Cyber security risk assessments: What’s involved in a threat analysis?

Cyber security remains a top concern for all businesses going into the new year. New malware threats emerge on a daily basis, and the associated costs of a data breach continue to climb. After totaling expenses related to threat remediation, regulatory penalties and reputational rehabilitation, organisations could be left with a hefty bill once the dust has settled.

According to a 2019 Cybersecurity Ventures report, annual global damages stemming from cyber crime will eclipse $6 trillion by 2021. For reference, in 2015, the total cost of cyber crime around the world was reported to be half that amount.

Conducting routine cyber security risk assessments is critical to identifying vulnerabilities in your security posture and preventing costly data breaches. Threat analysis is a critical aspect to that process, and it's important that business leaders understand what exactly goes into such an assessment. Here's what you can expect when you contract a cyber security expert to conduct a thorough threat analysis of your organisation.

Map out your threat surface and exposure

The goal of any cyber risk assessment is to determine with a high degree of accuracy the likelihood of a data breach. That entails thoroughly inspecting an organisation's IT landscape and operational footprint to identify potential points of vulnerability.

The scope of this kind of threat analysis can be pretty vast, gathering data from every corner of a company's IT infrastructure. Business applications, databases, operating systems and networks can all be included in this process. Unpatched systems, out-of-date threat detection tools and network security deficiencies are all critical areas that a cyber security risk assessment will review.

System vulnerability checks

Many data breaches occur as a result of vulnerabilities stemming from outdated platforms and systems that can be easily exploited. For instance, a business relying on an OS that is no longer supported by the manufacturer will not be able to receive patch updates that address security vulnerabilities. Cyber criminals frequently use that oversight to their advantage, penetrating networks and accessing sensitive data.

A threat analysis will check various areas of your organisation for potential cyber security risks.A threat analysis will check various areas of your organisation for potential cyber security risks.

Access control review

Access control is another important area to consider during a cyber security risk assessment. If an employee's account is compromised, would the damage be relatively contained? Or would the intruder have access to a number of platforms, applications and databases that could compromise important information? A threat analysis can help point out access control issues that make the difference between a relatively harmless security incident and a widespread data breach that takes years to recover from.

Third party analysis

If an organisation works closely with third-party vendors or integrates business software with external applications, that would be another important component to assess. Cyber criminals often use third-party organisations as a point of entry to infiltrate other businesses, so checking that your business partners are as diligent about cyber security as your own company is extremely important.

Regulatory risk could be included

Threat analysis can even extend beyond the scope of cyber security concerns to review regulatory requirements related to data management, processing and storage. This is especially important in the wake of the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which applies to any organisation that sells to European customers, regardless of where it is located. Many governments around the world have begun to create their laws and regulations that mimic GDPR, increasing compliance demands on businesses in the near future.

A risk assessment can help determine how much your business stands to lose from a data breach.A risk assessment can help determine how much your business stands to lose from a data breach.

Assess the potential risk and damage

Once your security auditors have identified where vulnerabilities lie, they can begin to determine how much potential damage those risks could eventually cause. Some security gaps are more harmful than others. The lack of any access control mechanism is far more worrisome than threat-detection tools that have not been updated in the past 24 hours, for instance.

After conducting the cyber security risk assessment, security experts will often produce a report on their findings that lists vulnerabilities in order of the risk they present. Easily exploitable vulnerabilities that could give unauthorised users access to highly sensitive data would be given the highest priority and require immediate attention.

Recommend or implement security measures

With a thorough analysis of your current security posture, your business can begin addressing any gaps that have been identified. Depending on the nature of those vulnerabilities, they could be handled in house or requires assistance from an expert cyber security team.

If you enlist the help of a third-party service provider to conduct the threat analysis, they will often be able to correct any issues they find. Given the high stakes of cyber security, it's best to take whatever precautions you can to safeguard your network, systems and data.

Biztech's security experts can run a thorough threat analysis and identify potential points of vulnerability in your security posture. Protect your organisation from a potential data breach by conducting a cyber security risk assessment today. Contact our team to learn more about our industry-leading offerings.