Close Icon
Home / Blog / Soft Skills / Cyber Security Risk Assessment

What is a Cyber Risk Assessment?

In our modern world, we now face risks that may never have been an issue before. This is largely thanks to the fact that we work, socialise and quite often live, in a somewhat virtual world.

This has meant that we need to think about the risks that are associated with the cyber world. A cyber security risk assessment is when a risk assessment, just like you would have for health and safety in a workplace, is used to look at the potential cyber risks that are associated with a business.

These assessments will not only identify key risks that the business may face over time but also estimate the likelihood of them happening and the potential impact of these risks. Having this information will then mean that the risks can be prioritised so that they can be tackled and mitigated in the right order.

What is security testing?

Along with a cyber security risk assessment, you as an organisation can also look at cybersecurity testing. The idea of cyber security testing is that it allows you to find the potential vulnerabilities that you may have within the systems or programmes that you use as a business.
These may be vulnerabilities that you already know of, but just want to see what the impact may be, or, they may be entirely unknown and unidentified risks that could end up causing a huge issue for your business.

What are the Steps of a Cyber Risk Assessment?

When it comes to carrying out a cyber risk assessment, you must move through all of the key steps. This will ensure that you cover all of the things that you need to cover and that nothing is overlooked.

To help you to work out how best to approach this form of risk assessment, we have put together the steps that you should be following when you complete one for yourself.

Assess your current capabilities

It is important to be able to recognise and assess the measures that you already have in place within your security system. This is because it will allow you to think about whether or not it matches the potential risks that are out there in the cyber world, and make sure that you know what may need to be changed.

You must take the time to think about what your system can do, and also be as honest as you can about these capabilities, even if it means recognising that you have some gaps that need to be filled.

Identify threat sources

It is also important toe ensure that you know where the key cyber threats to your business are going to come from. Of course, you cannot always predict what will happen in the future (and those who wish to carry out cyber attacks are always finding new ways to threaten and cause an issue).

However, if you can identify the main threat sources, then you are well on your way to making things easier to fight when the time comes.

Identify and prioritize risk responses

Next, you need to be able to identify the responses that you as a business need to have to those risks. There will usually be more than one response that you can have to risk, and the one that you choose will depend on the nature of the threat and also the possible speed at which it can cause an impact.

You should be able to think about which responses are most relevant and the order that you will then put these responses in place.

Identify threat events

There are certain times or incidences when a threat is more likely to occur. Whilst you may not always be able to plan for this, if you can identify the main threat events, then you are going to be able to find a way to mitigate the impact it has and try to reduce the harm it could cause to your business.

Identify vulnerabilities

It is important to recognise that whilst some cyber threats are going to be out of your control (and can happen no matter what) some can be caused by your vulnerabilities in security.

A key part of the risk assessment process for cyber threats is to make sure that you identify the vulnerabilities that you may have in your current setup. That way, you can think of ways to improve it and stop these possible threats from happening.

Analyze the risk

The best way to know how to minimise (and hopefully then beat) a risk is to find out as much as you can about it and what it may mean for you. This means that a key part of the cyber risk assessment process is analyzing the risks.

Find out as much as you can about where they come from, what they may mean and of course, what impact they are likely to have on your business. All of these things give you as much information as possible about what to expect.

Determine the likelihood of exploitation

The main focus for those who carry out cyber attacks is to exploit the target. They want to either gain information or in most cases, money. This means that you need to know how likely you are to be a victim of exploitation.

Consider the different aspects of your business and think about the risk that they pose when it comes to exploitation. That way, you can ensure that you lower the risk as much as possible where you can.

Determine probable impact

Whilst you never know the impact of a cyber attack, at least not 100% you can have a carefully considered guess at what it may mean for your business. Think about what the probable impact may be from a cyber attack and what this will mean in both the short-term and the longer-term too.

Calculate the risk and impact

The next step when it comes to risk and impact, is to calculate what the correlation is between the level of risk and the impact that it may have. Identifying this can help you to prioritise what is the most important risk to avoid or to protect against.

Build a business case

If you want some additional support when it comes to protecting your business against cyber risks, then you may need to put together a business case. This will reflect everything that you have already done to identify and plan for the risks and what things you want to put in place.

Set security controls

Once all your hard work has been finished and you know what the best security measures for your business are going to be, then the time has come to set security controls and measures. Decide which is the best way to go about putting these in place and then go from there.

Monitor and review effectiveness

Whilst it is great to put the measures that you have planned out in place, if you don’t check how they are doing and monitor their effectiveness, then they still may not be able to do what you need them to do.

This is why the last part of the cyber risk assessment process should be taking the time to look at the measures that you have put in place and identify whether or not they are going to be suitable for you in the long term and whether they are doing what you want them to.

Types of security testing

To ensure that the measures that you have decided on from a cyber risk assessment are working the way that they should, you can carry out a range of security testing measures.

They come in a variety of forms and they not only work well as a standalone approach to security testing but can also be combined to achieve the maximum impact possible.

Ethical hacking

The idea of ethical hacking is that you appoint hackers to gain access to your system, just as a criminal hacker would. However, these hackers are only doing so to provide you with the information that you need to be able to ensure that your business is protected. Hence the name ethical hacking.

Penetration testing

Penetration testing is much like ethical hacking; whereby a simulated attack is carried out on your systems. All to be able to provide an evaluation of how your security measures are performing and whether or not your business is protected.

Posture assessment

Posture assessments take a more end-to-end look at the security measures and capabilities of your business. This particular test is going to help you to build a strategy, rather than focus on single aspects of cyber security and give you tools and knowledge to help to reduce the chance of cyber attacks from happening within your business.

Risk assessment

We have already looked at how a risk assessment can help security. They are there to ensure that you understand and identify the main risks to your business and its cyber security and to help you to develop methods to combat this.

Security auditing

A security audit will be a more comprehensive and in-depth review of the IT and cyber infrastructure of your business as a whole. It looks at things such as policies and procedures that you have set out and whether they are offering the right level of protection that you are going to need for your business.

Security scanning

Once you have an overview of your security measures, then comes the time when you want to dive deeper into those issues. This is where security scanning can help you, security scanning will provide more information on specific vulnerabilities.

Vulnerability scanning

Another way to identify key vulnerabilities is with vulnerability scanning. This will only focus on the aspects of your network and systems which are open to attack and give you the information that you need to be able to try and stop these from happening.

Cyber Security Training

One way to protect your business and your employees is through Cyber security training.

Cybersecurity training provides numerous benefits for organizations in the UK. It increases security awareness among employees, reducing the likelihood of security incidents and data breaches. By educating employees on best practices, such as identifying phishing attempts and following secure protocols, sensitive data is better protected. Additionally, cybersecurity training ensures compliance with regulations and strengthens incident response capabilities. It fosters a culture of security, where employees actively contribute to safeguarding the organization’s assets and reputation. Ultimately, investing in cybersecurity training helps create a resilient and secure environment, mitigating risks and building trust with customers.

You can find information on Learn Q’s Cyber Security Awareness training by clicking here.

o download a .pdf of this blog, please click here

Contact Form Learn Q page image

Got a question?

Get in contact and we will
get back to you

Contact Us

Related Courses

Browse Learn Q Courses

Related Articles

Browse Learn Q Blog

Frequently Asked Questions

Cybersecurity is a complex and challenging field that requires a deep understanding of technology, programming, and risk management. It is not inherently easy, as it involves continuously adapting to evolving threats and staying updated with the latest vulnerabilities and attack vectors. Cybersecurity professionals need to possess a diverse set of skills and knowledge to analyse, mitigate, and respond to security incidents effectively. They must have a solid understanding of networking protocols, encryption algorithms, operating systems, and programming languages. Additionally, cybersecurity experts need to stay informed about emerging technologies and security trends to develop robust defences against sophisticated cyber threats. While it may require dedication and ongoing learning, a career in cybersecurity can be rewarding and impactful in today’s digital landscape.

Yes, cybersecurity is a promising career in the UK, given the increasing dependence on technology and the growing threat landscape. The demand for cybersecurity professionals is high, and there is a shortage of skilled individuals to meet this demand. The UK government has recognized the importance of cybersecurity and has been actively working on initiatives to enhance the country’s cyber defences.

With the rise in cyber threats, organisations across various sectors, including finance, healthcare, government, and technology, are investing significantly in cybersecurity. This has led to a wide range of career opportunities in the field, ranging from cybersecurity analysts, ethical hackers, incident responders, to security consultants and managers.

Moreover, the UK has a thriving cybersecurity ecosystem, with numerous companies, research organisations, and government agencies dedicated to cybersecurity. There are also various professional certifications and training programs available to help individuals acquire the necessary skills and credentials for a successful career in cybersecurity.

Considering the demand for cybersecurity professionals, the ongoing advancements in technology, and the critical role cybersecurity plays in protecting digital assets, it is evident that cybersecurity presents a promising and rewarding career path in the UK.

A Cyber Risk Assessment typically involves the following steps:

  1. Identify Assets: Identify and inventory the digital assets within the organisation, including hardware, software, data, and network components. This step helps understand the scope of the assessment and the assets that need to be protected.
  2. Threat Identification: Identify potential threats and vulnerabilities that could pose risks to the identified assets. This may include external threats like hackers, malware, or social engineering attacks, as well as internal threats like unauthorised access or human error.
  3. Risk Analysis: Assess the likelihood and potential impact of each identified threat. This step involves analysing the probability of occurrence, potential damage, and potential cost to the organisation. The goal is to prioritise risks based on their severity and potential impact.
  4. Control Evaluation: Evaluate the existing security controls and measures in place to mitigate the identified risks. This includes assessing technical controls (firewalls, antivirus software), administrative controls (policies, procedures), and physical controls (access controls, surveillance).
  5. Risk Assessment: Calculate the level of risk associated with each identified threat. This involves combining the likelihood and potential impact to determine the overall risk level. Risk assessment helps prioritise the allocation of resources and the implementation of appropriate risk mitigation strategies.
  6. Risk Mitigation: Develop a risk mitigation plan that outlines specific measures to reduce the identified risks. This may include implementing additional security controls, conducting employee training, enhancing incident response capabilities, or improving system configurations.
  7. Monitoring and Review: Continuously monitor and review the effectiveness of the implemented security measures. This includes regularly assessing and reassessing risks as new threats emerge, reviewing the performance of security controls, and updating the risk assessment as the organisation’s digital environment evolves.

By following these steps, organisations can gain a comprehensive understanding of their cyber risks, prioritise their efforts, and take appropriate measures to protect their assets and data from potential threats.

A Cyber Risk Assessment typically involves the following steps:

  1. Identify and Define Assets: Identify and define the digital assets within the organisation that need to be protected. This includes hardware, software, data, networks, and other critical resources. Categorise and prioritise the assets based on their importance and sensitivity.
  2. Identify Threats: Identify and assess potential threats that could exploit vulnerabilities and impact the identified assets. This includes external threats such as hackers, malware, and physical attacks, as well as internal threats such as employee negligence or malicious insiders. Consider the likelihood and potential impact of each threat.
  3. Assess Vulnerabilities: Identify and evaluate vulnerabilities in the organisation’s systems, networks, and processes. This can involve reviewing security configurations, conducting vulnerability scans, and performing penetration tests. Assess the likelihood and potential impact of exploitation for each vulnerability.
  4. Analyse Risks: Analyse the risks by combining the identified threats and vulnerabilities. Assess the potential consequences and impacts of successful attacks or security incidents. Evaluate the likelihood of these risks occurring. This analysis helps prioritise risks and focus on areas that require immediate attention.
  5. Evaluate Existing Controls: Assess the effectiveness of existing security controls in place to mitigate identified risks. This includes evaluating technical controls (e.g., firewalls, intrusion detection systems), administrative controls (e.g., policies, procedures), and physical controls (e.g., access controls, surveillance systems). Determine gaps or weaknesses in the current control environment.
  6. Quantify and Prioritise Risks: Quantify the risks by assigning values to the likelihood and potential impact of each risk. This can involve using scales, matrices, or risk scoring systems. Prioritise risks based on their severity, considering the potential impact on the organisation’s operations, reputation, compliance, and other critical factors.
  7. Develop Risk Treatment Strategies: Develop risk treatment strategies to address the identified risks. This may involve implementing additional security controls, enhancing existing controls, transferring risks through insurance, or accepting risks based on a cost-benefit analysis. Consider the organisation’s risk appetite and tolerance levels.
  8. Implement Risk Mitigation Measures: Implement the identified risk mitigation measures based on the risk treatment strategies. This can include implementing technical controls, updating policies and procedures, conducting employee training, and establishing incident response plans. Continuously monitor and review the effectiveness of these measures.
  9. Monitor and Review: Regularly monitor and review the risk landscape, including new threats, vulnerabilities, and changes in the organisation’s systems and operations. Update the risk assessment periodically to reflect the evolving cyber risk landscape and the organisation’s changing risk profile.

By following these steps, organisations can systematically assess and manage their cyber risks, make informed decisions about risk mitigation, and improve their overall cybersecurity posture.

Cybersecurity faces a wide range of threats, each with its own characteristics and potential impact. Some common threats include:

  • Malware: Malware, short for malicious software, refers to any software designed to harm or exploit computer systems. This includes viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware, spyware, and adware. Malware can be used to steal data, gain unauthorised access, disrupt operations, or extort money from victims.
  • Phishing and Social Engineering: Phishing attacks involve fraudulent attempts to deceive individuals into revealing sensitive information, such as passwords or financial details. Social engineering encompasses tactics that manipulate human psychology to gain unauthorised access or deceive individuals into performing certain actions. These threats rely on exploiting human trust and vulnerabilities.
  • Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs): APTs are sophisticated and targeted attacks carried out by skilled threat actors, often with significant resources. APTs are typically long-term and stealthy, aiming to gain persistent access to targeted systems or networks for espionage, intellectual property theft, or sabotage.
  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks: DDoS attacks involve overwhelming a targeted system or network with a flood of traffic, rendering it inaccessible to legitimate users. Attackers use botnets or other means to generate massive amounts of traffic, causing service disruptions, financial losses, or reputational damage.
  • Insider Threats: Insider threats arise from individuals within an organisation who misuse their access privileges for personal gain, revenge, or unintentional negligence. This includes employees, contractors, or partners who intentionally leak sensitive information, sabotage systems, or inadvertently cause security incidents.
  • Zero-day Exploits: Zero-day exploits target previously unknown vulnerabilities in software or systems. Since there are no patches or defences available for these vulnerabilities, they can be highly effective for attackers. Zero-day exploits are often sold on the black market or used by state-sponsored actors.
  • Supply Chain Attacks: Supply chain attacks involve compromising the security of a trusted third-party vendor or supplier to gain unauthorised access to target systems. By targeting the weakest link in the supply chain, attackers can infiltrate systems and networks without directly attacking the primary target.

These are just some examples of the diverse threats that cybersecurity professionals face. It is crucial for organisations and individuals to stay vigilant, adopt security best practices, and continuously update their defences to mitigate the risks posed by these threats.

Cybersecurity risks can take various forms, and new risks continue to emerge as technology advances and threat landscapes evolve. Here are three common cybersecurity risks:

  • Phishing Attacks: Phishing attacks involve tricking individuals into revealing sensitive information or performing malicious actions by disguising themselves as trustworthy entities. Attackers may send deceptive emails, create fake websites, or make fraudulent phone calls to deceive victims. Phishing attacks can lead to unauthorised access, data breaches, identity theft, or financial losses.
  • Malware Infections: Malware refers to malicious software designed to infiltrate systems and perform unauthorised activities. This includes viruses, worms, ransomware, spyware, and Trojans. Malware can be delivered through infected email attachments, compromised websites, or malicious downloads. Once installed, malware can steal sensitive data, disrupt operations, or provide unauthorised access to systems.
  • Insider Threats: Insider threats refer to risks originating from within an organisation. They can involve employees, contractors, or partners who intentionally or unintentionally misuse their access privileges to harm the organisation’s systems, data, or operations. Insider threats can include unauthorised data access, data theft, sabotage, or the introduction of malware. Insider threats are often challenging to detect and mitigate, as the individuals involved may have legitimate access and knowledge of the organisation’s security measures.

These are just a few examples of the many cybersecurity risks organisations face. It’s crucial for organisations to have a comprehensive understanding of potential risks, continuously monitor for new threats, and implement appropriate security measures to protect their systems, data, and operations.

A Cyber Risk Assessment is a systematic process of identifying, analysing, and evaluating potential risks and vulnerabilities within an organisation’s digital infrastructure and systems. Its purpose is to assess the likelihood and impact of cybersecurity threats and incidents and determine appropriate risk mitigation strategies. The goal of a Cyber Risk Assessment is to provide organisations with a clear understanding of their security posture and enable them to make informed decisions to protect their assets and data.

The process typically involves the following steps:

  1. Asset Identification: Identifying and categorising the digital assets within the organisation, including hardware, software, data, and network components.
  2. Threat Assessment: Identifying potential threats and vulnerabilities that could exploit the identified assets. This involves analysing external and internal threats, such as malware, unauthorised access, social engineering attacks, or insider threats.
  3. Risk Analysis: Assessing the likelihood and potential impact of each identified threat. This involves quantifying the level of risk based on factors such as the probability of occurrence, potential damage, and potential cost to the organisation.
  4. Control Evaluation: Evaluating existing security controls and measures in place to mitigate the identified risks. This includes assessing the effectiveness of technical, administrative, and physical controls in addressing the identified threats.
  5. Risk Prioritisation: Prioritising risks based on their severity and potential impact on the organisation. This helps allocate resources effectively and focus on the most critical vulnerabilities.
  6. Risk Mitigation: Developing a risk mitigation plan that outlines specific measures to reduce the identified risks. This may involve implementing additional security controls, conducting employee training, or enhancing incident response capabilities.
  7. Ongoing Monitoring and Review: Cyber Risk Assessments are not one-time activities. It is crucial to regularly monitor and review the effectiveness of implemented controls, reassess risks as new threats emerge, and update the assessment as the organisation’s digital environment evolves.

By conducting Cyber Risk Assessments, organisations can proactively identify vulnerabilities, allocate resources effectively, and implement appropriate security measures to protect their valuable assets and data from potential cyber threats.

Cybersecurity refers to the practice of protecting computer systems, networks, and data from unauthorised access, use, disclosure, disruption, modification, or destruction. It involves implementing measures and techniques to prevent and detect potential cyber threats, such as hacking, malware, phishing, and data breaches. The goal of cybersecurity is to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information and to safeguard the systems and infrastructure that rely on it. This field encompasses various areas, including network security, application security, information security, and operational security.

LearnHub is currently undergoing essential maintenance. We apologise for any inconvenience caused. Please bear with us as we work to enhance your learning experience.

Thank you Learn Q