Legendary management consultant, often regarded as the founder of modern management, Peter F. Drucker said, “What gets measured gets managed.” Your cybersecurity risks are inversely proportional to the regular execution of your cybersecurity risk management process. Strong and dynamic processes yield lower, expected risks. Weak or unestablished processes will yield higher, often unexpected dangers. Managing, mitigating and eliminating your cybersecurity risks require a comprehensive process. Leaving your digital security to anything less than a well-thought-through custom process is tantamount to flipping a coin and expecting to get heads every single time. A robust cybersecurity risk management process will automatically measure your digital vulnerabilities so your team can successfully manage your organizational risks.
Why Do You Need Cybersecurity Risk Management?
Why do we even need cybersecurity risk management? Answer: The digital world is an increasingly dangerous place. Cyberattacks are commonplace. Some of these bad actors are even sponsored by governments, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies:
- The United Arab Emirates attempted to break into U.S. government computers in November 2022 by enlisting three former U.S. intelligence and military officials.
- That same month, the Iranian government sponsored cyberhackers to breach the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and install cryptocurrency-mining software. They also unleashed malware to take sensitive data.
- Multiple U.S. state government websites including Colorado, Kentucky and Mississippi were taken offline by a cyberattack. A pro-Russian hacker group claimed responsibility.
- The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the FBI and the NSA announced that state-sponsored hacking groups compromised sensitive agency data and had long-term access to a defense company for well over a year before being discovered.
- The United Kingdom’s intelligence agency, MI5, was targeted with a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack. The Russian-based hacking group was successful, and MI5’s site went offline temporarily.
If these types of cyberattacks are happening at the state level, then it’s a given that cybercriminals are not afraid of taking on every other kind of organization, including yours.
What Is Cybersecurity Risk Management?
Cybersecurity risk management is your strategy to prepare, survive and recover from any cyber incidents or even disasters. Many risk management processes are based on the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework (NIST CSF). Its five primary foundations for risk management are: identify, protect, detect, respond and recover. Three additional components of robust risk management strategies include:
- Incident Response (IR): IR is your predefined response to any number of cybersecurity events — cradle-to-grave. From start to finish, your IR goal is to identify, manage and recover from any and all cyberattacks — mitigating or preventing any lasting damage to your organization.
- Disaster Recovery (DR): DR is your well-planned protocol to proactively deploy your energy and resources to restore your data or infrastructure in the face of a cybersecurity incident or act of God — aka natural disaster.
- Business Continuity (BC): BC is your organization’s ability to keep day-to-day operations functioning with little or no downtime. Effective BC plans allow your organization to continue operations without being affected by cybersecurity incidents or disasters.
Business continuity is the name of the game. The major driver for cybersecurity risk management is to ensure your organization can operate through a multiplicity of adverse conditions — or recover from outlier cyberattacks that disrupt your organization’s core operations.
Conduct a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment With a Strategic Partner
Whether your organization has experienced a cyberattack or not, it’s best to conduct recurring tests on your infrastructure to see where your vulnerabilities are — and, more importantly, how to mitigate or eliminate them. An effective method is to conduct a cybersecurity risk assessment with a strategic partner that specializes in exactly that. The learning curve, energy, time and resources spent to do it all in-house can be counterproductive because, by default, it is much more difficult to be objective in the implementation of the assessment — and even more so to interpret the results without bias.
Your strategic partner should, at minimum, identify the assets at risk, assess your organization’s vulnerabilities, ascertain the potential impacts of a potential breach, and help you develop a comprehensive recovery protocol to minimize any downtime or damage. Strong assessments will have specific protocols dealing with common threat factors, including but not limited to:
- Phishing: A type of cyberattack that targets your team members and tricks them into downloading malware or providing sensitive information.
- Ransomware: A specific malware that encrypts your files and demands money from you (ransom) in order to decrypt them for you.
- Botnets: A network of your computers that are infected and controlled by cybercriminals.
- Demand Denial-of-Service (DDoS): An attack that overwhelms your infrastructure with requests — making your system unusable for your real customers or users.
Not One and Done
Any strong cybersecurity risk management process will be an integral part of your company culture. Cybercriminals evolve. According to Accenture, there was a 125% increase in incident volume year over year in 2021. The massive increase was driven by nation-state and cybercriminals who predominantly used ransomware, extortion operations and supply chain intrusions. Even more disturbing:
- The top global business risk is cyber incidents — over business interruption and natural disasters, according to the Allianz Risk Barometer 2023 report.
- The cybercrime business yields $1 billion in annual revenue for cybercriminals, according to Cybersecurity Ventures.
- Cybercrime causes an estimated $6 trillion in annual damages worldwide — if it were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest economy right after the U.S. and China.
With that much incentive for cybercriminals to continue to be bad actors, responsible organizations must take proactive steps to safeguard their operations and data. Your risk management process has to be interwoven throughout your organization — and it needs to be done so quickly and effectively. The consequences for hesitating could be immense. In 2018, an FBI Special Agent told the Wall Street Journal that every American citizen should expect that all of their data (personally identifiable information) has been stolen and is on the dark web. Don’t allow your organization to become complacent. Measure your cybersecurity risk management process to make sure it gets managed properly. Work with a trusted strategic partner to protect your organization and maximize your team’s state of readiness.
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Marty Aquino has been a passionate writer on venture capital, technology, forecasting, risk mitigation, wealth and entrepreneurial topics since 2009. He is the founder of Carbonwolf Energy, a venture-capital firm specializing in world-changing and status-quo-defying technologies and people.
- Harvard Business Review — What Can’t Be Measured
- CSIS.org — Significant Cyber Incidents
- Accenture — Triple digit increase in cyberattacks: What next?
- Allianz — Allianz Risk Barometer
- Cybersecurity Ventures — Cybercrime To Cost The World $10.5 Trillion Annually By 2025
- Wall Street Journal — Thieves Can Now Nab Your Data in a Few Minutes for a Few Bucks