Vulnerability and cybersecurity-centric assessments are an intrinsic aspect of an enterprise’s data and information security measures. Regardless of the industry, every enterprise has data that it needs to protect, from both competitors and exploitative elements. This is where cybersecurity comes in, with its plethora of methods and operational frameworks, which companies can leverage to protect not just their data, but their very business.

Unfortunately, despite the obvious importance of protecting a company’s sensitive data/information, a significant number of enterprises report not having satisfactory risk assessment methods in their operational repertoire.

According to the State of Cybersecurity Metrics Annual Report by Thycotic, 4 out of 5 surveyed companies are not fully satisfied by the state of their cybersecurity protocols. Even more alarming is the fact that the same number of companies aren’t even aware of where their sensitive information is stored. These metrics demonstrate clearly the requirement of robust cybersecurity measures.

Before implementing a cybersecurity measure though, there needs to be an effective vulnerability and cybersecurity risk assessment plan in place.

Ideally, risk assessment is applicable on every function, process and/or application within the company’s operational sphere. However, in this article, we will discuss vulnerability assessments from a broader perspective, and detail how to go about determining the areas that need to be secured, as well as the level of cybersecurity measures needed.

5 Steps to Performing a Cybersecurity Assessment

To that end, following is a step-by-step guide to performing a vulnerability assessment to protect assets and prevent cyberattacks.

1) Define the Asset

Information is often the most valuable asset a company possesses. If not so in the case of a particular company, the individuals in charge of the assessment procedure need to first define the qualities of the asset. Definitions such as what the asset is, how it factors in to the internal system, who has access to the asset, what is the workflow with regards to the asset.

This will help to ascertain what form of asset is at risk, and which are the best cybersecurity techniques to adopt, for each specific case.

2) Identify the Potential Threats

Every internal system and/or asset within an organization is at some level of risk from both external malicious intent and internal malpractice. Additionally, there are some threats that will be common for the majority of systems and functions. Following are some commonly occurring threat types:

  • Unauthorized System Access: Such access could be the result of a direct hacking or compromise, or some manner of malware. It could also be due to an internal element, attempting to access secured systems.
  • Misuse of Data/Information by Authorized Users: This could be the result of internal changes made without superior approval, by one or more authorized users. Since said usage, access and changes made are not approved, chances are that there are no safeguards set up against potential threats, as a result.
  • Data Exposure/Leak (intentional or otherwise): This is usually the result of careless system usage and/or improper data disposal (using unencrypted flash drives and infected data sticks, and insufficient redundant data destruction pertaining to otherwise important papers; respectively). It could also result from sending sensitive information to an incorrect recipient.
  • Accidental Loss of Data: Lack of data back-ups and machine error could be the causes for this.

3) Determine Threat Scale and Projected Impact

This step directly follows the previous two, in that once you have confirmed threat type and the system/function under risk, you will be equipped to calculate the impact of the threat, if it is left unchecked. Incidentally, this is done without factoring in the control environment. Considering how the system/function was characterized will help you determine the damage to the system in question.

4) Weigh Prevention Cost against Asset Value

Modern cybersecurity measures make it possible to have more than one method of threat elimination. However, while you may have more than one weapon in your vulnerability assessment and prevention arsenal, it is vital to ascertain how much it will cost, VS the advantage it will bring in the long and short term.

For example, if purchasing and running a vulnerability assessment algorithm costs X amount, and the asset it is meant to protect is worth less then X, without any projections of future value increase, it does not make sense to use that particular algorithm.

5) Enable and Monitor Data Security

Now that the cost VS benefit argument has been made, and you have singled out the ideal cybersecurity measure to protect enterprise data, it is time to implement and actively monitor it for optimal performance. This step is absolutely necessary, since no matter how efficient a security measure may be, enterprises cannot afford to fire and forget, especially considering the incredibly high number of vulnerabilities that companies face.

Also paramount is constantly evaluating all the aforementioned factors, for ongoing threat assessment. The potential threats to enterprise data are not reducing in number, any time soon – neither should the cybersecurity countermeasures.

Cybersecurity training can assist with effective and efficient vulnerability assessment and elimination. QuickStart’s Information Security courses deliver a plethora of beneficial cybersecurity-related practical knowledge, for seamless data protection, across-the-board.