Risk assessment is the process of analyzing threats to, and vulnerabilities of, an information system, and the potential impact that the loss of information or capabilities of a system would have on national security or your company's bottom line.
List all countermeasures being used, explaining any that are vague or can have multiple meanings. Using this methodology for risk assessment, you must consider the existing countermeasures and their ability to reduce the vulnerabilities.
When analyzing countermeasures consider which reduce risk or help with loss prevention or limitation. Examples of countermeasures include: physical security (doors, window bars, fences, locks, paper shredder, alarms); administrative (security policies and procedures, training); personnel (guards, escorts, clearances); communications/computer system (smart cards, biometrics, digital switches, firewalls, intrusion detection, encryption, boot passwords).
When considering the likelihood of exploitation, look at influencing factors, the presence or absence of vulnerabilities and threats and their level, tenacity and strength. Are adequate countermeasures in place for each vulnerability?
People often ask about the efficacy of using automated tools for risk assessments. You should use tools to help with your analysis, not to take the place of your analysis. Various tools can help with certification and accreditation, risk assessments and business impact analyses. Entering these terms in a search engine will direct you to these products.
About the author
Shelley Bard, CISSP, CISM, is a senior security network engineer with Verizon Federal Network Systems (FNS). An information security professional for 17 years, Bard has briefed and written infosecurity assessments and technical reports for the White House and Department of Defense, special interest groups, industry and academia. Please e-mail any comments to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opinions expressed in this column are those of Shelley Bard and don't necessarily reflect those of Verizon FNS.
This was first published in May 2004