network assessment

A Guide to risk assessment

Today, all businesses face a tremendous level of IT risk. From common cyber threats such as malicious attacks to unexpected yet unstoppable natural disasters, threats to your IT infrastructure can lead to insurmountable challenges. In some situations, businesses never rebound from the fallout of a data breach or network failure. This is why having robust risk assessment practices in place is so important. By identifying any risks and evaluating their potential impact, business and IT leaders can make smart decisions about how to mitigate risks and to prevent IT threats from ever causing problems.

ITIC’s 2019 Global Server Hardware Reliability Survey found that, for 98 percent of firms, one hour of downtime costs at least $100,000.

Risk assessment helps businesses avoid the costs of IT disasters

There are so many ways that network assessments and risk management can shield businesses from the costs of IT disasters. If your network is underperforming, productivity will diminish. Not only that but your IT could be vulnerable to a variety of cyber threats ranging from employee error to nefarious cyberattacks.

These vulnerabilities can lead to costly problems such as data loss and downtime, which can also result in lost business from the reputation damage such an incident causes.

To put in perspective just how detrimental an IT breach or network issue can be, take a look at what recent research reveals about the potential fallout of vulnerable IT.

According to a 2019 IBM report, the average size of a data breach is 25,575 records with each record costing $150.

What’s really startling are the after-effects of a breach. This is where the costs really add up, potentially leading to millions in losses.

Limor Kessem, global executive security advisor at IBM Security, says, “We found that lost business has remained the highest cost factor over the past five years.” These costs include revenue losses from system downtime, damage to a company’s reputation, and lost revenue from lost customers.

The only way to prevent this level of loss is through knowing what your business faces, where the vulnerabilities are, and what you can do to better protect data and systems. Those organizations that take a proactive approach to IT security and rely on risk assessments are better placed to avoid these costs and to keep their business running.

At $4.5 million, malicious attacks are the most common and the most expensive root cause of a data breach – they are 27 percent more costly than breaches due to human error and 37 percent more expensive than breaches rooted in a system glitch.

4 steps for an effective risk assessment

Assessing IT risks is an involved process. The more thorough your network assessment, the better protected your IT will be.

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Step one: Define your scope

To complete a comprehensive risk assessment, the first step involves understanding your IT system’s processing environment. Your in-house team or the IT services provider conducting the risk assessment will need to answer key questions related to all relevant system inputs. These include:

  • Software and hardware
  • Data
  • System interfaces
  • People who support and use the IT system
  • Processes performed by the IT system (the system mission)
  • The importance of your IT to the organization
  • IT system and data sensitivity concerns

The risk assessment team will have to do extensive research to outline the details of the IT environment. These are some of the most important considerations:

  • System security architecture
  • Organizational policies that govern the IT system
  • Legal requirements and industry best practices
  • Existing network topology
  • Existing data storage safeguards
  • Technical, management, and operational controls
  • The details of the physical security environment
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Step two: Identify threats

Once all this information is gathered, phase two involves identifying threats. The risk assessment team will look at potential vulnerabilities and possible threat sources.

There are a variety of potential threats that all businesses need to ensure their network is protected. While malicious attacks can be the most costly, when it comes to effectively reducing risk, the key is to seal up as many holes as possible. IT threats include:

  • System failures – Investing in high-quality equipment and reliable IT support can help to reduce the likelihood of a system failure.
  • Cyberattacks and malware – There are different ways someone can maliciously attack your system. These can be broken down into interference, which includes deleting data and DDOS (distributed denial of service) attacks, interception or stolen data, and impersonation. Impersonation happens when someone misuses a user’s credentials to steal data or do harm in another way.
  • Human error – The threat of accidental damage is ever-present. There’s no way to fully eliminate mistakes, but you can mitigate risks by automatically backing up data, controlling user access, and tracking changes to your critical systems.
  • Natural disasters – Never expected but always possible, natural disasters such as fires, floods, and earthquakes can lead to lost data and damaged hardware. This is one of the key reasons most businesses rely on cloud servers to house data.

With a solid understanding of potential threats, you can keep a close eye on vulnerabilities by regularly testing the IT system, implementing ongoing monitoring, and with proper patch management for software.

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Step three: Ensure the right controls are implemented

Once you have a crystal clear grasp of the IT environment and the potential threats and vulnerabilities, you can look at what controls you have in place and what controls you can implement to keep your systems protected. These can involve technical controls, including encryption, authentication subsystems, and virus protection, as well as nontechnical controls such as security policies and administrative actions.

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Step four: Analyze the likelihood of a threat and potential impact

And finally, in order to make smart decisions when it comes to your network, you need to know the likelihood of each threat, as well as what the potential costs could be. This involves analyzing how critical your IT systems are and how sensitive the system and the data are. You’ll also be able to prioritize which threats have the highest risks and which ones you need to focus on the most in order to keep your business running.

The power of effective network assessment

A high-performing network can help boost productivity and efficiency while working to keep your IT systems safe. At Compass MSP, we can establish a baseline for network performance, identify where problems could occur, and identify what actions you can take to avoid business interruption. Gain clarity around your technical environment and stop worrying if your network is safe with a thorough network assessment.