The ongoing battle for data privacy waged against threat actors involves minimizing as many weaknesses, errors, flaws and vulnerabilities within your network system as possible. In order for that to happen, you need a set of dynamic, comprehensive information security risk management protocols, procedures and plans. Once you establish it in collaboration with all critical stakeholders on your IT team, your organization can be in compliance with industry standards while giving everyone involved the peace of mind that comes from knowing that an effective cybersecurity plan is in place.
What do Information Security and Risk Management Accomplish
Anytime people use information technology resources such as software, hardware or networks, they become, to some extent, susceptible to outside or internal threats. The purpose of information security risk management is to monitor for, identify, assess and help to mitigate anything that might threaten data privacy, confidentiality, availability and integrity.
While this process will never lead to absolute freedom from threat or breach, the goal is to reduce risk to an acceptable level in compliance with industry standards and the unique needs of an organization.
Information Security Risk Management Process in Detail
In order to protect your systems from threats, it is necessary to take several steps as you build your strategy:
- System mapping. Your first task is to identify all of the assets in the possession of your enterprise that need to remain intact, private and confidential, including data, systems and even your own security infrastructure. Next, objectively enumerate any weaknesses in your systems or processes that could compromise these valued assets. Third, list any human or natural actors that could exploit these weaknesses.
Finally, recognize what controls you already have in place that will shield your assets from attack by completely addressing them (remediation) or minimizing them (mitigation).
- Information security risk assessment. In order to define the nature and scope of the risk you face, this process helps you to gather and combine all of the intelligence you have gathered about your assets, potential weaknesses and controls.
- Remediation and mitigation. Now that you know the risk level that your digital assets face, you must decide how to act. You can fully address the problem through remediation, lessen the risk’s impact via mitigation, transfer the risk elsewhere by taking actions such as purchasing insurance, accept the risk if it does not pose a significant threat to your organization or you can avoid the risk altogether by making changes in your servers, programs or in the vendors or organizations with whom you share sensitive data.
- Communication. No matter what technology, program, support mechanisms or other treatments your team ultimately chooses to employ, it is crucial that all members of the organization are made fully aware of what you plan to do, how much it will cost and who is accountable for each specific task along with the associated deadlines. Should an incident occur, you must provide all stakeholders with timely and thorough information about the nature of the attack, the response of your cybersecurity team and the framework that exists to prevent a future breach.
- Implement ongoing monitoring and upgrading protocols to keep your company systems secure.
Ownership in Managing Information Risks
Even the best risk management plans can fall flat if communication is not seamless and tasks are not delegated and followed through. This approach requires a thorough evaluation of the scope of the tasks, education of stakeholders at all levels as appropriate, assignment of responsibilities and plans for completion with contingencies and deadlines and any support mechanisms that exist to assist in the process. Definitions of expectations and time lines must be clear to all parties.
There are numerous stakeholders in the risk management process, all of whom play their own crucial roles. They include the following:
- Process owners. These top-tier actors are generally on a finance or audit team and are ultimately responsible for the entire risk management process.
- Information security risk management team. This group handles the computer and security-related aspects of the risk management methodology.
- Lower-level risk owners. These are the people responsible for addressing particular risks in their own systems by budgeting for the monitoring, management, mitigation and remediation tools to address threats.
Metrics and Benchmarks
No strategy is complete without specific metrics that will assess the effectiveness of your risk management program. These may include:
- Industry compliance standards. Acceptable information security risk management benchmarks such as those compiled by COBIT, ISO 2700 series and NIST 800 series. These frameworks and others can help you to determine if your program is robust and meets or exceeds widely accepted standards.
- Develop a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to gauge the effectiveness of all aspects of your risk management strategy. This must include specific measures and thresholds of what is and what is not acceptable for each KPI.
While information security risks are ongoing and constantly evolving, there are steps you can take to improve your organization’s ability to detect, correct and remove them in a timely fashion. A robust risk management strategy that is bolstered by the support of all stakeholders at every level is crucial. In fact, it is the only way to have a chance of keeping hackers and other bad actors at bay.