For cybersecurity and information security risk management in today’s organizations, IT risk assessments are essential. To prevent costly business disruptions, data breaches, compliance fines, and other harm, you can prioritize your mitigation efforts by identifying threats to your IT systems, data, and other resources and evaluating their possible business implications.

This article defines security risk assessments, discusses the advantages of performing them frequently, and walks readers through the steps that make up the risk assessment procedure.

What Do Security and IT Risk Assessments Entail?

The process of detecting IT ecosystem vulnerabilities and comprehending the financial risk they bring to the company, from downtime and related profit loss to legal fees and compliance penalties to customer attrition and lost revenue, is known as security risk assessment. You can appropriately prioritize your security activities as a part of your larger cybersecurity program with the aid of a diligent and comprehensive risk assessment.

A more comprehensive procedure called IT risk assessment includes security risk assessments as a subset. IT risk assessments take into account a variety of cyber risks in addition to threats to cybersecurity. Cyberrisk is defined by the Institute of Risk Management as “Any risk of financial loss, disruption, or damage to an organization’s reputation from some sort of failure of its information technology systems.” The same definition of cyber risk is given by Gartner: “The possibility of an unanticipated, unfavorable business outcome involving the failure or abuse of IT.”

A few instances of cyber hazards are:

  • theft of vital or sensitive information
  • tainted credentials
  • Attacks through phishing
  • Attempts to deny service (DoS)
  • Supply-chain disruptions
  • faulty configurations
  • Hardware malfunctions
  • Natural catastrophes
  • Individual flaws

It is crucial to remember that both kinds of risk assessments are ongoing processes. Due to the changing nature of both IT environments and attack tactics, they should be done on a frequent basis. Both IT risk assessments and security risk assessments can benefit from the strategies and techniques described below.

Security risk assessments’ advantages

The organization benefits greatly from IT risk assessments and cybersecurity risk assessments. Key advantages consist of:

Knowing where your most priceless IT assets are located Some computers, data centers, and other IT resources are more crucial than others. It’s crucial to perform the risk assessment procedure on a frequent basis since the IT assets you have and their worth can vary over time.

Understanding risk – By locating and evaluating potential threats to your company, you may concentrate first on the risks that have the greatest likelihood and potential impact.

Identifying and fixing vulnerabilities that threat actors may exploit is made easier with the aid of a gap-focused IT risk assessment approach. Unpatched software, too lenient access rules, and unencrypted data are a few examples.

Cost reduction – Conducting a security risk assessment not only protects your company from the significant costs associated with a data breach, but it also enables careful budget management for security measures that provide the greatest return on investment.

Regulatory compliance – Consistent security risk assessments can assist firms in meeting the data security standards imposed by regulations like HIPAA, PCI DSS, SOX, and GDPR, helping them to avoid steep fines and other penalties.

Increased customer trust can result in better client retention because it shows that a company is dedicated to security.

Making educated decisions — A cybersecurity risk assessment’s in-depth information can help with investment decisions for security, infrastructure, and personnel.

A Security Risk Assessment’s steps

Let’s go over the procedures for a proper security risk assessment now:

Identify and rank your resources.

Determine dangers.

Determine weak points.

Analyze the controls in place.

Analyze the possibility of an occurrence.

Analyze the potential effects of a danger.

Give the risks a priority.

Encourage controls.

Record the findings of the evaluation.

Be aware that while larger firms may assign this duty to their internal IT staff, organizations without a dedicated IT department may profit from outsourcing it to an outside expert.

Step 1: List and rank IT resources

Servers, printers, laptops, and other hardware are considered IT assets, as well as data like email messages, client contact information, and intellectual property. To ensure you have a thorough understanding of the organization’s systems and the data it generates and gathers, be sure to consult with all departments and business units throughout this step.

The value of each cyber asset must also be determined. The asset’s monetary value, function in crucial activities, and legal and compliance status standing are some of the often employed criteria. Then, you can group your assets according to their importance, such as critical, significant, or small.

Step 2: Recognize threats

Anything that could endanger your company is a threat. Examples include malicious behavior by corporate users, malware, external threat actors, and inexperienced administrators who make blunders.

Determine Vulnerabilities

A flaw that could allow a danger to hurt your business is known as a vulnerability. Information security test and evaluation (ST&E) methods, penetration testing, audit reports, the NIST vulnerability database, vendor data, analysis, and automated vulnerability scanning technologies can all be used to find vulnerabilities.

Step 4: Examine the Current Controls

Examine the security measures in place to lessen the likelihood that a threat may take advantage of a weakness. Encryption, intrusion detection systems, and multifactor authentication (MFA) are a few examples of technical controls. Security policies, administrative practices, and physical or environmental safeguards are examples of non-technical controls.

Controls that are technical or non-technical might be split into preventative or detective groups. To fend against attacks, preventive mechanisms like encryption and MFA are used. The use of detective controls, like as audit trails and intrusion detection systems, allows for the detection of risks that have already occurred or are still in progress.

Step 5: Calculate the Probability of an Incident

Consider elements including the vulnerability’s type, the capability and intent of the threat source, and the presence and effectiveness of your safeguards when estimating the likelihood that each vulnerability will be exploited. Many companies utilize terms like “high,” “medium,” and “low” to represent the likelihood of a threat instead of a numerical score.

Step 6: Evaluate the Potential Impact of a Threat

Analyze the possible effects of a situation when an asset is lost or compromised. Important things to think about include:

the asset’s function and any related operations

Value of the asset to the organization

The sensitive of the asset

Start with a mission impact analysis report or a business impact analysis (BIA) for this step. In these publications, the effects of information asset damage on the organization’s secrecy, integrity, and availability are evaluated using quantitative or qualitative measurements. A qualitative classification of the impact would be high, medium, or low.

Step 7: Sort the Risks by Priority

Determine the level of risk to the IT system based on each threat/vulnerability pair using the following criteria:

The possibility that the threat will take advantage of the weakness

How much each of these incidents typically costs

The effectiveness of the current or future information system security procedures in minimizing or eliminating risk

A risk-level matrix is a helpful tool for this kind of risk estimation. A threat is rated as having a high likelihood of occurring (1.0), a medium likelihood of occurring (0.5), and a low likelihood of occurring (0.1). The values for a high impact level are 100, a medium effect level is 50, and a low impact level is 10. The threat likelihood value is multiplied by the effect value to compute risk, which is then classified as high, medium, or low based on the outcome.

Make Control Recommendations

Determine the steps necessary to mitigate the risk using the risk level as a guide. For each level of risk, consider these broad recommendations:

High – As quickly as feasible, a plan for corrective actions should be created.

Medium – Within a realistic time frame, a plan for corrective actions should be created.

Low — The group must determine whether to take the risk or take preventative measures.

Step 9: Record Your Findings

The creation of a thorough report as the process’s final phase helps management make educated judgments about the budget, policy, and other factors. Each danger, associated vulnerability, at-risk assets, potential impact on your IT infrastructure, likelihood of occurrence, suggested control methods, and associated cost should be described in the report. A risk assessment report will frequently list important corrective actions that can reduce a number of risks.


Any security management plan must be built on security risk assessments and risk management procedures since they give thorough insight into the threats and vulnerabilities that could cause the company financial loss and how to mitigate them. You may improve your security policy and procedures to better protect against cyberattacks and safeguard your crucial assets with a clear assessment of your IT security vulnerabilities and knowledge of the value of your data assets.