Performing Data Risk Assessments
By Matt Brennan
If your organization is required to follow any compliance mandates for data management, there is a good chance that data risk assessments may be recommended. But the language regarding what those assessments actually are can be vague.
It’s possible that your IT team may understand the necessity of such risk assessments, while not knowing how to approach these assessments in a manner that guarantees regulatory compliance.
What Does a Data Risk Assessment Accomplish?
Data risk assessments allow you to take a big picture look at your organization’s handling of data in order to determine the overall security of the data that you manage. It can help you to understand your strengths and weak points so that you can improve in your overall data management.
With a proper data risk assessment, you end up with an overall understanding of your risk levels and a plan to manage the most critical needs.
Below are some suggestions for conducting a data risk assessment. Sometimes organizational pride can get in the way. It’s important to handle the process with humility and treat it as an opportunity to learn about your organization and improve your weaknesses.
1). Get uncomfortable. Use a data risk assessment as an opportunity to understand your weak points at the highest level of exposure. That way a plan can be developed to better address these in the long run. It’s important to understand your company’s highest-level vulnerabilities before an attack.
2). Use basic questions to determine risk level. You can ask questions that will help you prioritize risk such as: Do we collect personally identifiable information? Do we collect highly sensitive information (think credit card numbers or health records)? What other sensitive data remains in our possession? Questions along these lines can help you establish the level of sensitivity with this information.
3). Figure out risk vs. exposure. You can use any gathered information to understand how to mitigate your risk and exposure levels with additional safeguards.
4). Modify your data storage based on risk. When you’re able to map out your company’s vulnerabilities some changes may need to be made to where that data is stored. Maybe cloud storage, remote servers, or other solutions can add additional peace of mind.
5). Add security to mitigate risks. Once you have some added information, you’ll have a better understanding of the threat level that your organization faces. It may be time to bring in more security or establish some firewalls. It may be time to enhance your company’s password procedures or add two factor authentication. Whatever the case may be, you can prioritize the actions based on various threats.
Data Risk Assessments Lead to Improved Safety
You can’t control what you don’t measure. Proper data risk assessments are simply about analyzing your levels of exposure. They’re also important to understand that if your data does fall victim to a cyberattack or is lost, that a data security company can help you restore what you lost and keep your company up and running.