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How to Identify Cybersecurity Risks & Plan Your IT Security Strategy

Knowing your risks helps you build a solid IT security strategy. Here’s how to plan your cyber defenses by identifying potential problems.

Cybersecurity continues to be a key factor for success in the modern workplace.

Whether an attack has happened yet or not, your organization is vulnerable. That’s why it is crucial to have a plan that supports your business.

As you rely more on technology, your digital risk grows.

Here are some tips to make it easier to protect your data, starting with identifying your organization’s risks and planning a solid IT security strategy.

How Can I Identify My Cybersecurity Risks?

Knowing your organization’s risks gives you a meaningful way to prepare your defenses.

First, identify what you are protecting.

The first step in protecting a business from cyber threats is to know what you’re protecting. It’s crucial to know which data is of value to the organization and the cost of losing (or exposing) it. As value varies across departments, balancing perspectives ensures that you consider the organization’s needs as a whole.

Once you know what is important, you’ll want to pinpoint where it is located and who has access to it. This clarity on what to protect is the beginning of your security strategy.

Then, identify what you are protecting it from.

After taking inventory of your assets, you can make your strategy more effective by recognizing who may want to access the data and how they may try to obtain it. Overall, cyber attacks threaten your data by affecting confidentiality, integrity, and availability. For small businesses, here are some of the most common threats:

  • People: disgruntled employees or simple mistakes from team members
  • Phishing: cons the user by acting as a trusted source
  • Malware: software that damages or gains unauthorized access
  • Ransomware: malware used to lock or encrypt data then demand ransom
  • Zero-day attacks: exploit flaws before experts issue a fix

You probably have tools like a firewall or anti-virus protection in place. But, is everything of value being protected? By documenting your existing defenses, you can quickly assess your current efforts and spot potential gaps (risks).

How Can I Plan My IT Security Strategy?

Your organization’s security strategy should aim to prevent attacks and limit the damage if one occurs.

Prioritize your risks.

There are a growing number of threats in the modern workplace. Building a plan that focuses on the priorities most appropriate for your organization is key. It is not cost-effective (or realistic) to solve every potential risk. Without a doubt, you’ll want to address the most likely threats and those that could hurt the organization the most. Keep it simple by identifying easy wins and creating achievable goals for those that come at a high cost.

Set clear expectations.

Making security a part of your organization, not just an IT responsibility, creates an awareness that helps your team members keep your data secure. Publishing key security policies like an Acceptable Use Policy and an Incident Response plan helps communicate your cybersecurity approach. Generally, these clearly describe:

  • Systems and processes in place to prevent security problems
  • Management’s expectations for how employees use technology
  • Steps for reporting and responding to potential threats

The type of business largely determines the scope and breadth of policies.For regulated industries, you’ll likely have more to cover. But good advice is to start with where you are, not where you want to be as a company.

Leverage what you have.

A good IT strategy uses the right technologies, not more. So, before you begin looking at new solutions, review your existing tools. You may have some that aren’t used to their full benefit.

Here’s an example: 

If your team using Microsoft 365, your subscription likely includes Azure AD licensing that allows you to turn on multi-factor authentication, at no additional cost, to secure your employees better as they work in the cloud.

[BLOG] What is Azure AD? Learn more about how it can improve your IT security here.

How Can A Cybersecurity Partner Help?

Cybersecurity can be complicated for small businesses to navigate with limited resources. Here are a few ways a cybersecurity partner can help simplify IT security.

Assessing and Managing Risk

As your organization grows and technology evolves, your organization’s risks will change as well. A cybersecurity partner can help make identifying and assessing risks easier. A few common tools used:

  • Vulnerability Scans: an application that checks your technology for known vulnerabilities. You’ll get a list of all the systems found and identified on the network, highlighting any that may need attention.
  • Penetration Testing – simulated cyber-attacks against your computer system to check for exploitable vulnerabilities and assess weaknesses in your systems.

If you are required to perform these as part of compliance, you likely scheduled it every quarter or annually. The goal is to use this information to take action to resolve potential problems or “harden” your systems before attacks occur. However, point-in-time security assessments like these can inadvertently leave an opening for attackers when you aren’t looking. That’s why, as your digital risk grows, it’s important to always look for ways to reduce opportunities for attacks.

Risk management is an ongoing effort to discover and solve problems as they occur. A partner that offers managed risk services continually scans your systems for risks and assesses how potential threats could impact your business, helping you improve your security over time.

Planning and Documenting IT Security

Using their expertise and experience, a managed service provider (MSP) can help you create standards to keep your organization secure. Consulting sounds expensive, but managed services typically include strategic planning as part of offering (one of the major benefits of hiring the right IT partner). They’ll work with you to plan your IT security goals to help you reach your overarching business goals. To go further, you can also outsource writing and maintaining security policies to save your time for what you do best.

Ready to Assess Risks and Plan Your IT Strategy?

Risk assessments help you optimize your cyber defenses. Follow the guidance above to take stock of what you have and begin planning an effective IT strategy today.

WorkSmart makes it easy to get started. Just sign up for a free cybersecurity check!