Security Risk Assessment

The 3W for Risk Assessment. What, when and why.

For a lot of people when they hear Risk Assessment, some terms may sound unclear or rather confusing to them. This is because the majority of providers often use meaningless acronyms and buzzwords that have a lot of vague definitions. The major problem is, all the industry players require some level of compliance. Standards such as SOC2, NIST, HIPAA, and PCI DSS among others need risk assessment as part of a solid security program. Therefore, apt risk assessment is a paramount building block for infosec programs of any company. So, what’s a security risk assessment? Security Risk Assessment or SRA is a systematic technique/process/method of calculating/evaluating potential threats that may occur in a certain projected activity. In the simplest terms, SRA is a way of calculating or predicting the possible “bad things” that may occur to the enterprise. Essentially, SRA overviews the likelihood of the occurrence of risks so that business owners or organizations can make wise decisions regarding their mitigation. Besides, security risk assessment enables smart judgment calls by putting all threats side-by-side with their respective vulnerabilities and evaluating the probability of their occurrence.

Importance of Security Risk Assessment 

Investing in security risk assessment is paramount due to the following reasons:

  • Protects your business against data breaches: perhaps the main reason businesses choose security risk assessment is to evaluate, predict, and prevent costly data breaches. Risk assessment is one of the best ways of protecting your enterprise from hackers and providing security for your private data.
  • Offer information to prioritize enhancement to your infosec: it’s hard or even impractical to make a batch of modifications to your information security simultaneously for technical, functional, or budget reasons. Luckily, risk assessment enables you to do exactly that. Besides, it enables you to determine which area requires more protection, prioritize what matters require better attention, and determine which risks you can compromise.
  • Guides you through security investment: Sometimes it may be difficult to discern the importance of investing hundreds or thousands of dollars into cybersecurity programs. But well-detailed risk analysis maps out the exact vulnerabilities that need to be prioritized and why – outlines the impact each vulnerability may have on the business if ignored. 

How it works

Factors like size, rate of growth, resources, as well as asset portfolio have potent effects on the depth of infosec risk assessment models. When organizations are faced with budget and/or time constraints, they can execute generalized risk assessments. Nevertheless, these generalized assessments do not essentially offer detailed mapping between different data sets (assets), affiliated threats, identified risks, outcomes, as well as mitigation programs. If results from the generalized risk assessment don’t offer adequate correlation between the above-mentioned areas, a better and more in-depth method of assessment is required, and that’s none other than security risk assessment. Essentially, security risk assessment works in phases/steps outlined below:

Here is a brief outline of the security risk assessment process:

  • Step 1: gathering assets: all the valuable assets including current systems and sensitive data are compiled for evaluation.
  • Step 2: assessment of vulnerabilities. This involves checking for all possible ways these valuable assets could be exploited by attackers. Here, any vulnerability and possible threats are outlined.
  • Step 3: Matching threats to vulnerabilities. Here, all the vulnerable assets are matched with their respective potential threats to create what’s referred to as a “risk scenario”. For example, fault on your program is the vulnerability while the person who causes it (hacker) is the threat.
  • Step 4: predict possibility: Here, cybersecurity pundits ascertain the likelihood of the threat happening. They assess the number of times per certain period (day, week, month, or year) this threat could happen and predict the effect of the exploitation.
  • Step 5:Define/device treatment program(s): The information is inserted into a matrix, known as a “risk register” that features the “treatment program(s)”. These programs outline the ways of mitigation, prevention, transfer, or acceptance of risks. Besides, it ranks all vulnerabilities and potential threats (outlined in the risk scenario) by their degree of severity, budget requirement, and expertise among other parameters in a bid to prioritize when/how each issue is to be addressed.

Whom is SRA meant for?

In today’s world of business, infosec should be a top priority as processes, technologies and various business elements have integral security risks. It’s the responsibility of the business owner to ensure these risks are known, avoided, and “treated” to show they occur. So security risk assessment is meant for data handlers and enterprises, irrespective of their sizes, to help them evaluate, prevent, and mitigate risks. Moreover, risk assessment enables business owners to comply with regulatory authorities regarding various cybersecurity requirements.


Security risk assessment is a valuable tool for strengthening an organization’s information security. It helps the business identify security vulnerabilities, prevent and mitigate threats, create advanced security measurements, allocate and spend cybersecurity funds diligently, improve communication, and make wise decisions. Most importantly, security risk assessment improves the security posture of a company.

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