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10 Best Practices for Cyber Security Risk Management

By DeVry University

February 13, 2024
7 min read

To remain competitive in today’s Internet-of-Things economy and keep up with the fast pace of technology advancement, organizations are expected to embrace digital transformation. At the same time, they also are required to manage an array of security threats. Attentive and systematic cyber security risk management can enable companies to protect their critical data systems and networks from these attacks.

But what is cyber security risk management? In this article, we will discuss the topic as we define and emphasize the importance of this crucial cyber security component, and then touch on 10 risk management cyber security best practices.

What is Cyber Security Risk Management?

Attack vectors, data breaches and previously unknown vulnerabilities are encountered regularly, requiring a sound cyber security framework. Cyber security risk management is the process of identifying potential risks to critical data systems and networks, assessing the impact of those risks and planning the actions to be taken in response to actual attacks, should they occur.

It's important to note that not all security threats can be completely eliminated, but steps can be taken to mitigate their impact. A smart cyber security risk management process will take this into consideration, prioritizing various types of risks based on their severity and consisting of these 4 steps:

  • Step 1

    Identify where there are potential security risks are within your IT systems. These can come in the form of human error, hostile attacks or structural failures among other causes.

  • Step 2

    Assess these risks according to the level of your organization, priority of importance, potential consequences and cost impact. Evaluating possible vulnerabilities or threats in your environment is crucial as well.

  • Step 3

    Put steps in place to mitigate risk and protect data. This can include keeping software updates, educating staff on cyber security safety measures and introducing multi-factor authentication.

  • Step 4

    Once your organization has been assessed and risk potential identified, ongoing monitoring is recommended. Whether it’s onboarding new vendors, staying up to date on regulatory requirements or monitoring your internal technology, keeping a sharp eye will help keep an eye on any emerging weaknesses or potential threats that arise.  

Why is Risk Management in Cyber Security Important?

The importance of effective cyber security risk management is amplified by the complexity and sophistication of today’s cyber security threats. Today’s cybercriminals are more widespread, persistent and better equipped than ever before, evolving with and exploiting today’s newest technologies. To keep sensitive information safe from cybercriminals and their attacks, organizations must respond with robust cyber risk management policies.

What technologies represent cyber security threat environments? 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT), remote access policies, digital migration and artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are all recent technologies that enhance our connectivity and convenience but are also potential targets for cybercriminals.

5G, the fifth generation of wireless mobile technology, may increase cyber security risks because cybercriminals are able to launch attacks and steal data more quickly. More interconnected IoT devices mean more potentially vulnerable endpoints. The increased device connectivity enabled by 5G continues to present new challenges to cyber security teams.

A move toward a remote workforce has impacted security capabilities in many organizations. In some cases, cyber security analysts and other information security professionals may still be working to identify and manage their vulnerabilities, since remote workers may use unsecured devices or public Wi-Fi networks, increasing the risk of malware, data leaks and phishing attacks.

Corresponding with the move toward remote work, many organizations have migrated data into cloud-based systems and, with many more digital assets, significantly increased their attack surfaces.

The uptake of AI by business to automate processes and achieve efficiencies can be a gift to cybercriminals who leverage AI to perpetrate their attacks. AI’s potential for pattern recognition, for example, could help hackers develop more efficient social engineering attacks.

It’s not just the internal structures that need to be monitored. Vendor risk management is an essential aspect of cyber security is known as should be a component of your overall plan. In a notable supply chain breach that impacted Target, the attackers were able to exploit third-party access to the payment information of more than 41 million customers, resulting in a $18.5 million settlement against the retailer. 

Best Practices for Cyber Security Risk Management

There are a number of steps organizations can take to develop a robust and sustainable cyber security risk management strategy. These 10 best practices go a long way toward achieving a secure IT ecosystem.

1. Build a risk management culture

It would be difficult to build an effective cyber security risk management program without first establishing an organization-wide, cyber security-focused culture. Think of this as the foundation upon which your risk management framework will be built. By reinforcing awareness of the importance of cyber security and the potential impact of cyberattacks, you will be making cyber security a top-of-mind concern for team members in every department. 

2. Implement a framework

A good place to start is with the implementation of a sound cyber security framework for your organization. The framework you use may be dictated by your industry. The most frequently adopted frameworks are the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard, ISO 27001/27002, Center of Internet Security (CIS) Controls and the NIST Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Security.

3. Develop a risk assessment process

An effective cyber security risk management plan, and good cyber security planning in general, starts with a risk assessment. The risk assessment process begins with an inventory of your organization’s digital assets, including all stored data and intellectual property. Next, identify all potential external and internal cyber threats, including hacking, ransomware, accidental file deletion, data theft, malicious employees and any others. Identify the potential impact of stolen or damaged assets. Finally, rank the likelihood of each of these potential risks occurring. 

4. Distribute responsibilities

It’s important to distribute the responsibility for maintaining cyber security throughout your organization. Responsible cyber security doesn’t lie just with your IT department, but with everyone in the company. Steps should be taken to be sure every staff member is aware of potential cyber security risks and undergoes sufficient training to know how to respond to an attack when one happens.

5. Prioritize cyber security risks

Our next best practice in building a cyber security risk management process has to do with security ratings. These are quantifiable measurements of an organization’s security posture to gain insight into the level of severity for your risk factors and the known vulnerabilities that are driving each score. 

6. Develop a response plan

A buttoned-down incident response plan focused on any preidentified risks will provide a roadmap for everyone involved to follow, specifying what needs to be done and who needs to do it.  

7. Train employees

Password security, safe internet habits, data management and privacy and other topics should be included in a robust employee training program to spread and encourage a security-aware culture. Because the human element plays such a pivotal role in cyber security, staff at all levels should be fully trained to identify risks and recognize the signs of phishing emails and malware, and who they should contact if they’ve discovered a suspected security threat.

8. Watch your threat environment

Cybercriminals may use information they gather from social media profiles to launch whaling attacks. This type of phishing attack goes after an organization’s high-level executives, such as their CEO or CFO, to steal sensitive information. Using information posted by the executives, thieves may pose as the CEO or other member of the company’s leadership team and trick the target into authorizing access to sensitive information. This is a good reason why companies should make a commitment to cyber security training for their C-suite executives.

9. Prioritize speed

When attacks happen, every second counts. The longer it takes to recover from a breach the more risk there is that lasting damage will be done to the company’s assets, reputation and data. A plan that outlines how you can quickly recover from and contain damage from an attack is a key part of tight cyber security risk management. 

10. Share Information

Effective cyber security risk management doesn’t work if you don’t share information between departments. Employees and stakeholders alike need to be looped in and informed about any decision making and new tech that’s being implemented so everyone is up to date on evolving measures or conversations happening around cyber security in your organization. 

Start Your Journey in Cyber Security Risk Management with Help from DeVry

Earned as part of our Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology and Networking, our Cyber Security Specialization can help you discover what it takes to become a cyber defender, safeguarding critical information, network infrastructure and data systems from hackers.

Coursework in small enterprise networks, operating systems, digital devices, network security testing, cloud network security, ethical hacking and much more will help you learn the skills to develop cyber security risk management and contingency plans, disaster recovery measures and prepare for industry-recognized certification exams.

At DeVry you can accelerate at your pace, completing this bachelor’s degree program in as few as 2 years and 8 months on an accelerated schedule, or 4 years following a normal schedule.1

1Accelerated schedule does not include breaks and assumes 3 semesters of year-round, full-time enrollment in 12-19 credit hours a semester per 12 month period. Normal schedule does not include breaks and assumes 2 semesters of enrollment in 12-19 credit hours per semester per 12 month period.  

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