While you understand the necessity and value of assessing threats to your organization’s data and computing system, you may sometimes need a few new ideas to add to the mix to lead you to greater confidence in your information security efforts.
Breaking Down Risks, Vulnerabilities and Threats to Build the Best Possible Information Security Program
You work with risks, vulnerabilities and threats each day, constantly striving to break down and understand their relationship to each other to keep everything in check.
|Risks are typically classified as either hazardous, financial, operational and strategic, and they have the potential for loss of anything in your care that has value, which might include people, information, money, facilities, equipment or reputation.||Vulnerabilities are any weaknesses or gaps in your security programs that make it possible for threats to gain access to your assets.||A threat to your organization’s computing system is a warning that alerts you that an intruder is trying to infiltrate your system to exploit any possible vulnerabilities available to gain access to your assets to steal, damage or otherwise compromise them.|
What Types of Threats Are Most Frequently Found?
Threats come in many forms and through different channels, including:
- Intentional Threats
- Accidental Threats
- Natural Disasters
- Internal Threats
Threats are often intentional and are done through hacking from an individual or a criminal organization. A few intentional external threats include viruses, malware, Denial of Service (DoS) and ransomware attacks.
Threats are sometimes accidents due to some internal issue such as a computer malfunction or employee lapse in protocol, judgment or memory.
Threats may come in the form of a natural disaster like a flood, lightning strike, earthquake, fire or tornado. Any of these threats can slow, debilitate, restrict access to, or completely ruin your data.
Finally, threats can sometimes strike your assets due to an internal employee’s intentional abuse of rights or policies, or they may be attempting something more serious in the form of occupational fraud.
Knowing that your organization’s computing environment faces an array of threats—in a variety of forms—is only the beginning of your threat detection battle.
Try These 5 Steps to Complete a Successful Threat Assessment
Our auditing team has come up with 5 steps that we are sure will help you streamline your threat assessment process to ensure success:
- Determine the Scope of Your Threat Assessment
- Collect Necessary Data to Cover the Full Scope of Your Threat Assessment
- Identify Potential Vulnerabilities That Can Lead to Threats
- Analyze Any Threats You Uncover and Assign a Rating
- Perform Your Threat Analysis
Determine the Scope of Your Threat Assessment
Determining the scope of your threat assessment may be the most important step of all. Your scope provides you with an outline of what is covered and what is not. The scope of your assessment can range to one small sector of your system to the entire network. During this step, you can also classify the sensitivity of what is being assessed, as well as the level and detail of the assessment.
Within the scope of your threat assessment, you must check every possible avenue for threats and security gaps in your system.
Collect Necessary Data to Cover the Full Scope of Your Threat Assessment
Work with your threat assessment team you have assembled to gather all the data you will need to fulfill the assessment’s scope. Some of this data includes:
- Company policies and procedures
- Regulations, laws and policies set forth by an external governing body, such as HIPAA-HITECH or PCI DSS
- Notes from interviews, questionnaires or surveys conducted with key personnel to identify assets and out-of-date or missing documentation
Additional details you need to obtain before beginning your threat assessment include service pack levels, operating system information, network applications running, physical location of the system, cloud services used and current access control permissions.
Identify Potential Vulnerabilities That Can Lead to Threats
Review your collected data to try to identify possible vulnerabilities and where they are most likely to be found in your system. A penetration test will simulate an actual hacking scenario to help you pinpoint dangerous vulnerabilities that could easily lead to external threats.
Analyze Any Threats You Uncover and Assign a Rating
Once you have uncovered any possible threats in your system, it is important to categorize or rate them according to their potential for loss:
- Minor Severity and Exposure
- Moderate Severity and Exposure
- High Severity and Exposure
Perform Your Threat Analysis
At this point, go through your findings to determine anything that may contribute to tampering, destruction or interruption of any service or item of value. Develop a strategy to remove these threats with measures that include installation of new software, tightening of security, implementing additional access controls, and providing increased and improved staff training.
Perform Regular Threat Assessments to Stay Ahead of Cyber Criminals
Cyber criminals never rest, which means you can’t either. However, our auditors and information security experts at I.S. Partners, LLC. are to relieve some of the pressure and help keep your system safe and your clients and stakeholders happy.
This blog was originally published on October 30, 2017 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.