After a chaotic couple of years, companies are finally able to enjoy some stability and normalcy again. However, depending on your sector, there may still be problems with supply chain, inflation and staff shortages. So with all of these problems to resolve, why would a company dedicate time and money to performing a security risk assessment right now? Before we answer that, let’s spend a couple of minutes talking about what a security risk assessment is.
What is a security risk assessment?
A security risk assessment identifies, evaluates, and prioritizes potential vulnerabilities to your business, and then prioritizes the risks that could capitalize on those vulnerabilities. The main goal of a risk assessment is to bring vulnerabilities to light, and give CEOs or management the opportunity to take proactive steps to prepare for and minimize risks.
The assessment also provides an executive summary of the effectiveness of current security efforts, and of areas where employees need training to help minimize risks.
Risk assessment vs. risk management
A risk assessment is primarily proactive. It involves testing current security measures and identifying weaknesses and vulnerabilities.
Risk management can either be proactive or reactive. It aims to reduce risk by continuously applying best practices. Risk management includes actions like updating infrastructure using two-factor authentication.
Change is constant – so are new risks
Now let’s move on to why it might be time for a risk assessment. Just as you are facing new challenges, new threats (some that you may have not even considered) have also emerged since 2020. For example, as more staff transitioned to remote working arrangements, businesses had to give staff remote access to the company’s network. Unsurprisingly, cyber attacks increased rapidly, and many businesses simply did not have adequate cybersecurity in place.
Change is constant, and given today’s challenges, your company has probably made several changes since you last performed a risk assessment.
Risk assessments are recommended when:
- There has been a major change to a workflow
- A new process has been added
- New equipment/hardware/software is added
- Several new hires have been made
Employees care when you care
Cybersecurity is usually a top concern for companies, especially those that work in the tech, service, or knowledge industries. But every industry has occupational hazards and physical security risks. Not all employees may be aware of workplace risks. Those that have been away from the office may have forgotten what they are.
Insufficient employee training can put your business at greater risk of employee injury, health hazards, workers’ compensation claims, equipment and facility damage, and security threats. Conversely, by conducting an assessment and training staff about how to minimize or handle risks, you put everyone in a position where they can maintain some control if a stressful situation occurs. Moreover, staff do notice and appreciate when their best interests are prioritized.
Investing the time and resources to adequately train your team can feel like a lot, but the results are well worth the initial investment.
Different types of assessments
There are different types of security assessments, and depending on your company, you may have to perform multiple assessments. The different types include:
Physical security assessment
- How easy is it for people to get physical access to your office and your computers?
- Do you have security in the building?
- Are visitors logged?
- Are there security cameras in sensitive locations?
Data security assessment
- Is company data subject to least privilege or zero trust access controls?
- Do you use network segmentation to limit data access?
- Do you have strong identity management processes?
IT security assessment
- What is the state of your IT infrastructure?
- What network-level security protocols are in place?
Insider threat assessment
- Do staff bring their own devices?
- What measures are in place to prevent viruses from spreading from a personal to a work device?
- Is access granted on a need-to-know basis?
- Are remote logins traceable?
Risk assessment process
There are no strict rules or processes on how to assess risks. But you can use this guide as a starting point.
1. Identify your assets
This is the first step to help you determine what you need to protect. It may be helpful to organize assets using these categories:
- Internal use
- Intellectual property
- Compliance restricted data
2. Identify security risks
Now consider risks. As a best practice, you should consider working with an insurance partner or safety consultant who can help you create a detailed assessment, including:
- Physical hazards
- Onsite equipment
- Areas vulnerable to inclement weather
- Cybersecurity risks
3. Define and prioritize risks
Give each vulnerability a “risk rating” based on factors such as likelihood and severity. So you could have a high-risk-high-probability rating, high-risk-low-probability rating, etc.
4. Evaluate results
After considering all risks and defining standards for their potential impact, identify which ones pose the biggest and most imminent threat. Use that evaluation to plan how to allocate resources to your most significant threats.
5. Create security solutions
Take the time to consider what new safeguards may be implemented to help reduce the risk of loss. Do you need physical security, administrative security, or technical security? There is a good chance you will need a combination of strategies to fully protect your company.
This may require some time as you will want to speak with different companies as well as collect feedback from other staff. No two companies will have the exact same solutions, but the best ones are often simple and layered. By having multiple security layers, it’s less likely that a threat will make a full impact on your business.
6. Implement and follow up
While an initial assessment can make companies more aware of potential risks, preventing risks requires action, and eventually, re-evaluation. Plans should always be rooted in a “why.” Following this approach makes it easier for everyone to get on board and help implement the plans.
Moreover, plans and solutions should be very specific. If they are preventative, ensure there is an initial deadline in place. List tools or items involved, and where those things can be located. Inform everyone who should know about the solutions, and give staff a contact address that they can use if they have questions.
Risk assessments are never static. They require ongoing monitoring and optimization because things will always continue to change. Internal audits will help management to evaluate whether the solutions are working.
Security risk assessments proactively assess current security measures and identify potential weaknesses. Any business will benefit from an assessment because every workplace has potential hazards and threats.
Performing regular assessments can help prevent costly or devastating incidents down the road. They help companies prepare for the worst, and minimize risks when possible. Risk management always works better when a risk assessment has been completed. And, staff will feel better knowing that their safety and well-being has been considered.