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Reducing the Risk of Serious Attacks: Risk Management

Adopting a risk management perspective helps security leaders make good decisions when faced with uncertain environments and unknown threats. 

Information security leadership roles are risk management roles, first and foremost. The cybercrime landscape is vast and unpredictable, and preventing every emerging threat is not a feasible expectation. 

Even if reliably preventing unknown threats was possible, information security departments do not have unlimited budgets.  

They must allocate limited resources in a way that reliably protects against the most frequent and likely threats while maintaining layers of defense against more targeted and sophisticated ones. 

Introducing the NIST Risk Management Framework 

The NIST’s risk management framework provides a foundation for optimizing enterprise security deployments against uncertainty. The framework is not specific to any type of technology, system, or organization. It is well-suited to meet the needs of small business and global enterprise IT environments alike. 

Source: NIST.gov 


The NIST risk management framework consists of seven steps. Each step provides valuable guidance on how to effectively manage risk in an information security context: 

  • Prepare 

This step describes activities that help prepare the organization to effectively manage risks to its security and data privacy profile. It includes identifying roles and responsibilities critical to the success of risk management initiatives, as well as establishing an organizational risk management strategy and an ideal risk tolerance threshold.  

  • Categorize 

Once there is an organizational risk management strategy in place, security leaders must assess the way the current system and network configuration fit within that framework. At this point, security personnel should determine the potential impact of losing the confidentiality, integrity, or availability of specific systems and the data they contain. 

  • Select 

Each system category requires a unique set of controls tailored to meet its security needs according to an established risk tolerance threshold. This step describes the process of setting control baselines for individual system categories, developing security and privacy plans that reflect those selections, and approving the allocation of security resources for the purpose.  

  • Implement 

During the implementation step, security leaders must pay close attention to the way selected systems’ risk management policies impact adjacent systems and the network as a whole. Controls specified in one part of the network can generate changes that affect security outcomes in other parts, and security plans will have to be updated to address these changes when they occur. 

  • Assess 

The assessment step gives security teams the time to determine whether control implementations are working correctly and if they are producing the intended outcome. At this stage, security resources should be dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and comparing usage data according to the security strategy outlined in the first step. 

  • Authorize 

The authorization phase provides an opportunity for senior leadership to determine if security and privacy risk – as described by the assessment data captured in the previous step – meets the organization’s strategic needs. This feedback may provide information about long-term goals that inform future security and data privacy implementations. 

  • Monitor 

Monitoring is crucial to maintaining situational awareness of a constantly changing threat landscape. All risk management decisions must be framed against the organization’s current risk profile, described by the data collected by its security deployments. Ongoing assessments ensure continuous improvement to the effectiveness of monitoring initiatives.  

Treat Cybersecurity Risks as Business Risks 

From a leadership perspective, cybersecurity risks share many of the same characteristics as any other business risk. Just as great sales leadership is not a guarantee against reporting an unprofitable quarter, cybersecurity leadership cannot promise the prevention of every possible cyberattack. However, great leadership can and should prevent catastrophic losses and successfully mitigate the most critical cyberattack risks. 

Enterprises can successfully navigate this uncertain landscape by deploying security resources wisely and continuously improving security performance over time. Delegating critical tasks to reputable vendors with a proven track record makes this outcome achievable even when qualified security talent is hard to find and retain. 


Interested in learning more about risk management frameworks that will benefit your company? Speak with a Castra representative today.uns