Security Assessments: What they are and why you need them

Updated: Aug 18


Threats come in many different guises, mainly at the hands of cyber terrorists or hackers. Their attacks can damage assets, operations and individuals; therefore, identifying internal and external vulnerabilities and building your defences around them are key.


In today’s digital world, a cyber risk assessment is one of the main parts of an organisation’s risk management strategy. Information technology and information systems are a key part of conducting business in the 21st century, which, of course, involve risks.


Cyber risk assessments identify, estimate, and prioritise risk to the function, mission, reputation and image of an organisation. What’s more, organisational assets, other organisations (third-party vendors), individuals and nation-states are all checked for the risks they pose.


A security assessment helps inform decision-makers and to support risk responses. C-suite executives and the Board are often unable to delve deep into the cyber practices within their organisations. Therefore, a cyber risk assessment will serve as an executive summary to help companies make informed decisions about their security posture.

The two main reasons for having a security assessment

There are two main reasons why it is important to invest in a cyber security assessment:

  1. Cyber insurance – Cyber insurance is crucial to protecting your business should an attack take place. The only way you can secure cyber insurance is by having a security assessment which calculates your cyber risk rating.

  2. Legally required – Various industries have different regulatory requirements which may have a legal obligation to perform a cyber risk assessment. GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), for example, all “companies processing personal data” must perform a cyber risk assessment.


Why perform a cyber risk assessment?


  1. Reduce long-term costs – Identifying and mitigating threats has the potential to prevent security incidents, which will save your organisation money in the long-term.

  2. Template for future assessments – Cyber risk assessments should be continuously monitored and updated. The first assessment should always be used as a benchmark or barometer and further tests should be an improvement.

  3. Creates self-awareness – Knowing your weaknesses tells you where you should be investing and what you should be doing to protect your organisation.

  4. Bolsters security – An assessment helps you avoid breaches and other security incidents.

  5. Better communication – A cyber risk assessment can improve communication between departments, stakeholders and third-party vendors. It helps get everyone on the same page.

  6. Delivering overviews – Enhance processes by delivering simple overviews of security performance. This is achieved very quickly by reviewing a company’s security rating.

  7. Monitor performance – Giving organisations an objective and data-driven rating making it much easier to monitor and evaluate performance of both short and longer terms. Companies with a security rating not only receive prompt alerts in the event of a change to their security performance but can also identify the issue that caused the shift in their rating.

  8. Partnerships – Enable collaboration and improvements to risk migration plans with partners and third parties. It also aids the setting of security standards in Data Processing Agreements (DPA) and other comparable contracts.

  9. Risk status – Helps to get valuable insights into the cyber risk status of business partners and third, even fourth parties and associates.

  10. Secure ecosystem – Empowers an organisation to be able to spot and remedy cyber risk within supply chain ecosystems.

  11. Compliance By performing a cyber security assessment, companies not only work towards compliance but have a good baseline of their security posture and recommendations for improvement. Every risk assessment report delivers a complete overview of the state of an organisation’s security, findings and recommendations for improving its defences.


Types of IT security assessments


1. Vulnerability Assessment

We conduct a vulnerability assessment to check for weakness within a network, application or system that could be compromised or easily accessible by an outside party. They must be continuously monitored to identify new threats as and when they crop up.


2. Security Audits

Security audits are carried out by governing bodies who set out a predefined set of standards with which an organisation is expected to comply. Being in compliance with industry rules and regulations is important to secure reputation and position in the marketplace.


3. Penetration Testing

Penetration testing checks for vulnerabilities alongside the slightly different method of vulnerability scanning. Vulnerabilities are tested and the reports are sent back to the organisation so they are aware of what security protocols should be put in place.


4. Security Policy

A security policy document is derived from a security assessment and outlines how the company plans to secure and protect its physical and IT assets. The policy document is updated as the security monitoring continues.


5. IT Security Assessment Report

A security assessment report includes the basic outline and background information, objectives and limitations. It will include the current environment along with examination methods used, as well as the assessment tools and equipment used to conduct the assessment. The summary includes the overall findings.


RiskXchange security ratings

RiskXchange is an information security technology company, that helps companies of all sizes fight the threat of cyber threats by providing instant risk ratings for any company across the globe. RiskXchange was founded and is led by recognised experts within the security industry, who have held leading roles within companies such as IBM Security.


Our cyber security risk ratings enable better management of an organisation’s cyber risk, such as:

  • Insight into risks associated with third or fourth parties and supply chain relationships. When a security rating is in place, it can significantly aid the effective management of cyber risk from external parties.

  • An up-to-date rating allows for better transparency to assist insurance underwriters in the assessment, calculation and risk management of security process and performance.

  • Cyber security due diligence is hugely important during periods of business growth, including the acquisition of or investment in a company. Organisations must be able to access enhanced information and continually review any investment; a security rating enables this.

  • Security ratings help governments to gain better insight and understanding into Critical National Infrastructure (CNI), ultimately enabling better management of their cyber security performance.


What’s more, security ratings also aid the ongoing management of an organisation’s internal cyber activity including risk and compliance. In this instance, a rating allows for:

  • Assessments of internal security activity to be carried out on a rolling basis, helping to provide clarity to a range of stakeholders.

  • Industry-wide benchmarking, including peer to peer and competitor.

  • Greater customer confidence in the organisation’s digital presence and activities. This higher level of confidence touches others with vested interest including third parties, stakeholders and industry regulators.

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