How Small Businesses Mitigate Cyber Risk

As we discussed in our previous article, you can learn a lot from the history of cyber attacks. These lessons are vital components of how you approach cyber risk mitigation in your organization.  

In today’s article, we’re going to dive into you can identify your risk profile, the cybersecurity controls you can implement, and two ways you can transfer some of your risk. 

Table of Contents

What is a Risk Profile?

A risk profile is a comprehensive evaluation of your organization’s exposure to risk. By developing a clear risk profile, you can enhance your cyber risk mitigation strategy.  

It will allow you to: 

  • Understand the potential impact of cyber threats. 
  • Prioritize the most significant risks. 
  • Prioritize security measures to the risks you face.

Simply put, it allows you to make sound investment decisions for your organization – keeping you proactive, agile, and informed.

3 Components of a Cybersecurity Risk Profile

A cybersecurity risk profile generally includes three fundamental components: threats, vulnerabilities, and impact.  

Your risk profile must account for the rapidly evolving nature of cyber threats and the increasing sophistication of cybercriminals (we’ve got some ideas about hackers using AI to enhance their attacks). 

1. Threats

This is pretty straightforward. You need to identify the security threats your organization faces so you have a full picture of the risk landscape. These threats might include: 

  • Phishing 
  • Advanced persistent threats (APTs) 
  • Malware 
  • Insider threats 

2. Vulnerabilities

Identifying vulnerabilities gives you a complete understanding of where your organization is most at risk. Your vulnerabilities might include things like: 

  • Unpatched software 
  • Lack of security awareness training 
  • Weak email security 

3. Impact

Finally, you want to measure the potential consequences of a threat exploiting one of your vulnerabilities. This impact can be measured in terms of: 

  • Financial loss 
  • Reputational damage
  • Operational downtime 
  • Legal ramifications 

How to Understand Your Risk Profile

A risk profile is a measurable analysis of the types of threats your organization faces. Understanding your organization’s unique profile allows you to align your strategies with the level of risk you’re willing to accept after you’ve implemented controls. 

To begin mitigating your cyber risk, you should consider using these seven steps to understand where you stand. 

Risk Profile Infographic

1. Conduct a Risk Assessment 

Regularly evaluate your business with a risk assessment to identify potential risks in cybersecurity and compliance. 

  • Identify potential threats that could affect your business. 
  • Evaluate both internal and external factors. 
  • Use cybersecurity tools or partner with a managed IT services provider for a comprehensive analysis. 


2. Understand Your Industry’s Risks 

Different industries face different risks. Stay informed about industry-specific threats and trends. 

  • Research common risks specific to your industry. 
  • Analyze historical data and industry trends. 
  • Consult with industry peers or associations for insights. 


3. Prioritize Risks 

Not all risks are equal. Identify which ones could have the most significant impact on your organization. Then, prioritize mitigating the risks. 

  • Determine which risks pose the greatest threat. 
  • Assess the likelihood and potential impact of each risk. 
  • Focus on risks that could critically affect your business. 


4. Create a Cyber Risk Management Plan 

Create a strategy for managing the risks you’ve identified – including cybersecurity and incident response plans. 

  • Develop strategies to mitigate identified risks. 
  • Assign responsibilities and set timelines. 
  • Include contingency plans for emergencies.


5. Review Your Insurance Coverage 

Ensure your insurance policies cover risks relevant to your business. 

  • Understand the terms and limitations of your coverage. 
  • Ensure your insurance policies cover significant risks. 
  • Consider additional insurance for high-priority risks. 


6. Stay Informed About Potential Risks 

Keep yourself and your staff educated about potential risks and how to mitigate them. 

  • Regularly monitor news and updates relevant to your business. 
  • Attend workshops or webinars on risk management. 


7. Update Your Risk Profile 

As your business grows and evolves, so will your risk profile – making regular updates crucial. 

  • Reassess your risk profile periodically or when significant changes occur. 
  • Update your risk management plan based on new information. 
  • Keep track of evolving risks and emerging threats.

Mitigating Risks with Cybersecurity Controls

Once your risk profile is complete, it’s time to move onto implementing cybersecurity controls to prevent, detect, and respond to potential security threats. These are generally categorized as technical, administrative, and physical measures. 

Technical controls used to mitigate risk might include: 

  • Encryption 
  • Firewalls 
  • Multi-factor authentication 
  • Email security (SPF, DKIM, DMARC) 
  • Antivirus and anti-malware 
  • Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS)  
  • Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) 


Administrative controls might include: 


Physical controls might include: 

  • Access controls (like key cards) 
  • Security cameras 


The controls you implement will depend on your risk profile. However, small teams often have limited time, a small budget, and not enough expertise on hand. That’s why we recommend that you use our layered defense strategy.  

We’ve prioritized the controls you should implement to give you the most bang for your buck.  

It’s based on our experience helping hundreds of small businesses mitigate their cyber risk. We serve small organizations in the following industries: 

  • Financial services 
  • Construction 
  • Nonprofit 
  • Healthcare 
  • Manufacturing 
  • Government contracting 

Empower Your Business by Transferring Risk

If your team is struggling to implement the cybersecurity measures you need, you might want to consider transferring some of your risk.  

Transferring some of the risk to a third party, such as through insurance or outsourcing IT functions to a managed IT services provider (MSP) specializing in security, can help you overcome your technology hurdles.  


Cyber Insurance

While transferring risk through cyber insurance can be useful it does have a drawback. Many cyber insurance providers expect you to have specific security measures already set up. So, this might not be a viable option if you haven’t invested much in cybersecurity. 


Managed Service Provider

Outsourcing your cybersecurity to an MSP makes them responsible for managing and reducing your risks. When you partner with an MSP, you gain access to a wealth of specialized knowledge and resources.  

This is usually much more advanced than what your small business could possibly do in-house – as you can gain access to affordable enterprise-level cybersecurity 

Decisions about risk acceptance or avoidance are typically made by you, but an MSP can provide you with strategic guidance based on their assessment of your cybersecurity landscape. So, you maintain accountability for risk. 

If you go this route, you should choose a provider that has experience with your industry and understands the risks you face. 

Staying One Step Ahead

Because of the nature of the cyber threat landscape, mitigating your risk needs to be an ongoing process. Make sure you stay updated on the latest cyber threats, remain proactive, and involve everyone in your organization with cybersecurity.  

Up next in our series, we’re going to look at the tools you need to defend and respond to advanced cyber threats. As well as features and considerations you’ll want to keep in mind. 


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