The Difference Between Risk Assessment & Risk Analysis

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The Difference Between Risk Assessment & Risk Analysis

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The more you delve deeper into information compliance, the more likely you are to begin humming the term risk in a manner that is akin to how Jan Brady would shout, “Marcia! Marcia! MARCIA!

You may have heard of this term a lot, to the point that it almost loses meaning. Nonetheless, you should know that the difference between risk analysis and risk assessment could be the difference between security control and data breach.

Risk Assessment versus Risk Analysis

What Does Risk Assessment mean?

Risk assessment focuses on the risks that both internal and external threats pose to your data availability, confidentiality, and integrity. To assess risks thoroughly, you have to spot all the possible events that can negatively impact your data ecosystem and data environment.

Data Risks can be…

  • Deanonymization: your data can either be matched to your encryption fails or information that you can identify personally.
  • Data Breach: unauthorized access to your software, database, or information systems.
  • Data loss: storage device failure, causing you to lose access to your information.
  • Data corruption: a malware infection or ransomware attack corrupts your information, rendering it useless.

What does Risk Analysis entail?

Risk analysis takes your risk assessment efforts to the next level. When analyzing risk, you start by focusing on the risk that you identified and then determining the extent of damage they can cause.

Also, you have to consider what possible events can happen as well as the degree of harm that they pose using quantitative or qualitative analysis. Furthermore, ensure that you combine the possibility of the event happening with the impact associated with that occurrence.

Risk analysis examples include:

Probability: the possibility of the risk happening can in most cases be quantified through security control reviews and historical data. High risk translates to an event that has happened before and is likely to occur again.

On the other hand, low risk entails an event that may not have taken place in the past five years but is still a possible threat, for instance, a disgruntled worker stealing company information.

Impact: In case a possible event can highly impact your company’s financial strength or continuity, then its probability to happen may be less critical.

How to Utilise a Risk Assessment in Creating a Risk Analysis

The most crucial aspect of risk analysis is making sure that you have reviewed and cataloged all the possible events that pose a threat to your data adequately. When it comes to assessing risk, creativity is vital.

A risk assessment reviewing all the potential threats to your data includes both the risks that are inherent in your data environment and the risks posed by third-parties.

How to Utilise Risk Analysis in prioritising Risks

All security risks are not equal. Something may have an impact but low potential. At the same time, another event may have a low impact but a high possibility of occurring. Hence, learning how to prioritise all your actions cannot only help you save time but also a great deal of effort.

High Priority

A high risk-high impact scenario, for instance, would undeniably be a zero-day attack, whereby hackers spot a way of exploiting a previously unidentified weakness. As such, you require placing these threats and their mitigation at the top of your priority list. Ensuring constant security upgrades serves as one of those control measures.

Medium Priority

An example of a medium-risk occurrence can be a former worker stealing information after being terminated from work. While most employees just go from one occupation to the next, others may be disgruntled.

To safeguard yourself against this risk, you may need to schedule constant user-access reviews. Nonetheless, you do not require doing one immediately after the employee leaves since there is a low possibility of the event happening although the impact could be high.

Low Priority

Low-risk cases include somebody breaking into your company offices and stealing various devices. The possibility of this event happening is low. Also, the possibility of data loss is low, especially if the devices do not have any stored information on them.

Since this occurrence impacts your need to buy new devices without risking your information, you may need to spend less time and controls reviewing them.

Why Automating your Risk Prioritization Helps in Streamlining your Risk Mitigation

Although you have to ensure that you channel your efforts to those events that pose the most threat to your data, you cannot disregard low risks. You should have a security-first approach when it comes to information security.

For this reason, a continuous monitoring program helps in keeping a close eye on all the threats to your data regardless of how likely they are or impactful. You can use similar automation to maintain a constant review of your low priority risks that give you bandwidth to address higher priority risks.

Ken Lynch is founder of

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The Difference Between Risk Assessment & Risk Analysis

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