What is the Risk?

By C3 Staff
Nov 17, 2021

Don’t leave your front door unlocked, and don’t waste time and money before assessing and addressing your small business’ cybersecurity risk—a risk with an exponentially climbing cost. Currently, the average cost of a US data breach is $9.8 million [i]. What is your risk?

Vision, passion, and discipline are essential to running a successful small business. Our goal is to help you be passionate about cybersecurity while implementing disciplined, straightforward risk mitigation steps. One of the first steps to take is to conduct an assessment of the real cybersecurity risks facing your business. Most of us have to work hard to implement good habits, and we hope you will make a periodic—even quarterly—risk assessment habitual to your organization.

Running a Baseline Assessment 

Understanding your risk is essential in preparing for them. Most small businesses avoid cyber risk assessments because it feels too complex and too resource-intensive. It doesn’t need to be. While there are several free and well-designed assessment frameworks to choose from (e.g., CIS Controls), here is a condensed process:

Gather a few leaders/managers with a broad understanding of key business operations/functions (e.g., Ops, Marketing, Sales, Distribution).

Catalog your information assets: Know what is in your technological care (e.g., data sets, computers, servers, telecommunications).

Assess risk: While normative “scoring” frameworks exist, start with asking, “what would the impact to my business be if this asset (e.g., POS, client data, supply chain) were compromised or deleted?

Analyze risk: How likely is this going to happen? Think about it just as you would other business risks (e.g., weather, traffic, legal, supply base).

Have a conversation with a cybersecurity specialist to define the most efficient and effective “controls” to address the viable risks (e.g., a threat that can exploit a vulnerability) to your IT and data.

Set Security Controls to reduce your risks to acceptable levels: Don’t overthink “acceptable”; start the conversation, and let it mature over time. These controls include everything: from password managers (sound familiar?), secure backups, employee training, extra care for credentials, to locked doors. Most of these are free or nearly free measures.

Monitor and Review Effectiveness: Malicious actors are innovative, so keep the conversation going with your IT provider and a cyber specialist you trust. Unless you are subject to specific cyber standards (e.g., CMMC, ISO 27001, NIST 800-171) this does not need to be a rudely expensive endeavor, either.

Create your Plan of Action and Milestones 

With the information you have uncovered in either your internal or external risk assessment or an external audit, create a plan. Without it, you will likely spend time and money in areas not proven to be the best “bang for your buck” for cyber defenses and resilience (how well you can recover from an attack). Just like you would any business endeavor, you can mobilize and align your team with goals, deliverables, responsibilities, and a timeline.

Risk assessment is necessary but does not have to be unduly expensive or obtuse. Just as you seek advice on various insurance policies to address risks (e.g., “don’t insure what you can afford to lose”), we strongly recommend you set aside a few hours a year to give this the attention it is due. Through manageable habits and easily implemented steps, you can take strides to protect your small business.

[i] **IMB Security – Cost Of A Data Breach Report 2023

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Carolina Cyber Center
of Montreat College

310 Gaither Circle
P.O. Box 1267
Montreat, NC 28757

(828) 419-0737

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