Treat Your IT Risk Assessment as More Than a Checkbox Exercise

Treat Your IT Risk Assessment as More Than a Checkbox Exercise

With cybercrime on the rise, the average cost of a data breach in the United States is $9.44M according to the 2022 IBM Cost of a Data Breach report, and it’s predicted that the global annual cost of cybercrime will reach $8 trillion in 2023. As attacks grow in frequency and severity, organizations cannot take a “business as usual” approach to IT risk.

“The most successful companies have a simple process in place to capture the root cause of issues, establish corrective action plans, [and] continually focus on improving the GRC environment,” a PwC study of IT risk programs states. Building a robust, technology-enabled IT risk management program can minimize the impact of a data breach, and approaching the IT risk assessment is the first step as well as the cornerstone of this continual improvement process — if you approach it as more than a checkbox exercise. 

IT Risk Assessment Key Benefits 

Performing an IT risk assessment can yeild a variety of benefits, including: 

  • Providing executive leadership and the Board with insight into the top IT risks that pose the greatest threat to the organization’s overall business objectives, and which can have the greatest impact on shareholder value and business performance.
  • Creating an ongoing dialogue for business leaders to discuss, vet, and ultimately achieve consensus on what the business’ top IT risk areas are — with input and approval from the Board. 
  • Producing an IT risk profile aligned with the overall ERM program that informs the risk management action plan.
  • Creating the basis for an IT risk register (risks, controls, action plans, etc) that can be iterated upon and improved as IT risks evolve along with and in response to the business’s priorities and strategic objectives. 

In today’s rapidly evolving risk landscape, businesses that perform annual risk assessments run the danger of a program that does not accurately reflect the business’s top IT and security risks. Dated and unreliable risk data may also detract from business leaders’ ability to make informed strategic decisions, which can lead to further undesirable outcomes.

IT Risk Assessment Best Practices

Performing frequent risk assessments on a quarterly, or even monthly, basis contributes to an IT risk register that more accurately reflects the organization’s key risks as the IT risk landscape evolves in response to internal and external events. To facilitate this, it is important to have a continuous framework in place that can be easily repeated on a periodic or ad-hoc basis. 

Several widely-used and acceptable frameworks for performing the IT risk assessment are outlined in common information security standards, including ISO 27005 and NIST 800-30, as well as COSO’s Strategic Risk Assessment Process. Finally, enabling technologies with the appropriate underlying architecture can automate the distribution and aggregation of risk surveys, as well as automate the risk scoring process. This saves significant time and also allows for risk assessments to be deployed more efficiently and frequently, contributing to a more continuous risk monitoring process.

Implement a Common Control Set Aligned With Key IT Risks

Once the organization’s key IT risks have been agreed upon, it follows that these risks should be used as the basis for mapping out internal controls, policies, and standards against compliance requirements relevant to the organization (NIST, ISO, PCI DSS, HIPAA, SOC 2, etc). 

A common challenge is lack of coordination among audit, risk, and compliance groups, as well as areas of the risk program that have been tacked on in response to new compliance requirements. Ultimately, inaccurate mapping of controls, policies, and standards to key IT risks results in inefficient risk management activities and an incomplete risk monitoring program overall. 

Technology solutions can also help to close these gaps by linking real-time IT risk data collected from risk assessments to controls and action plans throughout the solution, making it easier to see how each element of the IT risk program is mapped to a corresponding key risk. With AuditBoard’s IT risk management solution, you can control IT risk while focusing on company goals to better enable security and compliance teams and drive strategic decision-making. Schedule a personalized walkthrough to learn how our connected risk platform helps at each stage of the risk management lifecycle.