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6 steps you need to take to evaluate your business' cyber risks

A cyber attack on a small business is rarely a one-off these days. More often than not, modern hackers will put together a prolonged attack, which uses a mix of tricks and techniques to get access to your network and steal or encrypt your data on a much deeper and more devastating level.

Conducting a cyber risk and threat analysis for your small business

Consequently, there isn’t any one way to stop cyber crime from occurring. Instead, small businesses need to apply a variety of solutions, and one of these is to get familiar with your personal cyber attack risk level.

Traditionally, the focus for cyber security was on using products or services that protected you from potential attacks or detected virus or malware. However now, especially within the current IT security landscape, this approach doesn't hold enough power.

A cyber security strategy needs to first hone in on your company’s unique risk profile, considering what assets are of interest to hackers, and how and why they might seek to attack your business. From this position of knowledge, you’ll have a much more effective level of protection.

Plus with small businesses, on the whole, having fairly limited budgets, this strategy will ensure you focus your time and energy on the products and services that work for you, and protect the data that you believe is most likely to get hit.

This approach requires you to conduct a threat and risk analysis. From this, you’ll be able to create a profile of the current threats to your business and how attackers might gain access.

Here are 6 steps you need to take to evaluate your cyber risks...

1. Identify your key assets

The cyber attacks of today are unlikely to try breaking into your network unless they have a specific motive. Your biggest vulnerability is to have information they believe is valuable. The first step in your analysis activity is to work out what assets you hold that will be of interest to cyber criminals in general. The assets you hold will probably be unique to your business, so you need to work with your employees or teams to discover the critical information you do not want to get into the hands of malicious entities.

Examples of valuable information include intellectual property (which is the preferred data of nation-state hackers) and brand and reputational information (of interest to hacktivist groups who want to cause damage).

2. Where are your assets stored?

It is quite common for your assets to be held in more places than you initially believe. For example, financial data can be backed up to various hard drives and cloud storage systems (internal and external). Plus, if you have data that is obtained through a web-based application then your users may also have exported this data to their own local drives computer. Either that or they might be in a cloud data centre.

Take the time to detail exactly where your assets are stored, and keep a record of this as it will be important in the future for keeping your business safe.

3. Discover who has access to assets

Once you’ve documented the location of all your key assets, you need to consider who has access to them. Ultimately, the more people who are given key asset privileges, the more vulnerable you are to attack.

As such, you want to limit the number of people who are able to gain access to your most important data. Whether a breach is down to an insider who accidentally (or intentionally) compromises your assets, or a hacker who manages to breach a user’s account, the fewer people you have with access rights, the better.

4. Evaluate who is a threat to you

Cyber criminals have several different motivations when it comes to data and what they actually want to steal. They will also use different techniques and skills to get exactly what they want. Your goal is to use your newfound knowledge of your key assets and work out which attacks you are most susceptible to.

There are a number of different types of hackers: hacktivists, national states, insiders, and your standard cyber criminal. Each group will have slightly different goals and skills. Additionally, there may be cyber attacks specific to your business or sector. You should be able to pick out which ones are the biggest risk to you. Once you’ve done this, you can list your potential attackers in order of their goal/aim, the capability they have, and how likely it is that they will attack.

For example, a typical cyber criminal‘s goal is profit, and they’re usually highly skilled at getting it. They’ll target any worthy data and the number one way they do this is through email phishing.

5. Understand the protection you already have

Once you’ve completed your analysis of the cyber attacks your business is vulnerable to, you need to identify what you have in place already to protect yourself. Talk to your IT provider, and get a full scope on your current IT security set up, then you can compare this protection and the methods you use against your updated analysis on the most significant threats to your business.

For example, cyber criminals’ will commonly infiltrate companies with weaknesses that include bad backup processes, a lack of off-site storage, little to no staff training, software or applications that haven’t been updated, and lack of effective controls and monitoring.

6. Recommend new ways to address your risk

The final step in your cyber threat and risk analysis is to create a guide with recommendations for how you can become less vulnerable to your most likely attackers. The recommendations will form the first part of your business' updated cyber security strategy.

Your strategy should be renewed on a regular basis (at least once a year) ensuring you are always aware of your cyber security risks.

While you can’t protect yourself from every single cyber attack, a well-focused strategy will give you the best chance while also keeping your budget and resources outlay to a minimum.

Want to speak to someone about your small business’ cyber security? Send us a message or give us a call to discuss how we can help.

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