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Cybersecurity Risk Management

Cybersecurity risk has become the biggest concern for companies globally, according to the Allianz Risk Barometer. Now more than ever, it’s important to be proactive in taking every step possible to avoid being blind-sided by cyberattacks. Cybersecurity risk management applies the principles of traditional risk management to digital systems and infrastructure. It offers a roadmap for identifying and prioritizing risks and vulnerabilities using a systematic, strategic, and proactive approach. In this guide, we define cybersecurity risk management, talk more about the importance of establishing a company culture that respects internal security practices, and provide tips to help jumpstart your cybersecurity risk management plans.

What is cybersecurity risk management?

Cybersecurity risk management is the process of determining the risks that your organization is likely to face and then prioritizing and selecting the security control technologies, best practices, and policies most likely to reduce or mitigate these risks.

Just like how no amount of auto insurance can guarantee you won’t get into a car accident, no organization can completely eliminate every vulnerability in its systems or block all cyberattacks. Cybersecurity risk management helps organizations address the risks that have the greatest  potential to significantly impact their operations. 

The better your information on the threats most likely to impact your organization and the vulnerabilities that exist in your infrastructure, the more likely you can reduce risks and optimize outcomes in the event of a security incident.

Establishing a pro-security culture

Within organizations, security teams are often seen as belonging to the “Department of No.” The information security function has gained a reputation for sometimes blocking activities in support of the digital transformation. When risks have been assessed and understood, chief information security officers (CISOs) can move from saying no to driving a business forward.

The key is to comprehensively assess for risks and to understand the vulnerabilities that may accompany any architectural deployments and changes. The establishment of a cybersecurity risk management culture helps keep employees in step with the defined governance. Once risk is understood, priorities can be managed, and an organization can move forward more quickly to implement positive and necessary changes. However, charging forward too quickly without understanding the risk and vulnerabilities involved can expose an organization to the massive damage that would inevitably accompany a successful cyberattack. The solution to this conundrum is greater levels of employee participation in and support for a security-aware culture. Training is an essential component of establishing and promoting a security-aware culture, and the ROI of such endeavors can be significant.

Team members should participate in regular and continuous cybersecurity training. The goal is to ensure that all team members understand how to act to minimize cyber risks to the organization. Best-practice risk management should take into account technology, processes, and people

A cyberattack can cost millions in damage to an organization’s brand and reputation, resulting in poor customer experiences, loss of revenue, reductions in profitability, and devastating impacts to key operations.

Through training, employees can become less vulnerable to the risks of susceptibility to social engineering, phishing, and accidentally or intentionally created vulnerabilities. Nobody in an organization wants to work for the “Department of No.” However, the potential financial and reputational damage that can come with a successful cyberattack means it is crucial for organizations to enforce their cybersecurity policies, even if that means security teams are occasionally seen as blockers or as a “negative Nancy.” 

The shift to remote and hybrid work

Security policies must be enforced rigorously across an organization, meaning that every individual who has access to digital assets must comply with these policies. This enforcement must also extend to external partners and work-from-anywhere (WFA) employees. The rapid move to WFA during the pandemic left many organizations exposed to a far greater number of risks and vulnerabilities than ever before. Now, more and more organizations are going back to office and juggling hybrid work schedules, requiring even broader security policies that cover both environments. 

WFA enables remote workers access to enterprise resources from a wide variety of endpoints, both personal and company-provided. These include laptops and mobile devices. The cybersecurity “stack” and the procedures that are used within an enterprise generally don’t support WFA environments, as these procedures were designed primarily to protect the on-premise employees. Most of the new vulnerabilities resulting from WFA environments are unknown to information technology and security operations teams. Even worse, the potential impact is being underestimated and perhaps ignored. All of these loose ends add tremendously to the cybersecurity risks organizations are facing nowadays. In today’s increasingly digital environment, many basic cybersecurity policies and capabilities are becoming more essential.

Examples of important policies and capabilities

  • Automate your policy execution and enforcement procedures.
  • Move authentication processes as close to the resource, system, service, or data being accessed as possible. A strategy for Zero Trust will help reduce risks to your organization.
  • Two-factor authentication should ideally be integrated into your security policies.
  • Understand how you will assess risk and make policy decisions for properly authenticated employees and partners wanting access to organizational resources from personal tablets, laptops, and mobile devices that may be utilizing public or home networks.

Five tips for better risk management

Whether you’re just starting out in the cybersecurity risk management space or a seasoned veteran, these tips will help you better protect your organization from being blind-sided by cyberattacks.

1. Consult a cybersecurity framework

Cybersecurity frameworks such as the ISO/IEC 27001/27002 address business risks and help improve overall cyberdefense. Adopting a framework ensures structure and context around cybersecurity investments and provides some assurance that industry best practices are being met.

2. Define an ongoing risk assessment process

A risk assessment process should show how an organization will prepare for risk assessments, conduct said risk assessments, communicate key results with various teams within an organization, and regularly maintain the risk assessment process over time.

Preparation for a risk assessment includes the following steps:

  • Carefully define the scope and any key assumptions or limitations with the assessment.
  • Identify the sources of information to be used to conduct the assessment.
  • Define the risk calculations and analytics approaches to be used during the assessment.
  • Structure your risk assessment to align with the compliance regulations that impact your organization—these regulations stipulate varying requirements for risk assessment and reporting.

The ongoing risk assessment process should include the following:

  • An overview of the environment in which risk-based decisions are made.
  • An understanding of how the organization will assess risk. Per NIST, risk is defined as the likelihood of a given threat event exploiting the vulnerability of an asset and the resulting impact of the occurrence of the threat event.
  • A plan and process for how the organization will respond to a discovered risk once the level of the risk has been determined based upon the outcome of a risk assessment.
  • The process for how the organization will monitor risk over time.
  • The form and structure of documentation and the outputs from the risk assessment process.

Your information technology systems and networks are continually changing. Software applications are constantly updated, and new employees enter your organization regularly. Therefore, you must stay on top of any potential risks that are being introduced. 

Inside the Mind of a Hacker revealed that 84% of hackers believe that there are more vulnerabilities now than at the start of the pandemic. New risks will continually be found, and even those previously resolved may be revived by leveraging new vulnerabilities. 

3. Use threat intelligence to better prioritize risks 

Threat intelligence provides very timely information on the current threats most likely to impact not only your organization but also your geographic location and industry. Threat intelligence can enable you to make important adjustments to your current risk assessment methods to mitigate the impact of newly emerging and dangerous threats. Industry research revealed that 75% of organizations have dedicated threat intelligence teams and approximately 65% have dedicated threat intelligence budgets. However, 73% of respondents indicated a “lack of skills” as their biggest threat intelligence challenge keeping them from fully leveraging investments in threat intelligence resources. 

Threat intelligence data are collected, reviewed, and analyzed so that security and information team members can make faster data-driven decisions pertaining to threats that may impact an organization. Threat intelligence includes data about threat groups and ongoing attacks. Threat intelligence data may include information on specific attacker behaviors, such as their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP), the attack vectors they use, and known indicators of compromise.

4. Leverage penetration testing for the best data on vulnerabilities and exposures

Penetration testing is the process of hacking into your own system and network to identify and expose as many vulnerabilities as you possibly can, from multiple vantage points. Pentesters search for vulnerabilities only after they have received full acknowledgement and authorization from their clients. When protecting your organization from malicious hackers, you want to think like one so that you can better anticipate and protect the places where these bad actors might strike. 

This brings up the relevance of vulnerability scanners. Although useful, vulnerability scanners are not advanced enough to provide adequate coverage, and they often miss newly discovered vulnerabilities. Sometimes, the vulnerabilities are too complex for automated tools to find. False positives are a regular event with these scanners, especially when scanning large infrastructure. Human ingenuity is key when testing for vulnerabilities. 

Many people think about penetration testing through the lens of compliance regulations. You may be surprised to learn that compliance is no longer the number one reason companies engage in penetration testing. Up until recently, compliance (e.g., for PCI-DSS) was the dominant driver. Today, per industry research, 69% of adopters do penetration tests to assess their security postures, and 67% do them for compliance purposes—a much more even split and a signal that many organizations do them for both reasons.

This shows an increased commitment to penetration testing as part of a wider cybersecurity risk management strategy, as well as a general focus on reducing risk. 

Penetration testing reveals many vulnerabilities that might represent very significant risks to your infrastructure and organization. Regular penetration testing is essential if you want to optimize your cyber risk management efforts.

5. Use tool rationalization for improved cybersecurity ROI

Cyber risk management will help you identify performance gaps and areas missing coverage. You may also find redundant layers in your security controls. Once identified, security controls can be consolidated, eliminated, or reallocated within an organization. Cyber risk management can help empower this process of tool rationalization so that you can maximize your operational cybersecurity capabilities at the lowest cost.

Your team can set a target security posture and methodically measure your existing security infrastructure against its ability to reach that objective. Cost can also be an important part of the analysis. Every dollar spent must provide the protection that your organization expects. Some threats and identified vulnerabilities may require overlapping security controls to manage risks and mitigate vulnerabilities that will likely be exploited.

Building a cybersecurity response plan

A cybersecurity incident response plan is a playbook of instructions, processes, and procedures to help your organization respond to a detected threat and to recover from an ongoing cyber incident. Cyber incidents that require a rapid and well-orchestrated response include malware detection, the theft of data, or service outages. 

The purpose of a response plan is to ensure that your organization can respond rapidly and correctly to a cybersecurity incident.

Leveling up cybersecurity risk management with crowdsourced security

As the amount of software and internet attack surface increases, the number of vulnerabilities increases simultaneously, meaning overall security risk increases. Luckily, the security industry is innovating constantly. Bugcrowd introduced the world to security testing performed by the Crowd, a collection of on-demand hackers distributed across the world and connected via the Bugcrowd Platform. The Crowd consists of hackers united by their ability to demonstrate tangible results in bug bounty engagements and penetration testing. This new form of crowdsourced security allows organizations to tap into expert testing at scale. Additionally, crowdsourced security allows organizations to deploy a suite of advanced security testing methods while defining a scope, remuneration model, and timeline that is tailored entirely to their independent ways of working. 

Bugcrowd has advanced this approach through a platform-powered model that integrates the Crowd into your security workflows in a managed, standardized way. Furthermore, it applies contextual insights from a rich knowledge graph built over the course of a decade. 

The world’s increasing reliance on digital technology means that cybersecurity risk management is becoming a more central part of every organization’s operations. Adversaries are becoming progressively sophisticated, making cybersecurity risk management crucial to every organization’s duties to customers and stakeholders. 

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