How Much Does a Security Risk Assessment Cost?

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Security threats to a corporation cannot always be controlled. But you can control your vulnerability to those threats. While it’s not practical to try and address every single vulnerability, a Risk Assessment will identify the threats that are most critical. You can then prioritize addressing those threats as part of your security budget.

How Much Does a Risk Assessment Cost?

A security Risk Assessment allows you to truly understand what your most critical threats and biggest vulnerabilities are, so you can make an informed decision about how to deal with these problems.

Here are a couple factors that can have major impact on the costs involved with your assessment process:

Scope and Costs

The cost of a security Risk Assessment varies depending on the scope and the processes involved. It’s important to define the scope of your assessment before getting started. This way, you can make sure it doesn't end up being unnecessarily expensive. A meeting between your management team and the team handling the assessment, in which expectations and scope are established and documented, is a critical first step.

Cyber Security Assessments

As information technology has become an integral element to business operations in many industries, security has emerged as a major concern. Ever-changing compliance regulations and privacy issues have rendered data security a complex issue.

Hackers and bots, meanwhile, are constantly becoming more sophisticated. Security solutions must keep up. If your business depends on compliance with regulatory agencies, such as HIPAA and PCI, or if you deal with sensitive information, you should undergo a cyber security Risk Assessment at regular intervals.

Some Issues to Consider in a Cyber Security Risk Assessment:

  • Policies and procedures for data management, including password controls and login users.
  • Internal and external penetration testing of your data network.
  • Physical protection of your key IT assets.
  • How your IT team is structured and managed.

Physical Security Assessments

Physical security, while having a longer history than cyber security, is even more important today. Depending on your industry, and the type of facilities and assets you’re attempting to protect, you will likely have more vulnerability than you can address at any one time. This is why a Risk Assessment is so important.

The cost of a physical security Risk Assessment will vary depending on many factors, like how many facilities must be protected. The Risk Assessment will allow you to identify the facilities that are most vulnerable, so you can address those first – mitigating top priority vulnerabilities, without overspending on securing less important areas.

Some Issues to Consider in a Physical Security Risk Assessment:

  • Physical Security Elements
  • CPTED Strategies
  • Electronic Security Devices and Systems
  • Security Policies and Procedures
  • Security Staffing and Organization

The first step is to define the scope, including the number and types of facilities to be assessed. A single location will of course be less expensive to review than multiple locations.

Next, the Risk Assessment team should compile a list of potential threats to consider. These might include threats such as internal and external theft, crimes against persons, robbery, cyber threats and terrorism. The assessors should then survey each location to observe existing conditions and review what physical, cyber and operational mitigation measures are already in place. They will then develop a threat/risk matrix, outlining the major vulnerabilities at each facility. A gap analysis will identify weaknesses in your existing program and offer specific recommendations to close those gaps. A final report should include a three- to five-year plan for improving security across the company.

Each of these steps should be assigned a price before the process begins, based on complexity and investment of time and effort.

In-House vs. Consultancy

Companies are often tempted to perform security Risk Assessments in-house in order to keep costs low. Although going in-house might represent some significant savings in the short term, this approach is generally an expensive mistake in the context of a long-term perspective. In-house teams tend to have myopic points of view, with preconceived notions and expectations of the issues. A third-party consultant provides a fresh look and an independent opinion that isn't influenced by internal issues.

Third-party consultants also have a depth and breadth of understanding of the issues that an in-house team can’t match. Expert-level understanding of the assessment process and benchmarking knowledge helps demonstrate how you stack up against other companies and regulatory compliance. Organizations operating in regulated industries may be required to utilize an independent third party to perform the assessment. Federal, local and state guidelines aren't so easy to decode or reconcile, so hiring a consultant who works across industries can bring expertise and an understanding of what's appropriate to the proceedings.

Your in-house team does have the advantage of subject matter expertise and a deep knowledge of your company's day-to-day processes, however. The best security Risk Assessments, therefore, are led by third party consultants with the support of in-house staff sharing information about responsibilities and operational issues.

Costs Are Variable in Nature

At the end of the day, it’s impossible to say how much a security Risk Assessment will cost without a thorough review of the scope of the project and the operations, facilities and expectations of the business.

However, costs can be minimized by setting out all the factors at the start and defining exactly what the assessment will include before diving in.

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Brian Dusza (Linked In, Twitter, Facebook) -