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How to Conduct a Network Security Risk Assessment

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A network security risk assessment allows a company to view its infrastructure from a cybercriminal’s perspective and helps spot network security issues so they can be addressed. 

When conducting a risk assessment, start by prioritizing your assets to test, then choose the most appropriate type of network security assessment. From there, perform the assessment and improve any deficiencies you find. Luckily, there is software available to help you do it right.

See below to learn all about how to conduct a network security risk assessment to help improve a company’s network security:

How to Conduct a Network Security Risk Assessment

1. Identify And Prioritize Assets

A company’s important assets can include their infrastructure, network, internal data, and customer data. When conducting a network security risk assessment, begin by prioritizing the assets you want to assess. 

To do so, first identify your assets and classify them as low, medium, or high sensitivity. From there, start your risk assessment with the most sensitive assets. Typically, assets with public access are the lowest sensitivity and internally protected data is the highest.

Let’s take a look at some examples of low, medium, and high sensitivity assets:


Access restrictions


Low sensitivity

Public access

Website, product announcements, job listings

Medium sensitivity

Internal access (if accessed by public, not catastrophic)

Telecommunication systems, emails, brand

High sensitivity

Protected data (if accessed by public, catastrophic)

Customer details, financial records, internal operation documents

Common Asset Classification Terms

  • Public: This classification is similar to low sensitivity. Public access is available without security controls. This information is not a large concern.
  • Internal: Similar to medium sensitivity, this classification is meant for internal use only. However, if this information is exposed, it will not be detrimental to the business.
  • Confidential: This classification is between medium and high sensitivity. The data needs to be confidential. If the data is exposed, the company may deal with negative results. 
  • Restricted: Similar to high sensitivity, if this data is leaked, it is detrimental to a company. If leaked, it can cause a loss of customers and money and lead to legal, and regulatory consequences.

Once the data is classified, IT teams can move on to assessing the data.

See more: 5 Top Data Classification Trends

2. Choose A Type Security Assessment Type

Choosing a security assessment type can be based on classification of data, industry, and the company’s preference. A vulnerability assessment is the most popular assessment, due to its ability to find vulnerabilities within an infrastructure, but IT audits, IT risk assessments, and penetration testing are helpful as well. 

A business must pick their assessment based on what they want from it. While vulnerability assessments show vulnerabilities, IT audits can help assess whether a network meets essential requirements.

Here are examples of what the assessments can help with in the business:

Network Security Assessment Types

Each assessment can offer comfort in a business’s cybersecurity. Using assessments can help an IT team make the correct decisions for a business. It is vital to map out and see vulnerabilities to prevent future attacks.

Factor To Consider with Assessment Types

  • What categories the data is in
  • See financial cost and risk
  • Customer information safety
  • Industry-based risk attacks

Because security risks are varied, a company should conduct multiple assessments for the best results.

See more: 5 Top Security Assessment Trends

3. Perform The Network Security Assessment

Once the company decides what assessment works best, it is time to perform the assessment. Here are the steps based on the assessment that a business selects:

Vulnerability Assessment Steps

Vulnerability scanning is software that finds cybersecurity vulnerabilities in a company’s infrastructure, network, and software. This assessment is useful for finding and patching vulnerabilities that are detrimental to a company.

  • Decide what a business needs to test the most: Start by identifying your most important assets and categorizing them as low, medium, or high. Then, prioritize your assets to test, starting with the most critical.
  • Vulnerability identification: The vulnerability assessment will then scan every part of an infrastructure and network to find every vulnerability.
  • Analyze the vulnerabilities: Vulnerability assessments offer a range of risks. How serious a vulnerability is, the risk of cyber attacks, and which are the most important to patch.
  • Treat vulnerabilities through patching: When a vulnerability is detected, a company should go into the system and patch the vulnerabilities they see fit to feel safe within their network.

IT Audit Steps

The IT audit is a necessary part of maintaining a network, especially in companies working with a variety of hardware, software, operating systems, data sets, and users.

  1. Plan for the audit: A company should immediately establish what the objective of the audit is. Once the objective has been established, a business should make a plan on how to achieve the safety they need.
  2. Do preparations for the audit: At this point in the process, it is helpful to have an IT audit checklist to go off of. Addressing the weaknesses and the vital systems to check.
  3. Perform the audit: Usually a company will hire an auditor to complete the audit. This is an effective way to ensure the information a company receives is accurate.
  4. Report the company’s findings: Once the audit is completed, a company will receive the findings of the audit and what needs to be done to fix any problems.

IT Risk Assessment Steps

A security risk assessment identifies risks in a company’s vital assets to ensure that the company can fix and ensure the system will be safe.

  1. Identify the problems in a company’s system: A company must identify the risks and vulnerabilities their company has, and what security requirements and objectives need to be fulfilled. 
  2. Decide what may be harmed and how it would happen: The problems might affect customers, the company’s network, or even employees. Investigating the risk of cyberattacks, damage to a company, or losing customer trust.
  3. Analyze the risks detected: Analysis may include finding risks that are connected, what can happen if these risks occur, and how they can be avoided.
  4. Record what a business finds and implement it: Documenting what a business finds and how it can be prevented is a vital part of the process. The security controls must be implemented as well as tools and processes to heal the network.

Penetration Testing Steps

A penetration test is an intentional cyberattack against a company’s network and computer infrastructure to find their vulnerabilities. This shows companies how easy it might be to access their data.

  1. Plan for the test: For this step, a company must determine their test goals and gather further information to see what must be helped.
  2. Scan to find vulnerabilities: A company must then scan to determine how the target might react to an intrusion. 
  3. Gain access to vulnerabilities and security: Imitation of an ethical hacker to see if a vulnerability can be used to maintain access for cybercriminals.
  4. Analyze findings: The ethical hacker must then process results, configure the possible problem or vulnerability, and test again.

Once the vulnerabilities are identified and solved, it is time to set up prevention controls.

4. Set Up And Implement To Network Security

Implementing prevention and security controls is the next vital step. When a company receives its results from a network security risk assessment, it is important to see what the priorities are and see how the problems can be solved. This can reduce risks and vulnerabilities within a company’s infrastructure and network.

Factors For Setting Up Prevention Control Plan

Controls Description Examples
Preventative Implemented before a cybersecurity threat and reduce and avoid the potential impact of a cyberattack. Policies, processes, procedures, encryption, and firewalls
Detective Planned to detect a cyberattack while it occurs and provide help after the incident occurs. Cybersecurity detection software, host and network intrusion detection, and virus identification
Corrective Limits the impact of a cyberattack and helps the network return to normal operations. Antivirus software, recovery plans, and host and network intrusion remediation

There are many ways to implement security solutions for a network or infrastructure: including firewalls, virtual private networks (VPNs), antivirus and anti-malware software, encryption, and automatic updates

Setting up prevention measures requires monitoring both the network and the security systems to make sure they continue to do their job for the company.

See more: What is a Technology Control Plan?

Is There Software That Can Help With A Network Security Risk Assessment?

Network security risk assessment software solutions are used by companies to analyze their networks and address security weaknesses. The software must monitor the company’s network, applications, and infrastructure to identify vulnerabilities. The software can then provide recommendations to use different security practices or solutions. 

To qualify for a top network security risk assessment software a product must:

  • Analyze a company’s security network and tools
  • Inform companies of known vulnerabilities or risks in their security plan
  • Provides recommendations to create better security planning across security systems

See below for some vendors offering network security risk assessment software:

  • Vigilant Software’s vsRisk: VsRisk is a top cloud-based information security risk assessment tool by Vigilant Software, an IT service and IT consulting company in Ely, Cambridgeshire.
  • LogicManager Cybersecurity Risk Management Program: The Cybersecurity Risk Management Program is a standardized cybersecurity risk assessment that helps companies understand the risks that IT asset, policy, procedure or control holds, made by LogicManager, a computer software company in Boston, Massachusetts.
  • SolarWinds Cybersecurity Risk Management and Assessment tool: SolarWinds Cybersecurity Risk Management and Assessment tool is an IT risk assessment software that helps cybersecurity policies with automated assessments. SolarWinds is a computer software company based in Austin, Texas.

Other vendors and tools include:

Featured Partners: Network Access Control Software

Why Should You Do A Network Security Risk Assessment?

Network security risk assessments have the potential to help a company reduce the risk of being a victim of cybercrime. 

  • Improve security awareness: Within an organization, vulnerabilities can go undetected for long periods, and cybercriminals can steal information. When a network security risk assessment is completed, a company will have more knowledge of which areas need attention. 
  • Protection against data breaches: Data breaches are not uncommon, and they can come at a high cost, expose private information, and hurt the trust in a company. Network security risk assessments can assist in identifying network vulnerabilities before a breach can occur. See more: Average cost of data breach surpasses $4 million for many organizations
  • Educate employees on security measures: Finding the vulnerabilities in a network can help employees understand specific security issues. By learning what needs to be prevented, a security team can better discover ways to keep data secure. See more: How to improve security awareness and training for your employees

Bottom Line

With networks being a key cybersecurity risk area and breaches on the rise, network security risk assessments should be a vital part of a company’s network security strategy.

A network security risk assessment allows a company to see their infrastructure and network from a cybercriminal’s perspective and enables security pros to find the right solutions to security problems.

See more: Automating Security Risk Assessments for Better Protection

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