What is an IT Security Risk Assessment (And 6 Benefits That You Need to Know!)

A thorough knowledge of the risks a company faces is essential to operating a company in the 21st century. With digital technology powering more and more business operations, risks go far beyond the physical realm and into the digital. Understanding potential cyber risks, and what an IT security risk assessment is, can be invaluable to promoting a company’s potential success.

With an IT security risk assessment, organizations can identify, evaluate, and mitigate risks in their digital environments. By systematically analyzing potential vulnerabilities and threats, companies can develop robust strategies to protect their assets, data and reputation, as well as meet compliance standards.

"Knowing what risks your company is facing gives you insight on how to best secure your organization as well as meet your compliance obligations.”

-Zach Fuller, Partner, Silent Sector

IT security risk assessments play a pivotal role in this process, offering valuable insights and guiding organizations in making informed decisions to bolster their security posture. In this article we’ll explain what an IT security risk assessment is, the benefits earned by leveraging risk assessments, and explore different types of assessment frameworks.


What is an IT Security Risk Assessment?

An IT security risk assessment is an evaluation of a company’s current risk management program and how well it aligns with their cybersecurity framework. It is a crucial process that helps organizations better secure themselves against cyber threats and factors that could put their compliance standings at risk. 

An IT security risk assessment involves a thorough examination of the organization’s digital environment to pinpoint where the risk management program is out of alignment with their established security framework. It can also identify vulnerabilities and assess the potential impact of different cyber threats.


What Happens During a Risk Assessment?

During an IT security risk assessment, various components of an organization’s digital infrastructure are carefully analyzed and assessed against their security program’s protocols. 

This includes checking controls related to software, network configurations, and other attack surfaces to identify the risk management’s strengths and weaknesses. How the assessment is carried out is dependent on the risk management program’s established framework and the assessment's objective.

Regardless of the assessment tools used, the overall goal is for a company to get a thorough and complete understanding of their risk exposures. This information could be used to bolster current security measures, prove compliance with a certain regulation, or be part of a larger project, such as a SOC 2 readiness process.


Key Components of an IT Security Risk Assessment:

  • Scoping and Planning: Initial planning and project scope must first be established. This can include specifying project goals, security framework identification, project timelines, document gathering, and more. A cyber risk self-assessment can be helpful for this phase.
  • Assessment Activities: This phase of the assessment is where a company’s security risk management program is evaluated. Depending on depth and scope of the assessment, a variety of activities may be conducted ranging from internal interviews and document reviews, to technical testing and system configuration analysis.
  • Review and Remediation Steps. Upon completion of a risk assessment, the company will be provided with a thorough review of the assessment as well as recommendations for remediation if necessary.


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Top Reasons Companies Perform Security Risk Assessments

Companies seek professional IT risk assessment services for various crucial reasons, ensuring their operations are secure and efficient.

Meet Compliance Requirements

Regular IT risk assessments are often required in order for a company to retain compliance with a regulation or security standard. Or, it may be necessary in order to do business with a client, business, or government department. 

Determine Compliance Readiness

Assessments are crucial for companies entering new markets or adopting new technologies, helping them understand their compliance readiness. They evaluate current security measures, ensuring alignment with required standards, and are especially vital for companies aiming to meet specific compliance requirements for the first time.

Enhance Customer Trust

Regular IT risk assessments and stringent security standards build customer trust, showing a commitment to protecting their data. It also demonstrates an ongoing commitment to maintain top security standards and keeping up with evolving security standards.

Identify Optimization Opportunities

Risk assessments highlight vulnerabilities and optimization opportunities, allowing for smarter resource allocation and ensuring critical assets receive maximum protection.

Comply with an Organization's Risk Management Program

If a company has included regular IT risks assessments as part of their risk management program, they need to be performed in accordance with their internal governance documents.

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Types of Risk Assessment Frameworks

Choosing the right risk assessment framework is crucial for effective cybersecurity. Different frameworks cater to varied organizational sizes, structures, and business objectives, ensuring that companies can address their specific security challenges.

The framework an assessment is based upon will help determine the depth and approach. It will identify which penetration tests to use, what to review in your governance documents, and other crucial factors.

NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF)

The NIST CSF offers a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity, focusing on five key functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover. It’s ideal for industries like healthcare and financial services, providing a solid foundation for both technology and compliance-focused organizations.

CIS Controls

CIS Controls provides a set of best practices to help organizations bolster their cybersecurity posture. It’s particularly beneficial for small- to medium-sized companies, offering a straightforward framework with recommendations for companies of various sizes to address the appropriate level of cybersecurity controls.

NIST SP 800-53

NIST SP 800-53 offers a detailed and robust framework, suitable for larger enterprises or organizations with complex security needs. It provides an extensive catalog of security controls, helping organizations to thoroughly assess and improve their cybersecurity practices.

ISO 27001

ISO 27001 is a globally recognized standard for information security management. Organizations conducting international business or those seeking a comprehensive and internationally recognized security standard might opt for ISO 27001 to enhance their cybersecurity measures.

Learn more about the benefits of an effective risk program management in our blog:


7 Benefits of Investing in a Security Risk Assessment

Investing in a security risk assessment is a strategic decision that brings numerous advantages to an organization. It not only strengthens the cybersecurity posture but also enhances overall operational efficiency.

  • Enhanced Security: Pinpoints vulnerabilities and provides solutions, fortifying the organization’s defenses against cyber threats.
  • Compliance Assurance: Ensures adherence to industry regulations, mitigating legal risks and potential financial penalties.
  • Cost Savings: Identifies unnecessary security measures and allocates resources more effectively, resulting in cost savings.
  • Reputation Management: Builds trust with customers and stakeholders by demonstrating a commitment to cybersecurity.
  • Data Protection: Safeguards sensitive information, protecting the organization from data breaches and associated costs.
  • Risk Management: Integrates with the broader risk management strategy, creating a cohesive approach to organizational risk.
  • Business Continuity: Enhances the organization’s resilience, ensuring business continuity even in the event of a security incident.

Get Professional IT Risk Assessment Services You Can Count On

IT risk assessments are highly-detailed processes that yield the best results when done by security professionals with years of experience. At Silent Sector, our team of cybersecurity experts possess extensive knowledge and a wealth of experience, ensuring that your IT risk assessments are conducted with meticulous care and yield accurate, actionable insights.

We are dedicated to helping you leverage your cybersecurity program to secure new business opportunities, build trust with your customers, and safeguard your data from harmful cyber incidents. We’ve helped companies of all sizes build effective security programs, and we can help you too.

To learn more, contact Silent Sector

About the Author

Written by Haidon Storro

Cybersecurity Research & Content Manager, Silent Sector -- Haidon Storro is a Cyber Security Analyst for CVS Health. She has her BS in IT Cyber Security as well as security certifications like CompTIA Security+ and ISC2. While Haidon is newer to the security community, she has dedicated herself to learning as much as she can through internships, online courses, and conventions like DefCon. In her free time, she enjoys reading about new advancements in technology, going to security meetups and participating in cyber defense competitions. One of Haidon’s goals is to make the connected world safer by bridging the human aspect with technology.