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Many regulations across industries require or promote security risk assessments, but what exactly is a cyber security risk assessment? In healthcare, for example, cyber risk assessments aren't only required under HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) but are also key in strengthening the IT team's and business leaders' confidence level and knowledge of where the organization is most vulnerable, and what data is involved in higher-risk treatment environments. The ultimate goal? To better manage IT-related risks, which inevitably cover the entire organization, vendors, applications, and customer base in many cases. It's no surprise that having this knowledge permeates your organization leads to effective cyber risk management.

The NIST RMF: Risk Management Framework

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) "The purpose of Special Publication 800-30 is to provide guidance for conducting risk assessments of federal information systems and organizations, amplifying the guidance provided in NIST SP (Special Publication) 800-39. Additionally, this information is supplemented by NIST SP 800-37 and Special Publication 800-53. Special Publication 800-37 is the descriptor for the (Risk Management Framework), RMF is the disciplined, structured, and flexible process for managing security and risk management that includes information security system categorization; control selection, implementation, and assessment; system operation and common control authorizations; and continuous monitoring. This document provides guidance for carrying out each of the three steps in the risk assessment process (i.e., prepare for the assessment, conduct the assessment, and maintain the assessment) and how risk assessments and other organizational risk management processes complement and inform each other." The NIST risk assessment guidelines are certainly ones to consider.

NIST Special Publications provide recommended requirements for protecting the confidentiality of controlled unclassified information (CUI). In order to be compliant with the defense federal acquisition regulation (DFARS), DOD contractors must implement the security requirements in NIST SP 800-171. DOD contracts will be awarded on the basis of providing robust security to protect defense information according to the NIST SP 800-171 DOD assessment.

Some cyber security risk assessment tips derived from NIST best practices are below. CyberStrong streamlines the assessment process in your organization for any and all your regulatory or voluntary frameworks, giving added visibility into the NIST Risk Management Framework as well as internal and external organizational processes (Learn More Here). Below are some key tips to take into account when planning and conducting your first or next cybersecurity risk assessment on your company.

1. Prepare For Your Risk Assessment

According to NIST 800-30, organizations implement the risk management strategy to effectively prepare for their risk assessments. The following tasks are critical to performing a thorough risk assessment according to the special publication:

  • Identify the purpose of the assessment;
  • Identify the scope of the assessment;
  • Identify the assumptions and constraints associated with the assessment;
  • Identify the sources of information to be used as inputs to the assessment; and
  • Identify the risk model and analytic approaches (i.e., assessment and analysis approaches) to be employed during the assessment.

2. Scope Your Entire Organization

To perform an effective security risk analysis, you must incorporate the entire organization to assess exactly where there are risks and identify vulnerabilities to sensitive data, whether it's yours or your customers'. CyberStrong allows you to implement NIST 800-30 methodology immediately and easily scope your entire organization, whether you are assessing a single location or hundreds of applications or even vendors. The NIST special publication 800-30 describes this as "Identify(ing) the scope of the risk assessment in terms of organizational applicability, time frame supported, and architectural/technology considerations".

This NIST assessment methodology is the most credible risk assessment guidance to date and is at the backbone of CyberStrong's risk management offering because of it. The methodology is used by U.S. federal agencies and commercial enterprises as a basis for risk assessment scoring and management.

3. Implement an Evolving Risk Assessment, Because Once Is Not Enough

An organization’s entire risk management process should be reviewed on a regular basis and changed as new technologies are introduced into the company or organization. New technologies could affect where sensitive information is stored and as more tools are integrated into the organization's processes, there is more risk for data to fall into the wrong hands.

IT systems are continually being updated, software applications are being replaced and updated with newer versions, and the human aspect is also changing, putting weight on training new personnel with evolving security policies that affect existing employees. New medium or high risks will surface and risks previously mitigated may be reborn into new vulnerabilities. All in all, your risk management process must be ongoing and evolving to combat new and existing identified threats and cyber attacks.

4. Share The Information With Your Stakeholders

According to the publication, “the risk assessment process entails ongoing communications and information sharing between those personnel performing assessment activities, subject matter experts, and key organizational stakeholders (e.g., mission/business owners, risk executive [function], chief information security officers, information system owners/program managers).”

Sharing your risk assessment results helps to ensure that the inputs put into the risk assessments are as accurate and credible as possible. Intermediate results can be used to support other basic assessments in other areas of the organization, inform business objectives, and ensure that results are meaningful, resulting in real remediation plans and actions to make your organization more secure.

5. Make Your Risk Assessment Adaptive, Understood, and Actionable

In the past, it's been difficult to bring agility and tribal knowledge to cyber and cyber risk management. The CyberStrong Platform not only streamlines any framework or standard (NIST CSF, NIST 800-30, PCI DSS, HIPAA, NERC, ISO and any other frameworks, custom or regulatory) but the platform also allows you to credibly report enterprise-level risk for each control on even the most complex risk environments.

CyberStrong prioritizes risk mitigation decisions based on real data, using your risk profile to surface new mitigation opportunities that have a high return on investment for your specific organization. Easily assess your organization for credible enterprise risk management based on the proven NIST Risk Management Framework.

Conduct risk assessments with cybersecurity frameworks against ANY and ALL compliance standards or to learn more about information security risk management guidelines, download our report.

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