A risk management framework (RMF) is a set of guidelines and criteria for identifying, preventing, and responding to cyber threats. It is a structured process that builds the fundamental architecture of an organization’s cybersecurity strategy.
Why do you need a risk management framework?
Businesses are becoming more data-centric, and extensive arrays of tech tools are now commonplace in modern enterprises. Unfortunately, this continued dependence on information technology increases the risks of cyberattacks and data breaches. In the 2019 Global Cyber Risk Perception Survey, about 80 percent of the respondents ranked cyber threats among their top five concerns.
Cybercrime is on the rise. Any organization can fall victim to all kinds of threats, including ransomware, breaches, phishing, and DoS and eavesdropping attacks. The cumulative financial cost of recovering from successful attacks keeps rising. Severe attacks cause loss of business trust and reputation, and in some cases, attract legal implications.
Risk management is about controlling uncertainties, and more importantly, creating an environment where destructive surprises are minimized. Let’s look at how to apply the NIST framework, which, according to a 2019 survey, is the most popular RMF in use today.
Categorize information systems
This first step involves assigning security and functionality roles to the IT systems based on the organization’s objectives, goals, and mission. Identify and categorize the distinct information systems and determine their operating parameters, intended uses, and acceptable security levels.
Select security controls
Security controls are the resources, technical processes, hardware, and software required to meet the minimum security assurance requirements. These controls fall into three categories — preventive, detective, and corrective. Together, they protect the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of data and information systems. Select the security controls based on the risk factors associated with the various subsets of your IT infrastructure.
Implement security controls
After selecting effective security controls, the next step is implementation. The implementation processes and the security controls themselves may differ for each category of information systems. The execution may involve putting up physical barriers, installing security software, or setting up additional hardware. Document the implementation procedures and describe the expected outcome for each security control.
Assess security controls
You have to make sure that the newly implemented security controls work as expected and yield the desired results. At this stage, you may need an unbiased third-party assessor to review and approve the state of your information systems. The assessor generates a report describing any weaknesses and recommendations on how to seal off any identified gaps, based on thorough system analysis. The goal is to determine whether the security controls and their implementation meet the predefined security requirements.
Authorize information systems
Security authorization is an official managerial decision allowing the use and operation of an information system. The decision is reached upon when you explicitly accept the risks involved. Knowing the organization’s risk management strategy, you become fully capable of counteracting threats. Green-light the authorization once all the security assurance objectives have been met.
Monitor security controls
Continue monitoring and updating the security controls depending on changes in the operating environment, business processes, and technology. Remediate any weaknesses and vulnerabilities that may arise. Ideally, use real-time automated monitoring and reporting tools to continuously check, log, and update various security controls. Over time, you may have to retire or reconfigure some security controls to cope with significant changes in the organization and new risks.
The NIST cybersecurity framework was originally introduced in 2014 to guide government agencies in securing their digital assets. This risk-based framework has grown popular in the commercial and private sectors over the years as a standard benchmark for risk management. Compliance with NIST standards is only mandatory for U.S. government agencies and contractors who do business with them. When the framework is good enough for the government then it is worth applying to your business. No licenses are required so implementation is free.
Better your risk management today
You have been equipped with some of the best tools for risk management and you can apply this to your current framework.Go and create your risk management framework with confidence. If you have any questions about risk assessment or management, contact IND today.