Pratum Blog

Information Security Risk Matrix

Every organization is unique, so the risks they each face are not the same. In order to make a plan of action to protect your business, you need to first understand where the threats against you are. Once you know where those risks and gaps are you can start to identify the likelihood of them occurring and the impact they could have on your organization.

This sort of knowledge is crucial when making risk-based decisions for your company. Without full knowledge of where, how, and why a threat could occur, you’re not going to be able to stop it. That’s why understanding likelihood and impact are both important factors in the Risk Assessment process.

Keep it Simple

You don’t have to have a complex formula in order to improve or support the security environment of your organization. However, it is important for leadership to understand where time and resources need to be spent in order to reduce potential risks to the company. That’s how Risk Assessments can shed light on the key factors in this decision-making process.

Having a better understanding of the system also helps out other members of your staff. Members of the IT department need to know what products and processes to put into place in order to limit potential risks. The more knowledge they have, the better they can work with leadership to determine and address security concerns. Sharing the Risk Assessment results with members of the IT team will help them understand where to reduce risks.

Risk Formula

Risk = Threats x Vulnerabilities

This is a common formula that is used to determine the likelihood of risk. It’s a good way to approach finding risk because it addresses the key factors in a cybersecurity threat.

The standard set in NIST 800-53 implies that a realistic assessment of risk requires an understanding of these areas: threats to an organization, potential vulnerabilities within the organization, and the likelihood and impacts of successfully exploiting the vulnerabilities with those threats. That likelihood is then best described and categorized in values of High, Medium, and Low.

Getting Started

Now that you know the importance and formula for determining likelihood and impact during a Risk Assessment, here’s how you get started!

First, determine the inherent risk. That is, the risk level and exposure your system faces without taking into account any mitigating measures or controls that are actively in place. Where is your system at its weakest when no other security measures are in place to protect them?

An area with a higher likelihood and impact of a threat on the organization, from an inherent risk level, may need additional controls to reduce the level of risk to an acceptable level. This process then leaves you with what we call “residual risk”. That’s the level of risk that will remain following the implementation of a mitigating control. If the threshold is still higher than you prefer, then additional risk management measures and techniques should be introduced.

 Mitigating Measures:

  • Avoidance – Elimination of the cause of the risk.
  • Mitigation – Reduction of the probability of a risk’s occurrence or of its impact.
  • Transfer – Sharing of risk with partners, such as through insurance or other ventures.
  • Acceptance – Formal acknowledgement of the presence of risk with a commitment to monitor it.

Finding Help

If you’ve now read through how determining likelihood and impact can help your Risk Assessment process, but still aren’t sure where to go next, there is help available through cybersecurity consultants. These experts in the field can help by looking over a number of key factors you may not have considered.

Cybersecurity Consultants are able to analyze your organization’s structure, policies, standards, technology, architecture, controls, and more to determine the likelihood and impact of potential risks. They will also review your current controls and evaluate their effectiveness.

While determining how secure your network is, Consultants will also assess any gaps between your current security posture and where you want your organization to be. This can be accomplished by determining accountability. That means ensuring risk ownership is assigned at the appropriate level and to the appropriate team. It’s important to have the right security measures in the right hands.

End Goal

The end goal is to get to an acceptable level of risk or the level of risk that is satisfactory to your management team. It’s important to evaluate and be aware of the risk in your environment so you can implement appropriate controls to mitigate this risk and secure sensitive information. Evaluating risk means understanding the biggest factors of any security threat, likelihood and impact.

If you’re looking for a security partner to address your Risk Assessment needs, feel free to reach out to a Pratum Consultant at any time for more details on ways you can secure your business!

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