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How to get started with cybersecurity risk management

PostsSoftware development
Georgina Guthrie

Georgina Guthrie

February 07, 2024

Keeping your digital assets safe isn’t a ‘set it and forget it’ situation. While training and antivirus tools all help, to truly keep hackers’ grubby mitts off your data, you’ll need to take a strategic, consistent approach. And this is what cybersecurity risk management is all about. 

What is cybersecurity risk management?

Before we get into the cyber side of things, let’s talk about risk management in general. 

Risk management is the process of identifying potential threats, prioritizing them via a risk register, and creating mitigation strategies and contingency plans to lessen their effect. It’s a business essential, not least because skipping it could spell project failure. As the old saying goes, by failing to prepare, you’re preparing to fail! 

Cybersecurity risk management is a subsection that focuses on the digital side of things. It’s a plan for addressing threats like hacking, data breaches, and malware to keep your online assets safe.

The cybersecurity risk management process 

While plans differ, here are the key components of a cybersecurity risk management plan. 

  1. Identify the risks: Review your organization’s assets, pinpointing what exactly you need to protect. This includes data, networks, and systems. It’s about understanding your vulnerabilities and the threats that could exploit them. 
  1. Assess the risks: What’s the likelihood of each risk occurring, along with its potential impact on the organization? This evaluation helps you prioritize, focusing on those with the highest severity and likelihood.
  1. Mitigate the risks: Strategies could include adding new tech, updating policies and procedures, or enhancing staff awareness through training. The aim here is to both reduce the probability of risks occurring and to minimize their impact. 
  1. Activate your strategies: Deploy those tools and processes. This stage is about turning theory into practice. 
  1. Monitor and review: Given the dynamic nature of cyber threats, it’s important to reassess and update cybersecurity strategies as you go. It’s a cyclical and adaptive process rather than a static/linear one. 

Why is cybersecurity risk management important?

Think you’re too small to interest cybercriminals? Think again! Contrary to popular belief, small businesses are the top target for criminals and represented 43% of all data breaches, according to a 2019 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report

An even more sobering stat: some 60% of small businesses that suffer a cyberattack go out of business within six months. 

Here’s why understanding the risks is important:

  • Cybercriminals are getting better: As the complexity and frequency of cyber threats grow, the implications for businesses in any sector grow more severe.
  • Hacks are expensive: Data breaches lead to direct costs like fines and legal expenses, alongside indirect impacts such as reputational harm and loss of customer confidence.
  • Customers won’t trust you: An organization’s reputation is everything, and a major cyber incident can cause lasting harm. 
  • The law won’t be on your side: Hackers are the criminals and you’re the victim. Right? Well, yes and no. If you’ve played fast and loose with your customers’ data, you’re as guilty as the hackers. Comply with regulations to avoid legal issues and fines.
  • Your business will stall: Cyber incidents are disruptive, sometimes leading to a complete halt. A proactive approach to identifying threats and vulnerabilities, coupled with strong defenses, will help keep things running should the worst happen. 
  • New tech will be at risk: Every company wants to innovate, but new tech means new vulnerabilities. 

How to create a cybersecurity risk management plan

A well-structured plan will help you navigate this complex world. Here’s a step-by-step guide.

 Step 1: Establish the context

  • Understand the organizational ecosystem: First, take stock of your organization’s goals, assets, data, infrastructure, and environment. Just list it all down. 
  • Identify your stakeholders and their needs: Next, list all your internal and external stakeholders. Include teams like IT and management to external parties like customers, vendors, and regulatory bodies. Understanding their needs, expectations, and the impact of cybersecurity on them plays a key part in shaping the plan’s objectives and scope.
  • Assess regulatory and compliance requirements: List everything down so you don’t fall foul of the law. Ignorance is no excuse! If your business deals internationally, remember to include the laws and regulations in the countries in which you operate. 

Step 2: Risk identification

  • Catalog assets: Create an inventory of your assets. We’re talking everything from hardware and software to data and network resources. 
  • Spot potential threats and vulnerabilities: With a comprehensive list in hand, the focus shifts to pinpointing threats and vulnerabilities. This part involves looking at all the different ways these assets could be compromised. External attacks, like hacking or phishing; internal threats like employee error or misconduct; and other risk factors, like system failures or natural disasters. They all come into play here.
  • Understand the threat landscape: Cyber threats evolve fast, so you’ll need to keep up-to-date with the latest trends and threat intelligence. Risk management is about anticipation as much as it’s about dealing with the here and now. 

 Step 3: Risk assessment

  • Evaluate the risks: This is where you gauge how likely each risk is to occur and what impact it would have. 
  •  Prioritize the risks: Not all risks are created equal. Some might be more probable or have a greater potential impact than others. So, this step involves sorting these risks into a hierarchy. High-priority risks are those that could cause significant disruption or damage, while lower-priority risks might have a less severe impact or be less likely to occur.
  • Balance risk with business objectives: It’s about striking a balance between protecting the organization and not stifling innovation or growth. 

 Step 4: Risk mitigation

  • Develop strategies: Your strategies might involve a mix of technical solutions, like installing new security software, and administrative actions, like revising policies or enhancing employee training.
  • Tailor solutions: Not all risks can be handled in the same way. Some might need technical defenses, while others could be more about changing processes or educating staff. 
  • Balance cost and effectiveness: You’ll need to find that sweet spot between the level of protection and the resources available. Not every risk can be eliminated, but with the right strategies in place, they can be reduced to a manageable level.

 Step 5: Putting the plan into action

  • Integrating into daily operations: It’s not just about having the tools — it’s about making sure they’re used effectively. This might involve training, updating software, and reconfiguring network infrastructure.
  • Coordinating across departments: Cybersecurity touches every part of the organization. So to implement it effectively, you need to make sure everyone knows what the plan is and why it’s important.

Step 6: Monitoring and review

  • Keep a watchful eye: With the cybersecurity plan in place, the focus shifts to monitoring. This is a continuous process where the organization keeps a beady eye on its defenses. While many solutions (including Nulab Pass) run in the background, it’s still important to check in and monitor any notifications.
  • Adapt: The world of cyber threats is ever-changing, with new risks surfacing daily. Monitoring and adapting isn’t just about looking for breaches or attacks — it’s about staying ahead of the curve.
  • Learn and improve: Every incident, whether it’s a minor breach or a near-miss, is an opportunity to grow. Part of monitoring and review is analyzing these incidents to understand what happened and why.

Cybersecurity standards and frameworks

Cybersecurity standards and frameworks offer structured, tried-and-tested approaches to managing cyber risks. Let’s take a closer look. 

1. NIST Risk Management Framework

The NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) Risk Management Framework offers a process that integrates security, privacy, and risk management activities. It’s designed for organizations that work with federal information systems, but its principles are broadly applicable across sectors. The framework emphasizes continuous monitoring and real-time assessments, providing a flexible and dynamic approach to risk management.

2. ISO/IEC 27001

ISO/IEC 27001 is an internationally recognized standard for managing information security. It provides a set of standardized requirements an Information Security Management System (ISMS) must meet. The standard helps organizations secure their information assets in a systematic and cost-effective way.

3. NIST SP 800-53

NIST SP 800-53 provides a catalog of security and privacy controls for federal information systems and organizations. It offers a comprehensive set of controls designed to address diverse security needs and risk environments and is instrumental in the implementation of the NIST Risk Management Framework.

10 essential tools for keeping your data safe

Let’s dive into specific tips and tools that can strengthen your approach. Remember — this isn’t an exhaustive list; new tools pop up daily. 

  • Vulnerability assessment tools: use tools to scan networks and systems for vulnerabilities. This proactive approach helps you identify and fix security weaknesses before attackers can exploit them.
  • Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS): Use systems like Snort or Suricata to monitor network traffic. These tools are a must for early detection.
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Software: These applications centralize and analyze log data in real time, helping you spot suspicious activity early.
  • Employee training and awareness: Run regular training sessions to educate employees about threats like phishing and social engineering. Awareness is an important line of defense.
  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Strengthen access security by requiring multiple forms of verification. This simple step can massively reduce the risk of unauthorized access.
  • Backup and disaster recovery solutions: Set up automated systems for data backup and recovery. That way, if your data’s stolen or compromised, you have a plan B. 
  • Patch management: Use tools to automate the updating and patching of software. Regular updates are essential for keeping you protected.
  • Incident response plan: Develop and regularly test a detailed plan that outlines procedures to follow during a security incident. 
  • Security policies and procedures: Clearly document and enforce security policies covering password management, access control, and data handling. Don’t assume people will just know it or remember. 
  • Encryption Tools: Secure data at rest and in transit using encryption tools. This ensures that even if data is intercepted or accessed, it remains unreadable without the encryption key.

Nulab takes cybersecurity seriously 

Ready to take your cybersecurity to the next level? With Nulab Pass, you can truly ‘set it and forget it’, which is ideal for smaller businesses with already stretched capacity. It runs in the background, keeping your Nulab suite of tools safe and secure. That doesn’t mean you get to sit back on all your other security risks — but for your Nulab apps, it’s one less thing to worry about. Ready to give it a try? Get started with a free trial today.



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