Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

10/31/2013
04:42 PM
Connect Directly
Twitter
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Once-A-Year Risk Assessments Aren't Enough

Why experts believe most organizations aren't assessing IT risks often enough

While it may be important that security organizations employ effective methods to walking through an IT risk assessment, the frequency with which they go through that process is almost as important as the means of carrying them out. Unfortunately, even when security organizations cover all of their bases in an IT risk assessment, if they don't assess often enough they could still be keeping themselves open to a great deal of risk.

Even though many compliance mandates such as HIPAA require risk assessments only be performed annually, that's not nearly often enough for most organizations, says Gary Alterson, director of risk and advisory services for Neohapsis.

[How do you know if you've been breached? See Top 15 Indicators of Compromise.]

"Given the rapidly changing threat environment and how fast IT moves, I recommend that risk assessments be refreshed and reviewed at least quarterly, if not monthly," Alterson says.

But the reality is that most organizations today have a hard enough time keeping up with their annual risk assessments, says Jim Mapes, chief security officer at BestIT, which is why he says that organizations have to rethink the way they approach the process.

"A better approach is to make risk assessments more of a life cycle and process within the organization," he says. "Perform assessments continuously throughout the year, collecting data on new vulnerabilities, remediation of older vulnerabilities, and identification of problem areas where vulnerability could not be remediated and recording the business decision to mitigate the risk and impact to some other acceptable level."

Crucial to that evolution to a life cycle mentality is building time and resources into the IT life cycle for internal auditors, says Alterson's colleague, Nathaniel Couper-Noles, principle security consultant for NeoHapsis. According to Couper-Noles, one of the most common refrains he has heard from auditees is they're too busy for an internal audit.

"Paradoxically, a lack of reserve capacity actually justifies audit attention as this is often the case when schedules are too aggressive, when projects are in the lurch, controls may be relaxed, and uncorrected small issues lead to bigger ones," he says. "Audit early and audit often, and condition IT teams to design processes and systems so that they can be audited comprehensively, painlessly and effectively."

Part of that design should include day-to-day tracking of operational risk factors that affect the business' security posture. This is especially key for keeping track of changes in the IT environment or the threat environment that happen between assessments. While it may seem a tall task, organizations can at least get started on a more continuous assessment process by prioritizing.

"Don't try to conquer the world all at once! Focus on what matters most by identifying the proprietary, financial, and customer data that we tend to be most risk-adverse about when it comes to its protection," says Luke Klink, security consultant for Rook Consulting.

Finally, most critical is that organizations shouldn't just be assessing risks but also working on mitigating them throughout the life cycle. Leaving the same critical risks to be identified in assessment after assessment is the security equivalent to wheel-spinning and something that Eric Cabetas, managing partner of Include Security, says says organizations do all of the time.

"I've seen a company have an AppSec SDLC assessment conducted yearly, and they pay $200,000 for it just to ignore the recommendations of the consulting company year after year," he says. "The consulting company happily takes their pay and leaves until next year, not providing any value at all to the assessed company. They should have instead done an analysis of why originally identified risks are not being addressed within the client company."

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Add Your Comment" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message.

Ericka Chickowski specializes in coverage of information technology and business innovation. She has focused on information security for the better part of a decade and regularly writes about the security industry as a contributor to Dark Reading.  View Full Bio

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Jonathan_Camhi
50%
50%
Jonathan_Camhi,
User Rank: Apprentice
11/1/2013 | 3:51:26 PM
re: Once-A-Year Risk Assessments Aren't Enough
I wholeheartedly agree that the threat landscape right now is changing at too fast of a pace for any organization to wait a fully year in between risk assessments.
Aviation Faces Increasing Cybersecurity Scrutiny
Kelly Jackson Higgins, Executive Editor at Dark Reading,  8/22/2019
Microsoft Tops Phishers' Favorite Brands as Facebook Spikes
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  8/22/2019
MoviePass Leaves Credit Card Numbers, Personal Data Exposed Online
Kelly Sheridan, Staff Editor, Dark Reading,  8/21/2019
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
7 Threats & Disruptive Forces Changing the Face of Cybersecurity
This Dark Reading Tech Digest gives an in-depth look at the biggest emerging threats and disruptive forces that are changing the face of cybersecurity today.
Flash Poll
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
The State of IT Operations and Cybersecurity Operations
Your enterprise's cyber risk may depend upon the relationship between the IT team and the security team. Heres some insight on what's working and what isn't in the data center.
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2016-6154
PUBLISHED: 2019-08-23
The authentication applet in Watchguard Fireware 11.11 Operating System has reflected XSS (this can also cause an open redirect).
CVE-2019-5594
PUBLISHED: 2019-08-23
An Improper Neutralization of Input During Web Page Generation ("Cross-site Scripting") in Fortinet FortiNAC 8.3.0 to 8.3.6 and 8.5.0 admin webUI may allow an unauthenticated attacker to perform a reflected XSS attack via the search field in the webUI.
CVE-2019-6695
PUBLISHED: 2019-08-23
Lack of root file system integrity checking in Fortinet FortiManager VM application images of all versions below 6.2.1 may allow an attacker to implant third-party programs by recreating the image through specific methods.
CVE-2019-12400
PUBLISHED: 2019-08-23
In version 2.0.3 Apache Santuario XML Security for Java, a caching mechanism was introduced to speed up creating new XML documents using a static pool of DocumentBuilders. However, if some untrusted code can register a malicious implementation with the thread context class loader first, then this im...
CVE-2019-15092
PUBLISHED: 2019-08-23
The webtoffee "WordPress Users & WooCommerce Customers Import Export" plugin 1.3.0 for WordPress allows CSV injection in the user_url, display_name, first_name, and last_name columns in an exported CSV file created by the WF_CustomerImpExpCsv_Exporter class.