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Commentary

The Criticality Of Risk Assessments: FISMA, HIPAA, And Other Regs

Risk assessments are a critical part of regulatory compliance, but many organizations don't implement them well
One of the most important components in any security program is the risk assessment process. Regulations like FISMA, HIPAA, Red Flag Rules, and state privacy regulations require organizations to methodically assess risk and select security controls based on that assessment. The problem is that many organizations do not understand what it means to assess risk through a formal method. Worse yet, many IT people have a hard time understanding the practicality of formal assessments.

What is a formal risk assessment?

Formal risk assessments are processes that consider the value of the assets that are at risk, the business and technical threats to the assets, and the effectiveness of the business and technical controls that are designed to protect the asset. In the end, a risk assessment gives the organization an objective measure of the risk to an asset. The process forces the organization to acknowledge and accept the risk, eliminate the risk by terminating a business practice (e.g., stop offering access to the asset via the Web), transfer the risk by outsourcing or insurance, or, more often than not, select additional more effective business or technical controls to reduce the risk.

Benefits Of Formal Risk Assessments
Conducting formal assessments within a risk management program offers a number of benefits:

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