How to Identify and Manage Your Cybersecurity Risks

How to Identify and Manage Your Cybersecurity Risks

It’s not news that cybersecurity is the leading source of risk for small and midsized businesses in the Tampa area.

According to a 2022 report, nearly 4 in 5 small and midsized businesses say that the number of cyberattacks targeting their organization grew over the last year. At the same time, limited resources, a lack of internal security expertise, and an urgent time constraint make finding security confidence difficult.

There is a way to navigate the complexity of security without guesswork or wasting budget.

By using a resource like the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework, small businesses can adopt what’s known as a “risk-based” approach to cybersecurity, which focuses their efforts on areas of greatest concern while saving huge amounts of effort and money.

What is a Cybersecurity Framework?

Cybersecurity frameworks are essentially a set of guidelines, standards, and best practices that help you secure your business technology systems. They are based on techniques and leading practices that have been proven to work for multiple industries and organizations.

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF) is one of the most popular cybersecurity frameworks in use across both public and private sector organizations today. It was originally created to secure Federal Infrastructure to help organizations effectively secure their systems against cyber risks.

One of the main reasons behind its popularity is its flexibility. NIST can be used at SMBs and large enterprises alike—no matter what industries they operate in. It contains instructions for conducting regular risk assessments and guidance across five key action areas.

1.      Identify

The first step is to identify actions that will help you understand your sources of risk. Some of the key recommendations include:

  • Locate the hardware and software that you’ll need to protect
  • Analyze the vulnerabilities and threats to the your those resources
  • Having a user account per employee, and outlining cybersecurity policies in a handbook.

The identify phase is characterized by what’s known as a cybersecurity risk assessment, a deep analysis of your network through the lens of the NIST CSF. These assessments aren’t one-off events; you should run one whenever there’s a major change in your network.

2.      Protect

This category contains recommendations to safeguard your systems and limit the impact of cyberattacks. It entails giving employees access only to what they need, regularly patching your operating system and applications, installing firewalls, encrypting sensitive data, and implementing network security tools.

3.      Detect

If a cyberattack does occur, it’s critical that your organization detect it as quickly as possible. To help organizations achieve this, the framework suggests the installation and updating of antivirus and anti-malware, and monitoring and logging digital activity. These can help you investigate and identify sources of compromise quickly.

4.      Respond

What do you do when intrusion or compromise is detected? You must take appropriate activities to contain and analyze the event to realize its impact. This portion of CSF helps you define roles and responsibilities, manage communications with internal stakeholders, external stakeholders, and law enforcement, and ensure that mitigation activities are performed according to plan.

5.      Recover

The goal of any cybersecurity program is for you to return to business-as-usual as soon as possible after an attack takes place. The last part of the NIST framework helps you restore timely operations to reduce the impact of cybersecurity incidents big or small.

  • How to coordinate internal and external communications
  • Internalize lessons learned after an attack
  • Adjust your cybersecurity strategy based on your team’s experiences

While the NIST framework recommends actions across these five categories, you don’t need to implement all 900 security controls in NIST, only the ones that apply to your business.

Why Risk-based Cybersecurity is Important for Small Businesses

In the past, businesses acquired their cybersecurity skills in an incremental way. This approach—known as the maturity model—has businesses slowly build out their roadmap for developing security practices, guidelines, and controls as their business grows.

Risk-based cybersecurity turns the focus to risk reduction. It means identifying the sources of risk, and prioritizing the risks that are most important from a business continuity perspective. There are many benefits of this model for small and midsized businesses.

Proactive Cybersecurity
Risk-based cybersecurity optimizes your cybersecurity capabilities based on what they protect. The more critical an asset, the higher its priority; therefore, your defenses and efforts are focused on protecting what matters the most for your business.

Instead of aiming at 100% security, it focuses on a meaningful risk reduction. This strategy is more proactive in that it aims to reduce risk exposure and prevent cyberattacks instead of building capabilities to fend them off.

Lower Security Costs
Risk-based strategies are significantly more cost-effective than the traditional maturity model. According to a McKinsey study, an organization improved risk reduction by 7.5x with a risk-based approach at no additional cost. For SMBs, risk-based approaches can significantly reduce their cybersecurity spending or help them achieve a much higher level of security at their existing budgets.

Respond to New Threats Faster
A risk-based approach does not treat cyber risk as a static factor. It takes the evolution of the business and threat landscape over time into account and advocates a dynamic approach to security, meaning you’ll be able to easily adjust your protections as new threats emerge.

The NIST CSF is important because it helps all businesses, including SMBs, adopt a risk-based cybersecurity model. So, how can SMBs adopt NIST? See below.

How to Implement the NIST Cybersecurity Framework

As we mentioned above, the first and most important step to implementing the NIST framework is to gain a deep understanding of your “big picture,” meaning which systems are well-protected already, and which need stronger support.

This starts with a cybersecurity risk assessment.

With the intelligence you’ve gathered, you can then start to prioritize the most important risks that you want to mitigate. Supplementary resources, such as the Factor Analysis of Information Risk (FAIR), can help you quantify your cyber risk and determine which controls to prioritize.

It’s important that your effort has the full support of leaders as you work through the NIST controls. Risk-based approaches are not just about implementing technical protections, it also means managing the human aspects of cyber risk, which requires buy-in from across your organization.

You may also want to consider enlisting the help of an IT security partner who can help you manage the many complexities of streamlining your security efforts with NIST.

LNS Solutions: 20 Years of Cybersecurity Expertise

Implementing NIST or other popular security frameworks like ISO 2700 requires expertise in risk assessment, building risk models, and identifying a roadmap to secure a network. If you find any of those things challenging, then call the LNS Solutions team for help.

Out team of friendly team of cybersecurity experts is available any time at (813) 393-1626 or We’re here to help!


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