A risk register is the foundational document that supports your organization’s cyber-risk and information security management program. Information security programs, regardless of company size, are developed with a single goal in mind: to implement controls that protect your business’ critical assets.
An effective information security program is dependent on the identification of risks and implementing controls to treat those risks. It contains a detailed list of all the potential and probable risks along with risk levels. It is a living record of risks that can adversely impact business objectives and your organization’s strategy. For all these reasons, an up-to-date risk register is one of the most valuable tools at your disposal to manage information and cybersecurity risk.
Unlike a risk register developed specifically for financial or operational risks, an information security risk register usually only contains cyber and information security-related risks. Misconfigured servers, default admin accounts, DDoS attacks, and ransomware are some common cybersecurity risks that you will come across in such a risk register.
Risk registers offer several key advantages to keeping businesses resilient and threat aware.
- Central visibility of diverse cybersecurity risks and their impact on business.
- Ensuring ownership of risk is maintained despite transfers, resignations, promotions, and other organizational changes.
- Information security incidents such as ransomware, trojan attacks, phishing or data breaches could be avoided if risks are identified and treated on time.
- It helps management formulate cost-effective treatment plans, investing in controls that mitigate risk based on their impacts and severity.
- A risk register is also an indirect depiction of maturity level of cyber security controls. Lack of cybersecurity controls leads to higher risk impact.
- Organizations can demonstrate compliance by developing a risk register. Cybersecurity standards like ISO 27001 require effective identification and treatment of risks.
Developing Your Information Security Risk Register
Like the risk management process, a risk register can be developed in four steps: risk identification, analysis, evaluation, and treatment. As simple as it sounds, the quality and effectiveness of the completed risk register is entirely dependent on the professional execution of the process.
- Risk Identification: This is the brainstorming phase in which various risks deemed relevant to a business are identified and listed. The selection of risks is primarily dependent on the type of business, core business processes, business area and type of product offerings. For example, cybersecurity risks to banks are different from risks that are faced by online retail websites. Risk identification provides risk names, descriptions, and risk categorization.
- Risk Analysis: In risk analysis, risk criticality in the form of impact of risk is calculated. Furthermore, the likelihood of a risk materializing is also analyzed. Impact and likelihood of risks play a pivotal role in shaping risk treatment plans. Other risk assessment methodologies could apply depending on your business needs.
- Risk Evaluation: Overall value of a risk is calculated using its likelihood of occurrence and the potential impact on business if the risk occurs. Some risk registers also consider the value of controls in determining the final risk value or residual risk score.
- Risk Treatment: This phase lays out risk treatment options to mitigate risk to an acceptable level. Mitigation, avoidance, transfer, and acceptance are some of the types of risk treatment options available to cybersecurity teams. Cybersecurity controls are used to mitigate risks. New controls might be required or improved to properly mitigate future risk.
A typical risk register has essentially the same parameters as shown below:
A well-maintained risk register provides a snapshot into the organization’s current risk posture and showcases the control environment of the future.
Organizations can follow best practices to ensure a risk register is kept current and valuable to the business.
- Keep your risk register in a central location accessible to all risk owners.
- The methods and risk classification criteria should be known to all risk owners to ensure risk ratings are consistent and coherent.
- Cybersecurity risk management through a risk register must be integrated into the organization’s strategic plan.
- Business context should be kept in focus while developing risk register so the organization can gain insights into internal and external factors and their effects on risks.
- The risk register should not be kept in isolation and should be made part of strategic meetings, project plans, cybersecurity reviews and audits.
- The value of the risk register should be evaluated to determine how well the cybersecurity risk management capabilities and practices have increased business value over time.
Creating an Information Security Risk Register
With StandardFusion, developing and maintaining your risk register has never been easier.
Our powerful GRC software keeps track of all your risks in a live document and can automatically recommend risks based on assets. Monitor your risks and see individual workflow states, linked controls, mitigations and policies, as well as risk indicators like impact, probability, and risk levels.
Connect with our team to see your risk landscape and learn how you can manage everything using StandardFusion.
With the growing number of cybersecurity incidents and ever-increasing data breaches, a risk register is an important tool in the hands of cybersecurity warriors. A risk register will not only enhance the risk posture of a company but can also increase resilience. Resilience stems from defense in depth, where detective, preventive, corrective, and recovery controls defend an organization’s assets in layers. This provides information security teams enough time to protect critical assets from damage and destruction.
However, the development of a risk register is often a one-time effort, which does not reflect the true state of the risk environment. If the risk register is not readily available to key risk owners, this creates knowledge gaps regarding risks as they evolve. Cloud-based governance, risk management and compliance software can provide secure access to your organization’s risk register from anywhere in the world, while on-premise GRC solutions can also facilitate centralized risk registers with more granular access management.
A risk register is the heart of an effective risk management process, and keeping it updated makes all the difference as to whether your organization is resilient or vulnerable to threats.