You’ve bought your dream house and now you want to increase its security. How do you do that? Start by identifying the unwanted elements you want to keep out (e.g., stray animals, trespassers, thieves) and then look at things within the house (e.g., doors, windows, fences) that you can strengthen for better safety. You can then decide to add an extra lock to your door, grilles to your windows, or surveillance cameras to your fences, depending on which element is at a higher risk of being intruded.
You can follow a similar process to secure your company’s IT assets from security threats and attacks. Conducting regular risk analysis and assessments will help improve your company’s overall security posture as well as make you better prepared to counter IT security threats and attacks.
If you’re a business owner or an IT manager looking to audit your firm’s security infrastructure, our IT security assessment template is just what you need. In this article, we explain how to use the template as well as discuss the benefits of conducting periodic risk assessments and the steps involved in it.
IT security assessment is an exercise to check the security levels of your IT assets, including networks, data storage structures, and software apps. The assessment focuses on identifying threats to your IT systems and networks, their vulnerabilities, and the security risks involved in their daily operations. Security assessments help you take immediate steps to mitigate any identified risks before they turn into full-blown security incidents.
IT security risk assessments serve several purposes. Here are two key reasons you should be conducting them:
Ensure regulatory compliance: Industry regulations such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) have made it mandatory for companies to conduct security risk assessments. Thus, you need to have routine assessments as stipulated by regulatory bodies to continue your business operations without legal hassles or conflicts.
Improve IT decision-making: Risk assessments help you understand where your security measures are lacking. You can identify the most prominent vulnerabilities in your IT infrastructure and then prepare an IT security plan or strategy to mitigate the risks. The decisions you take will be backed by data and thus more likely to be accurate.
An IT security risk assessment template is a sheet in which you methodologically fill in your company’s IT security details. It eases your job of conducting security audits by providing details about the type of security data you should be collecting from different teams or business divisions.
GetApp’s IT security assessment template lets you capture all the details you need to conduct a thorough security risk assessment. You can also capture the measures suggested by your auditor or IT team to improve your security posture.
Here are the seven steps to conduct an IT security risk assessment using our free template. For each step, we’ve mentioned the columns you need to fill in on the template.
Make a list of all your IT assets, including hardware, software, network architecture, and proprietary information. Also, find out who in your organization is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of each of the assets. On the assessment template, add the names of IT assets under column B (IT asset) and the details of asset owners under column L (person responsible).
Identify all potential security threats to your IT assets. Look for answers to questions such as: Which of your assets are at risk of ransomware attacks? Do you have proper access control measures in place? Are your employees reporting phishing attacks? Are they following password management guidelines? Are you encrypting data both at rest and in transit?
On the template, you can add details of potential threats under column D (security threat). Keep in mind that an asset may face more than one security threat. For example, your IT networks are at risk of both DDoS attacks and malware. You can use multiple rows to capture this information on the sheet.
Identify points or elements in your IT architecture that are prone to cyberattacks or have weaknesses that can be easily exploited by internal or external threat agents. Use vulnerability assessment tools and techniques such as penetration testing and vulnerability scanning to identify security weaknesses through simulated cyberattacks and automated tracking of networks and data systems.
Some examples of vulnerabilities are weak passwords or authentication methods, unencrypted communication channels, and inadequate employee security awareness training. On the assessment template, you can capture the details of security vulnerabilities under column E (vulnerability).
Security risk refers to the probability of a security breach or attack. It’s a measure of the damage or loss an asset experiences when a threat successfully exploits a vulnerability.
For example, it’s a risk that a phishing email (the threat) can dupe untrained employees (the vulnerability) into giving away their company’s financial details. The occurrence of this risk can be classified qualitatively (high, medium, or low) or quantitatively (on a scale of 1 to 5 for example). This risk of phishing attacks exploiting your employees becomes higher when you don’t have an employee security awareness training program.
On the template, you can capture the details of the security risks faced by different IT assets under column C (security risk). Based on the severity of the threat and exposure of the vulnerability, rank the security risk as “high,” “low,” or “medium” under column G (risk level).
Every risk may not cause you the same extent of damage or loss. For example, a virus on an employee’s laptop can result in system downtime and information loss for the employee alone, but a ransomware attack can shut down an entire department for days at a stretch. In some cases, the impact of a security attack can also be invisible (e.g., customer churn, brand equity damage, low employee morale).
Assess and analyze the impact every identified security risk can have on your business. The impact of a cyberattack, for instance, can be felt on multiple fronts—business operations, finances, client trust, and regulatory compliance.
On the assessment template, add details about the impact of every security risk under column F (impact of risk). Based on how severely your business operations are likely to be affected, rank the impact level as “high,” “low,” or “medium” under column H (impact level).
List out the security controls you already have to tackle each risk. For example, you may have network monitoring software to track traffic spikes and get notified about possible DDoS attacks, or you may have email security software to filter phishing emails.
Also, analyze your existing security measures to identify areas where IT security needs to be strengthened. Based on the analysis, propose new and improved security controls wherever needed.
On the template, use column I (existing controls) to capture details of the security measures you already have, column J (proposed controls) to add the new measures suggested for each asset, and column K (priority) to state whether the new measures need to be implemented on priority. Under column M (timeframe for completion), mention the date by which you want the new security controls to be implemented, and under column N (notes), add pointers from your discussion with the team that has conducted the IT security assessment.
Review your result and use it to plan your future IT security investments and employee security training programs. Share the security assessment report with the wider IT and management team for suggestions and approval. Conduct the assessment exercise regularly; we suggest at least once every two years.
You can conduct a security assessment yourself using the do-it-yourself (DIY) assessment template we’ve provided. Our template can be used for organization-wide or department-wise security audits. But all businesses may not be comfortable conducting assessments on their own.
If you’re a small business, you may likely feel you don’t have the required expertise or resources to conduct a thorough security audit. In that case, you can request the services of a managed service provider (MSP) to conduct security assessments (annually or biennially) and identify improvement areas. You can also visit our IT security software directory to choose the right software tools for strengthening your cybersecurity measures.