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What Is Cybersecurity Risk Management?

Cybersecurity risk management is a strategy that involves identifying, assessing, and taking measures to reduce cyber risks within an organization. It is an ongoing process designed to protect information and systems from threats while ensuring business continuity.

Cyber threats can take various forms, including malware, phishing, ransomware, or even insider threats. These threats can compromise the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of an organization's information, leading to significant financial and reputational damage. Cybersecurity risk management aims to mitigate these threats by employing various strategies and tools.

The cybersecurity risk management process must be tailored to an organization's unique needs, considering factors such as the organization's size, the nature of its business, the type of information it handles, and its risk appetite.

This is part of a series of articles about vulnerability management.

The Importance of Cyber Risk Management

Improved Security Posture

Cyber risk management plays a vital role in enhancing an organization's security posture. By identifying potential risks and implementing measures to mitigate them, organizations can significantly reduce their vulnerability to cyber threats.

An effective cyber risk management strategy encompasses all aspects of an organization, from its people and processes to its technology. This holistic approach ensures that all potential weak points are reinforced, thereby enhancing the overall security posture.

Regulatory Compliance

In many industries, organizations are required by law to adhere to specific cybersecurity standards and regulations. Non-compliance can result in severe penalties, including fines and legal action. Cyber risk management helps organizations ensure that they are compliant with these regulations.

By incorporating compliance requirements into their cyber risk management strategy, organizations can not only avoid penalties but also demonstrate their commitment to cybersecurity to their customers, partners, and stakeholders.

Cybersecurity Insurance

More and more companies are turning to cybersecurity insurance as a way to manage their cyber risk. Cybersecurity insurance can cover the costs associated with a cyber incident, such as the cost of data recovery, legal fees, and notification costs.

An effective cyber risk management strategy can help organizations negotiate better insurance premiums by demonstrating that they have taken steps to manage their risk. Moreover, many insurance providers require evidence of a robust cyber risk management strategy before they will provide coverage.

The Cybersecurity Risk Management Process

The cybersecurity risk management process typically involves four steps: asset identification, risk assessment, risk treatment, and monitoring and review.

1. Asset Identification

Asset identification involves delineating all the assets that could be affected by a cyber threat. These could include hardware, software, data, systems, physical facilities, or even people.

Once all assets have been identified, they should be classified based on their importance to the organization. This classification will help determine the level of protection each asset requires.

2. Risk Assessment

Once the assets have been identified and classified, the next step is risk assessment. This involves identifying the threats and vulnerabilities that could affect each asset and assessing the potential impact of each threat.

The risk assessment should take into account the likelihood of each threat occurring and the potential damage it could cause. This will help the organization prioritize its resources and focus on the most significant risks.

3. Risk Treatment

After the risks have been assessed, the next step is risk treatment. This involves deciding on the most appropriate way to manage each risk. There are several options for risk treatment:

  • Avoiding the risk
  • Transferring the risk
  • Mitigating the risk
  • Accepting the risk

The chosen risk treatment should align with the organization's risk appetite and business objectives. It should also consider the cost of the treatment and the potential benefits.

4. Monitoring and Review

The final step involves continuously monitoring the organization's cyber risk environment and reviewing the effectiveness of the risk treatment measures.

Monitoring and review are crucial for ensuring that the cyber risk management strategy remains effective over time. As new threats emerge and the organization's environment changes, the strategy should be updated to reflect these changes.

Notable Cyber Risk Management Frameworks

Cybersecurity risk management frameworks provide a structured approach to identifying, assessing, and mitigating cyber risks. These frameworks serve as a guide for organizations in developing and implementing their cybersecurity programs. Here are several globally recognized risk frameworks your organizations can adopt.

NIST CSF

The National Institute of Standards and Technology's Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF) is a voluntary framework, primarily aimed at critical infrastructure organizations, which helps manage and mitigate cybersecurity risk based on existing standards, guidelines, and practices.

The NIST CSF is built around five core functions:

  • Identify: Helps organizations understand their business context, resources, and risk.
  • Protect: Assists organizations in developing and implementing appropriate safeguards.
  • Detect: Focuses on implementing appropriate activities to identify cybersecurity events.
  • Respond: Ensures a timely response to detected cybersecurity events.
  • Recover: Focuses on maintaining plans for resilience and restoring capabilities or services impaired due to a cybersecurity event.

NIST 800-53 Controls

NIST 800-53 Controls is a document that helps organizations adopt the CSF framework, by providing a detailed list of security controls. It is mandatory for federal information systems and organizations, although it has also been adopted widely in the private sector due to its comprehensive approach.

NIST 800-53 provides a catalog of security and privacy controls that are customizable to fit different risk environments. The controls are divided into 20 families, each targeting different aspects of information security. The framework also provides guidelines for selecting appropriate security controls based on the organization’s mission, function, and information systems.

NIST 800-171 Controls

The NIST 800-171 controls, also known as the "Protecting Controlled Unclassified Information in Nonfederal Systems and Organizations," is a set of requirements that non-federal entities must follow to protect sensitive federal information. Like NIST 800-53, it is a supporting document that helps organizations adopt the CSF framework.

NIST 800-171 consists of 11 families of security requirements that organizations need to implement. These requirements cover areas such as access control, audit and accountability, incident response, maintenance, and system and information integrity, among others. The NIST 800-171 controls aim to ensure that sensitive federal information remains confidential and is not compromised when processed, stored, and used in nonfederal systems and organizations.

ISO 27001

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 27001 is a globally recognized standard for information security management systems (ISMS). It provides a systematic approach to managing sensitive company information and ensuring it remains secure.

The ISO 27001 standard uses a top-down, risk-based approach and is technology-neutral. It includes requirements for establishing, implementing, maintaining, and continually improving an ISMS. The standard also includes requirements for the assessment and treatment of information security risks tailored to the needs of the organization.

ISO 27002

ISO 27002, also known as Code of Practice for Information Security Controls, is a companion document to ISO 27001. While ISO 27001 provides a framework for an ISMS, ISO27002 provides best practice recommendations on information security management.

The standard covers 14 domains of information security, including security policy, organization of information security, asset management, human resources security, physical and environmental security, communications and operations management, access control, information systems acquisition, development and maintenance, information security incident management, business continuity management, and compliance.

PCI-DSS

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) is a set of security standards designed to ensure that all companies that accept, process, store, or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.

The PCI-DSS framework outlines a series of steps to protect cardholder data, including building and maintaining a secure network, protecting cardholder data, maintaining a vulnerability management program, implementing strong access control measures, regular monitoring and testing of networks, and maintaining an information security policy.

Center for Internet Security (CIS) Controls

The Center for Internet Security (CIS) controls is a set of 18 actionable controls (known as the CIS 18) that provide a roadmap for improving an organization's cybersecurity posture. They were adapted from a previous framework known as SANS Critical Security Controls (SANS Top 20). The CIS 18, are a prioritized set of best practices created by cybersecurity professionals to stop the most common threats.

The CIS controls cover various aspects of cybersecurity, including basic controls such as inventory and control of hardware assets, continuous vulnerability management, and controlled use of administrative privileges.

They also include foundational controls like secure configuration for hardware and software, boundary defense, and data protection, and organizational controls like incident response and management, penetration tests and red team exercises, and application software security.

Developing Your Cyber Risk Management Strategy: Tips for Success

Here are a few best practices that can help you create a successful cyber risk management strategy.

Establish a Strong Governance Structure

Establishing a governance structure means setting up a framework that defines roles, responsibilities, and processes related to cybersecurity.

A good governance structure should involve all levels of the organization, from the board and management to the IT department and employees. This is because cybersecurity is not just an IT issue, but a business one that can have significant financial and reputational implications.

The governance structure should also be flexible and adaptable, capable of responding to the rapidly changing cybersecurity landscape. Regular reviews of the governance structure will ensure it remains up-to-date and effective.

Conduct Comprehensive Risk Assessments

Risk assessments should identify and evaluate all potential cybersecurity risks the organization faces. They should be conducted regularly, as new threats and vulnerabilities can emerge at any time. They should also be comprehensive, covering all aspects of the organization, including physical assets, digital assets, employees, and third parties.

The results of risk assessments should be documented and communicated to all relevant stakeholders. This will ensure everyone is aware of the risks and can take appropriate action.

Implement a Layered Defense Strategy

Even the most sophisticated cyber defense cannot provide 100% protection. Therefore, a layered defense strategy is key to mitigating risks.

A layered defense strategy involves multiple layers of security measures, each designed to protect against different types of threats. If one layer fails, the others are still in place to provide protection. This approach is also known as ‘Defense in Depth’

A successful risk management strategy should include a mix of preventive, detective, and corrective controls. Preventive controls aim to stop cyber attacks before they happen, detective controls identify attacks in progress, and corrective controls limit the damage caused by an attack.

Develop Incident Response and Recovery Plans

Despite all efforts to prevent and detect cyber threats, incidents can still occur. Therefore, it's essential to have robust incident response and recovery plans in place.

An incident response plan outlines the steps to be taken in the event of a cyber incident. This includes identifying the incident, containing it, eradicating the threat, and recovering systems and data.

A recovery plan focuses on restoring operations to normal after an incident. This includes strategies for data backup and recovery, business continuity, and disaster recovery.

Integrate Cybersecurity in the Supply Chain

Some of the most devastating cyber attacks in recent years focused on the supply chain, targeting an organization’s vendors and suppliers as a weak link in the security chain.

Integrating cybersecurity in the supply chain means ensuring that all third parties the organization works with have adequate cybersecurity measures in place. Supply chain security also involves ensuring that software and services used by a company do not include vulnerable or malicious software.

How CyCognito Helps Manage Cyber Risk

The CyCognito platform addresses today’s cyber risk requirements by taking an automated multi-faceted approach in identifying and remediating critical issues based on their business impact, rather than focusing on the generic severity of the threat alone. To do this you need a platform that is continuously monitoring the attack surface for changes and provides intelligent prioritization that incorporates organizations context.

The CyCognito platform helps manage cyber risk requirements by:

  • Maintaining a dynamic asset inventory with classification of the entire external attack surface, including exposed on-premise and cloud-hosted assets like web applications, IP addresses, domains and certificates, eliminating the need to rely on outdated or incomplete information from collaboration tools, spreadsheets, or emails. This approach significantly reduces the burden of tedious, error-prone and costly processes.
  • Actively testing all discovered assets to identify risk. Active testing, including dynamic application security testing, or DAST, uncovers complex issues and validates known issues, with low false positives. Each exploited asset is assigned a security grade based on its criticality to the business.
  • Prioritizing critical issues, guiding security teams to focus on the most urgent threats. Our unique risk-based prioritization analysis goes beyond the common vulnerability scoring system (CVSS), and incorporates factors like asset discoverability, asset attractiveness, exploitability, business impact and remediation complexity. Integrated tactical threat intelligence identifies the handful of attack vectors that pose the greatest risk.
  • Streamlining communications between remediation teams by providing comprehensive, verifiable evidence for each exploited asset. This evidence includes detailed risk assessments, asset ownership information, and actionable remediation guidance. The platform seamlessly integrates with SIEM, SOAR and ticketing system tools like Jira, ServiceNow and Splunk to facilitate information sharing and collaboration.

Watch an 8-Minute Demo of the Cycognito Platform

In a short demo video see how the CyCognito platform uses nation-state-scale reconnaissance and offensive security techniques to close the gaps left by other security solutions including attack surface management products, vulnerability scanners, penetration testing, and security ratings services.