As a startup, you may be most focused on marketing, generating revenue, and identifying your niche within the industry. However, have you thought about the safety and security of your company’s data? A hacking attempt is registered every 39 seconds, and startups are vulnerable because they don’t devote enough resources to cybersecurity threats.
The cost of a data breach can be crippling for any business, more so startup corporations. The good news is that by following a strategic approach, you can begin to identify, quantify, and manage cybersecurity threats (and then pursue proactive defence through techniques such as penetration testing).
Risk assessment is one of those processes that startups can implement to remain secure online. By evaluating your current risk environment and data handling processes, you can develop a cybersecurity plan that falls in line with the goals of your business.
Where do risk assessment and data security intersect?
You may be wondering what risk assessment is and how it can be used to protect your startups’ data. By definition, risk assessment is the evaluation of your current data security processes to determine where you stand when it comes to facing potential threats.
During a risk assessment, your company will be evaluated on its preparedness to handle cybersecurity threats. A risk assessment also allows you to identify gaps in your data handling processes so you can patch them up before a threat occurs. By identifying the risks that you face and their potential impact, you can begin to devote resources to manage such risks.
You can think of risk assessment as a critical component of any cybersecurity plan. Startups can only begin to protect their data if they know what types of risk they face, the consequences of a breach occurring, and how their current infrastructure stacks up against data security threats. A risk assessment will typically involve the following steps:
- Identifying the types of data that your startup handles
- Quantifying the potential impact of a data breach on your company assets
- Establishing how effective current resources are at handling cybersecurity threats
- Identifying data security loopholes in your existing infrastructure (such as vendor systems or insecure networks)
How a risk assessment can improve your cybersecurity strategy
The primary benefit of a risk assessment is that it enables your business to develop a robust cybersecurity plan. By identifying all the threats and their potential impact, you can begin to implement systems and processes that can prevent threats from crippling your operations. A risk assessment allows your company to incorporate the following components into cybersecurity.
1. In-depth understanding of business threats
Many startups are vulnerable to data breaches because they’re not aware of the risk environment. A risk assessment allows you to understand the types of threats you face and how such threats can impact operations. For example, ransomware can potentially cripple your operations if you don’t back up data regularly. Being aware of this risk will allow you to implement immediate steps towards boosting your cybersecurity environment.
2. Aligning cybersecurity with your overall IT strategy
While cybersecurity protects your startup’s data online, IT security is the overarching framework that governs how you handle data within your company. This is why your cybersecurity strategy needs to fall in line with your current IT goals and processes.
A risks assessment makes it easier for you to establish a smooth process that incorporates IT and cybersecurity. For example, after identifying the scope of data your company handles and the potential impact of a breach, you can establish data policies that govern the collection, processing, and sharing of such information. These policies will benefit both IT and cybersecurity practices within your startup.
3. Vendor management
Your business is likely to rely on third-party vendors to support its daily operations. Whether you’re working with a SaaS provider or a cloud storage company, such vendors will directly impact your cybersecurity plan. Risk assessment allows you to audit your vendors and establish minimal guidelines for how your data is handled.
4. Employee training
Risk assessment is also critical when it comes to your employees. Many startups make the mistake of leaving their workers out of cybersecurity activities. However, your data will only be safe if employees understand their role. A risk assessment may reveal that employees need to be trained with regards to password management, detecting phishing attempts, and reporting a hack as soon as it occurs.
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Practical steps for protecting your startup’s data using risk assessment
Because of the numerous benefits that risk assessment provides, you can use this approach to develop practical measures to safeguard your startup’s data. Some of these steps include: