5 Tips for a Successful IT Risk Assessment

By Amos Aesoph – CSO, Xigent Solutions

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In the day-to-day news cycle, it's no longer shocking to hear of a data breach involving a large corporation. As these companies scramble to rebuild consumer trust, it can be tempting to sit back and assume your small to mid-sized business is safe. But rest assured: cybercriminals are not lounging around. If left unsecured, the confidential and valuable information on your networks could quickly become an easy target.


So, how can you be confident there aren't undefended gaps in your information security?


Conducting an annual IT risk assessment can help. A comprehensive IT risk assessment stretches far beyond a simple network scan that only identifies current vulnerabilities. It will also help you identify potential security risks and develop an action plan for mitigating them. Rather than focusing on the individual machines on your network, it gives you an in-depth look at your entire security posture. Regulatory bodies within certain industries may even require one.


Here are five steps to consider when conducting your annual risk assessment:


1. Analyze your internal space.

  • Take a close look at the offices or facilities where you store your data, and keep in mind that an employee or insider could trigger a breach. Do you have preventative measures like locks, cameras, alarms, and an access log in place to record anyone who enters or leaves the facility? The strength of your passwords and controls won't matter if a bad actor is able to gain access to your machine.

2. Evaluate your external environment.

  • You can rarely control an environmental threat, but you can plan for it. As a first step, identify the types of weather events could disrupt or disable your facility. Then, determine if any neighboring businesses or structures might present hazards. Finally, review current crime statistics for your area. Could any of these aspects of your environment threaten the security of your data?

3. Understand your online exposure.

  • What have you posted on social media sites, your websites, or other areas of the Internet? Social engineering hackers scour the Internet for information they can use to exploit their target's weaknesses. Here's an example of how this tactic works: You write a congratulatory post on the Facebook page of a vendor with whom you regularly do business. A hacker sees this and then contacts you purporting to be the vendor—and asks you to send payment or divulge sensitive information.

4. Include a diverse range of perspectives.

  • To achieve the broadest possible view of your overall risk, be sure to gather input across your organization. To do this, consider facilitating a conversation amongst data owners, HR representatives, facilities management employees, IT security groups, compliance officers, policy managers, project managers, systems administrators, and other knowledgeable staff members.

5. Measure your results each year.

  • Your company's risk profile will change. And so will technologies, government requirements, and, of course, the tactics favored by cybercriminals. That's why it's important to conduct a risk assessment every year—and to consistently measure your results. Quantifying your level of risk allows you to compare it from year to year.

Not sure where to start?


Securing your information is a tall order, and it can be overwhelming to think about. By providing you with a comprehensive, quantifiable risk assessment, we can help you launch an action plan for closing any gaps that exist. We also give you a risk assessment score—much like a credit score—so you can ensure the resources you're devoting to information security are making a difference. Give us a call today to take the first step.