted that the “two dimensions to maturity” within cybersecurity are:
- The ability to make well-informed decisions (executive level)
- The ability to execute reliably (engineer level)
The FAIR risk assessment exists to help more organizations achieve this level of IT maturity in an era where technology advances at the speed of light.
What is the FAIR Model Risk Assessment?
Factor Analysis of Information Risk (FAIR)
The Factor Analysis of Information Risk assessment is a framework for quantifying cyber-risk. To date, no other cybersecurity assessment paradigm receives and measures all available IT data to inform decision-makers. Additionally, the FAIR risk assessment allows leadership to prioritize certain software functionalities over particular cyber-risks by defining an acceptable level of risk tolerance.
When executives feel the urge to sacrifice cybersecurity on the altar of software functionality or profits, they’re unable to understand why certain cyber-risks present a clear and present danger. In more extreme cases, those executives may actively take steps to ignore the risk altogether.
The FAIR approach respects the need for companies to remain competitive in the 21st Century. However, it holds decision-makers fully accountable for cyber-risk by making vulnerability data (such as information drawn from routine penetration tests) more accessible to those without an IT background.
5 Reasons Why the FAIR Cyber Risk Assessment Works
From an IT security standpoint, the FAIR risk assessment can transform an entire organization. Also, it opens up critical lines of communication between the IT department and decision-makers. Here are five reasons why the FAIR model outperforms all other approaches to lowering cybersecurity risk.
1. FAIR uses language that everyone understands
While an increasing number of CEOs have a background in IT, many do not. One could also say the same for board members and investors.
This disconnect allows cyber-risk signals to fall on deaf ears. Further, decision-makers that fail to understand the state of their cybersecurity leave those tasked with protecting the organization’s digital infrastructure under-resourced.
The Factor Analysis of Information Risk approach works because it bridges this disconnect. Non-IT experts can view test results and comprehend the seriousness that certain cyber-risks possess. Armed with this information, executives can balance expenditures to keep current on critical upgrades.
2. FAIR accounts for both quantitative and qualitative cyber risk data
When it comes to analytics, reliable metrics incorporate both quantitative and qualitative information. Quantitative data represents a concrete number, such as the amount of firewall breach attempts in a given period. From a qualitative standpoint, the magnitude of those breach attempts could be low or high, depending upon other security measures present in your digital infrastructure. For example, cyber-attack attempts could indicate a higher risk if your organization hasn’t added additional layers of security, such as segmenting servers.
In the FAIR risk assessment model, the number of breach attempts reflects Loss Event Frequency (LEF). Conversely, the Loss Magnitude (LM) speaks to the qualitative nature of a potential threat. IT personnel and cybersecurity software can report their findings, and the FAIR tool measures the volume and severity of each vulnerability.
3. FAIR makes penetration test results actionable
Following a sequence of penetration testing, IT specialists can report their findings and allow the FAIR model to translate those results into business development vernacular. Leaders can get both a micro and macro view of all cyber risks and take tangible steps to manage that risk.
4. FAIR identifies an organization’s risk tolerance.
One critical reality in risk management is that you will never be able to prevent every adverse event. You could pour every last dime of your budget into cybersecurity and still find potential threats.
But if your organization wants to remain relevant to a target audience, you have to prioritize certain aspects of the business. This prioritization strategy includes balancing risk management with business growth. Your cybersecurity goals will always represent some level of risk tolerance. The FAIR assessment tool helps you find what that ideal level of tolerance is.
With enough checks and balances in place, your infrastructure may still be vulnerable, but you will have ensured that the Loss Magnitude of those risks is low. Further, the FAIR cyber-risk framework aids your IT department to monitor those vulnerabilities closely.
5. FAIR enhances IT solution accuracy.
When IT managers “water down” information to their superiors, they may unintentionally pass inaccurate information. That’s because senior decision-makers are not forced to view specific cyber-risks with nuance.
Because the FAIR assessment model highlights risk nuance by design, IT managers don’t have to dilute the truth for the sake of understanding. Without fully comprehending all the training and expertise of a software engineer, CEOs can rely on the FAIR approach to inform their decision-making with astonishing accuracy.
Embracing a reliable cyber risk measuring tool like the Factor Analysis of Information Risk (FAIR) assessment is the best decision your organization could make. FAIR has already helped businesses of all sizes assess cyber-threats and prevent cyber-attacks on moderate to severe scales.
Meeting digital compliance standards and protecting your organization against all types of cyber-risks is often beyond the scope of any one organization. That’s why RSI Security partners with your business to meet cyber-risks head-on while helping your digital presence remain fully compliant to GDPR guidelines.
Regardless of your approach, waiting until it is too late to measure your cyber-risk will cripple you from making informed decisions and carrying out those decisions in a sustainable way. It’s too late for Equifax’s pre-2017 executives – it’s not too late for you.