We face risks in every area of life. From the moment you wake up in the morning, you face varying degrees of risk. You could slip on the floor and fracture your tailbone. You could get in a car accident when you pull out of your neighborhood. You could say the wrong thing to a client and lose a big account. We’re living in a constant state of risk.

Having said that, obsessing over risk isn’t healthy (nor is it particularly effective). The goal should always be to understand the risks you face so that you can implement proper safeguards to lessen the likelihood of a negative outcome. Not only does this provide real protection, but it also supplies powerful peace of mind.

In a business world that’s filled with cyber threats, one of the smartest places to start is with a cybersecurity risk assessment.

What is a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment?

A cyber risk assessment is used to identify, estimate, and prioritize the various risks faced by organizations – particularly when it comes to cyber attacks, data breaches, and malicious digital behavior. The primary purpose is to help inform decision-makers so they can identify and implement the proper responses.

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), good cybersecurity risk assessment will address issues and concerns like:

• What types of data breaches would have a significant impact on business operations?

• What are the most apparent internal and external vulnerabilities? (Knowing what you know, how would you infiltrate your business if you were on the outside looking in.)

• What are your company’s most important and integral IT assets?

• What level of risk does your organization face? And what level of risk are you comfortable with?

Though it’s easy to think of a cyber risk assessment as something you do, set, and forget, it’s imperative that organizations view this as an ongoing responsibility.

“Risk assessments are not simply one-time activities that provide permanent and definitive information for decision makers to guide and inform responses to information security risks,” NIST explains. “Rather, organizations employ risk assessments on an ongoing basis…”

Exploring the Core Benefits of a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment

Conducting a risk assessment can take time. And if you do it the right way, it’s not exactly inexpensive. So before you dive in, consider the core benefits:

• Cost-effective risk mitigation. According to Mission Secure, which is a leader in cybersecurity advisory services, the beauty of thorough risk assessments is that they provide recommendations for cost-effectively mitigating cyber risks before they ever come into play. (As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.)

• Better understanding of organization. Something happens when you conduct a risk assessment. It takes you deep inside the entrails of your business and makes you intimately familiar with what’s happening at every level of your organization. This improved understanding benefits you across the board (not just with cybersecurity).

• Ensures regulatory compliance. A risk assessment is a great first step in ensuring regulatory compliance. In fact, a thorough risk assessment typically exceeds the requirements of regulatory compliance (which bodes well for the future). As regulatory compliances tighten – which is the common trajectory throughout history – you’ll be one step ahead of the game.

• Prevents data loss. The possibility of data loss – particularly sensitive customer data – is enough to keep any business owner awake at night. And the beauty of a risk assessment is that it exposes vulnerable areas before they’re compromised. Think of it as a proactive approach (whereas most businesses are implementing reactive strategies).

• Improves communication. A good cybersecurity risk assessment will actually help improve the way your business communicates at all levels. Employees, managers, executives, and all stakeholders will have a clearer idea of what’s expected of them, how threats are relayed, and what sort of response is expected in a given situation. This not only strengthens security, but it also enhances the culture of your organization.

Adding it All Up

Cybersecurity risk assessments do more than analyze threats – they help you proactively neutralize threats before they compromise your business. At the end of the day, this peace of mind permeates the DNA of your organization and instills greater confidence in any and all stakeholders. It’s an investment you’ll never regret making!