Any organization can adopt a risk-based approach to cybersecurity, and it’s easy to get started. Risk-based cybersecurity focuses on optimizing security resources for the most pressing threats and adapting as they change. What are the steps and benefits involved?
What Is Risk-Based Cybersecurity?
The risk-based approach to cybersecurity optimizes security resources to focus on the organization’s biggest dangers. Every business is different, and some industries face threats that others don’t. The risk-based cybersecurity approach helps companies save money and resources by concentrating on identified risks rather than all possible threats.
Adopting a risk-based cybersecurity strategy comes with a few key benefits. Implementation requires a thorough risk assessment. As a result, organizations have a better understanding of their specific threats.
Security resources are directed only where they are needed most, so organizations can also reduce cybersecurity costs. This is important to note since many companies face security staffing shortages today. Numerous factors contribute to the skills shortage in cybersecurity, but businesses must be strategic about their security budgeting until hiring catches up.
Creating a Risk-Based Cybersecurity Strategy
Expanding an organization’s knowledge of threats is the key to creating a successful risk-based cybersecurity strategy. It relies heavily on understanding exactly what could most damage an organization.
For instance, a small business with five well-trained employees probably doesn’t have to worry about inside threats. However, it would be reasonable for a multinational corporation with thousands of workers to worry about internal hackers.
Step 1: Risk Assessment
The first step for any organization building a risk-based security strategy is to identify threats. This requires risk and business impact assessments (BIA). The BIA highlights the processes and tools critical to a company’s success. For instance, an automated grocery store chain would rank its electronic checkout systems as highly important in its BIA.
The goal of the BIA is to reveal what could go wrong if an organization’s key systems failed, including legal, monetary and physical impact. The risk assessment complements the BIA by identifying the most likely ways a hacker could cause damage.
The risk assessment results will show an organization its most high-risk threat vectors, indicating what they need to protect most. A thorough assessment is crucial since it may highlight “invisible” risks that may not be obvious initially.
For example, companies with hybrid or remote employees have security risks that fully office-based organizations lack. In this case, workers can be a threat vector. Remote employees face millions of email scams and are more likely to make mistakes when working.
Step 2: Optimized Security Protocols
Companies with completed BIAs and risk assessments are ready to choose their security measures. The BIA and risk assessment should identify the most important risks to focus on, which provides a starting point for selecting the best security tools and policies.
At this stage, organizations have the most flexibility to build a security strategy specific to their needs. It can be helpful to reference authoritative sources, such as the NIST framework or the CIS Critical Security Controls, to help build a custom strategy. IT leaders don’t need to use all outlined measures, but they can provide a good starting point.
For instance, an organization might identify access control and identity management as high-risk. The company’s IT leaders could use the CIS template for account and credential management policies to build stronger access control measures.
The top priority at this stage is finding the most efficient way to defend against dangerous security risks. Companies should concentrate on establishing controls and defenses for the most important threats first. This is especially vital for businesses with a limited security budget. A risk-based approach prioritizes the least acceptable dangers, physically and financially.
Step 3: Test, Monitor and Adapt
Organizations must monitor their new security measures’ performance as consistently as possible. Monitoring is crucial to success in risk-based security. If a certain threat becomes less of a concern over time, resources should be reallocated elsewhere.
Regular testing is also vital for success. There are many ways a business can check its security measures, such as penetration testing or another risk assessment. They should be tested a few times throughout the year or when new tools or devices are introduced.
The result of testing and monitoring is reflection. If security measures aren’t working as intended or aren’t needed as extensively as anticipated, it’s time to adapt. Risk-based security is about shifting to the threats at hand, which can and will change over time.
Stronger Defenses With Risk-Based Cybersecurity
Risk-based cybersecurity is a cyclical process of identifying the biggest dangers facing an organization and adapting security measures to fit those needs. Adopting a risk-based approach can help companies save money and resources by optimizing their security for high-priority threats. Any business can implement these measures by assessing, setting controls, and performing continuous testing and adaptation.
Automated continuous validation, such as Ridge Security’s RidgeBot system, is a great tool for ensuring success with risk-based cybersecurity. Our AI cybersecurity tool boosts awareness and preparedness by autonomously validating risks, running penetration tests, optimizing performance based on vulnerabilities and more.
Additional tools are the perfect companion to a risk-based security strategy, streamlining the testing and risk assessment stages to keep businesses and their data safe.
Zachary Amos is the Features Editor at ReHack, where he covers cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, and other trending tech topics. For more of his work, follow him on Twitter or LinkedIn.