Risk assessment is one of those best practices that is easy to overlook or de-prioritize until it’s too late. Perhaps your organization has sidelined risk assessment to take care of other tasks that bring in revenue, but when you lack a solid risk assessment program, you may not realize how many revenue opportunities are lost. Perhaps you’ve performed a risk assessment at a bare minimum level to tick a checkbox on a compliance audit but you know your organization is still vulnerable.
No matter where you are in your risk assessment journey, the below will help you achieve a more robust, thorough risk assessment while also making the process easier for you to manage.
Risk assessment 101
There are countless methods and strategies for managing risk, but the industry-accepted gold standard is ISO risk assessment - the risk assessment process specifically detailed in ISO 27001. This is what Vanta has used for the basis of our enhanced Risk Management solution.
The five stages of risk assessment
ISO risk assessment or risk management is laid out as a five-step cycle for continuous risk assessment. Let’s take a brief look at each of these five stages and how they form a rich and productive risk assessment program.
01. Identify risks
The first stage is to identify risk scenarios that could affect your business. These are hypothetical situations that have the potential to occur. Those risks will vary based on the organization. For example, there are certain risks that are inherent to organizations that have remote employees. At this stage, you aren’t assessing vulnerabilities or how to mitigate them. You’re merely determining whether the risk is hypothetically possible.
02. Assess and prioritize risks
Now that you have a list of potential risks for your organization, this second stage involves reviewing each of those risks individually. You’ll consider each risk and determine how high-priority or low-priority it is based on factors like the likelihood of the problem occurring and the impact it would have if it were to occur.
03. Treat risks
The third stage is to plan how to treat each risk. Some you may be able to eliminate entirely, while for others, there may be ways to make them less likely or less impactful. Some risks may be so low-likelihood or low-impact that it isn’t practical to make any changes. At this stage, you’re making a plan of action (or inaction) for each risk.
04. Implement treatments, track progress and verify
In the fourth stage, you’re putting your risk treatments into action. You’re also establishing a way to track the progress of these implementations and verify their success.
05. Report and re-evaluate
The final risk assessment step is to report your organization’s risks, how you’re approaching them and what impact your risk management efforts have had. This stage also includes setting up a process to continuously evaluate your risks and continue the cycle.
While the five stages above are commonly accepted risk assessment practices, Vanta uses this as merely a starting point. We dive into further detail by basing our Risk Management solution on the RA process in ISO 27001.
Top challenges with risk management
Quite frankly, the risk assessment process can seem unconquerable and overwhelming when you first begin. Finding all the risks that could possibly affect your business might seem akin to listing all the potential illnesses you could come into contact with as you go about your daily life.
With this mountain in front of them, many organizations end up doing the bare minimum to meet any auditing needs they may have, while neglecting their long-term risk management. In the meantime, the organization remains highly vulnerable, leading to high cybersecurity risks, high cyber insurance costs and potentially a loss of revenue opportunities. The solution is a more proactive and continuous approach to risk assessment. Organizations need an optimized workflow that makes it al more manageable. This lowers the organization’s risks and cyber insurance costs and gives them confidence that they have a long-term solution that meets any standards they need to comply with. It’s all about having a genuine ongoing program, rather than checking a box on an audit.
Manual and complex process
For many organizations, the risk assessment process is manual, complicated and downright arduous. There’s a complex web of spreadsheets, documents and emails that are hacked together. You’re creating reports and content from scratch, trying to juggle task management and potentially spending hours of valuable analyst time or valuable consultant time to take you through the process. When audit time comes, you’re also drowning in emails and phone calls with your auditor to send them the evidence and information they need.
The solution is an automated and simplified SaaS-based platform that manages everything in one place. Ideally, this SaaS platform can guide you through the process (so you can skip the expense of a consultant) in addition to providing templates, automated tracking and testing and a unified platform that compiles all the evidence your auditor needs in one place.
Many existing platforms for assessing risk offer little or no customization. They’re designed to work in a specific way and teams end up paying top dollar, but then struggle to make its process fit their workflows when the processes simply aren’t flexible enough to customize. Many tools are highly segmented, in that they only support one infosec standard with little or no ability to work with each other. Organizations find themselves purchasing several tools and constructing a cumbersome workflow that jumps around between them. There is also the issue with a tool being so overly simplistic that it can’t scale with the organization as it grows, so teams find themselves reinventing their risk management program every few years. The solution is a single platform with scalable, robust capabilities. A tool that can handle multiple infosec standards allows organizations to integrate all their risk assessment needs into one place, and if well-constructed, these solutions are applicable for managing risk outside of compliance requirements too. Organizations need the ability to customize their risk assessment, such as by adding custom risks and treatment plans in addition to migrating existing risk assessment work from their old system.
Vanta’s Risk Management was designed to address all of the challenges above in order to be the unified, customizable, integrated, scalable solution you’ve been looking for. Not only can you ensure that you’re ready for any audits you need to pass, but you can have confidence that you’ve addressed your risks as thoroughly as possible.
To learn more, read the full guide here, or connect with a team member today.
Article top image credit: Permission granted by Vanta