How To Apply A Risk Management Framework To Improve Information Security

Risk Management Framework

Whether you do risk assessments for customers or your own company, you know how difficult it can be to categorize and rank the risks you find. Fortunately, there are security frameworks available to assist us in developing a plan for reducing or eliminating risks. While the risk management framework (RMF) for NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) is primarily concerned with establishing security standards that federal agencies must adhere to, it is also well-liked in the private sector. It’s because it offers helpful advice businesses can use to safeguard their employees, operations, and assets more effectively.

A risk management framework or RMF outlines the procedure that must be followed to secure, authorize, and manage I.T. systems for all federal agencies. Authorization to Operate (ATO) is initially used to secure systems’ protection, and RMF specifies a process cycle that incorporates continuing risk management (continuous monitoring). The NIST publication Revision 2 of the RMF was updated in December 2018, and it was the first to combine the management of security and privacy risks.

You can rapidly and with little disturbance develop an I.T. risk management program using an industry-accepted I.T. risk management framework. It will offer advice on the cybersecurity measures you should take to secure data’s confidentiality, integrity, and availability and reduce risks to I.T. assets. This is why we at Akitra wanted to curate this blog to discuss the basics of a risk management framework and how it stands to benefit your enterprise. This blog outlines the components of an I.T. risk management framework, the steps to develop a robust one, and highlights your benefits.

Now, let’s get started!

What is the NIST RMF?

NIST RMF provides a series of recommendations to simplify corporate risk management. Various types of organizations can use the framework to safeguard their information systems, even though it was initially created for U.S. federal information systems. Businesses can also use the RMF for any system or technology, including new and existing systems.

A thorough, adaptable, and risk-based approach to managing information privacy and security issues is provided by the RMF. Using its seven-step approach, any business can be:

  • controlling and managing organizational risk;
  • connecting system and organizational levels of risk management procedures;
  • keeping privacy and information security programs up to date;
  • integrating risk management for the cyber supply chain, privacy, and security into the system development life cycle (SDLC);
  • managing risks in real-time with ongoing monitoring procedures; and,
  • complying with all relevant regulatory requirements

The security and privacy threats to an organization’s I.T. systems can be decreased by adhering to the RMF recommendations. This, in turn, enables businesses to increase system effectiveness and profitability while minimizing the likelihood of cyberattacks (and any potential legal risk that may result).

Companies can establish accountability for the NIST controls established in their information systems with the use of the RMF. They may adopt the proper risk management metrics and make data-driven decisions on managing their information security and business-critical I.T. systems.

The steps of the RMF can be carried out more quickly and effectively with automation, making it easier to make decisions in real time based on risk. Automation is beneficial for evaluating and keeping track of controls and when creating permission packages.

Components of a Risk Management Framework

Here are the five components of the NIST risk management framework:

  1. Risk Detection:

Risk identification is the first and most crucial step in the RMF process. According to NIST, the expected risk characteristics are threat, vulnerability, impact, likelihood, and predisposing conditions. You will list every risk you can think of that could affect all of your systems at this step, and you will then rank them according to various criteria:

  • Events that pose a threat to an organization include those that might cause intrusion, destruction, or disclosure;
  • Weaknesses in the IT systems, security, protocols, and controls that unscrupulous actors can abuse are known as vulnerabilities (internal or external);
  • Impact gauges the extent of the damage to the organization that would result from the compromise of a specific vulnerability or threat;
  • The likelihood of an attack on a particular vulnerability serves as a gauge for the risk factor; and,
  • Predisposing conditions are unique organizational factors that either boost or lower the impact or likelihood that a vulnerability would be exploited;
  1. Risk Assessment:

Calculate and rank the risks your organization must manage after identifying the threats, vulnerabilities, impact, likelihood, and predisposing factors.

  1. Risk Reduction:

The organizations that deal with risk mitigation start by ranking the dangers on the previous list from greatest to least important, then work their way down. If there are too many higher threats to handle right away to fit the low threats into the work schedule, or if there is little chance that the threat would be exploited, the organization may determine at some point in the list that risks below this level are not worth addressing.

  1. Risk Monitoring:

Organizations are required under the RMF to keep a list of known hazards and monitor those risks for adherence to the policies. According to data breach statistics, many businesses continue to fail to disclose all successful assaults they have been subjected to, which could affect their peers.

  1. Risk Management:

Finally, a risk governance structure should be created by codifying the previous steps.

Steps Involved in the NIST RMF

There is a seven-step structure in place to support the NIST risk management framework, as detailed below:

Step 1: Get Ready!

The Risk Management Framework in Revision 2 included this step as an addition. The Prepare step’s tasks are designed to assist the other processes in the framework. Most of the requirements for the step come from previous NIST publications, Office of Management and Budget (OMB) regulations, or a combination of the two. Some of the Prepare step’s duties may have already been adopted as part of an organization’s risk management strategy. This step’s objectives were to “reduce complexity as organizations implement the Risk Management Framework, advance IT modernization goals, conserve security and privacy resources, prioritize security activities to focus protection strategies on the most important assets and systems and advance individual privacy protections.”

Step 2: Classify Information Systems

This level entails learning about the organization and is entirely administrative. The system boundary needs to be established before a system can be classified. All information types connected to the system can and should be identified based on that system boundary. The organization’s goal, duties, responsibilities, the system’s operational environment, intended use, and connections with other systems may all impact the information system’s final security impact level.

Step 3: Choose Security Controls

An organizational information system’s security controls are the administrative, operational, and technical safeguards or countermeasures used to ensure the system’s confidentiality, integrity, and availability and the data contained inside it. Assurance increases trust that the security measures inside an information system are effective when used.

Step 4: Put Security Measures in Place

In step three, organizations must install security measures and explain how they are used inside the information system and its operational environment. Each device should have a specific set of policies in line with the necessary security documents.

Step 5: Evaluate Security Measures

Utilizing the proper evaluation techniques, it is necessary to evaluate the security controls to ascertain the degree to which they are implemented correctly, functioning as intended, and providing the anticipated results regarding meeting the system’s security requirements.

Step 6: Authorize the Information System

The decision to approve the operation of an information system is based on assessing the risk that the operation of the information system poses to organizational processes, personnel, assets, other organizations, and the country and determining that this risk is acceptable. Use reporting functions with POA&M. (Plan of Action & Milestones). This provides the tracking and status of any failed controls.

Step 7: Monitor Security Measures

In a highly dynamic operational environment where systems adapt to shifting threats, vulnerabilities, technologies, and mission/business processes, continuous monitoring programs enable an organization to sustain the security authorization of an information system over time. Although it is not necessary to deploy automated assistance systems, doing so can help risk management become almost real-time. As well as providing ATO (Authorization to Operate) standard reporting, this will aid in preventing configuration drift and other potential security events brought on by unforeseen changes to various core components and their configurations.

How can Implementing the NIST RMF Benefit Your Business?

Let’s see what advantages a NIST RMF can bring to your business:

  1. Asset Defense

Understanding the dangers that your company confronts and taking the appropriate precautions to protect your assets and your company are top priorities in an effective risk management system. This means that a comprehensive framework for risk management will assist you in safeguarding your assets and data.

  1. Reputation Management

Limiting the harmful effects of cyber-attacks is crucial to ensuring your reputation is safeguarded, which is why reputation management is vital to current business operations. Not simply because US privacy regulations are getting stricter but also because consumers in the US are becoming more aware of the value of data privacy; a data breach will harm your company’s reputation. Companies may quickly identify weaknesses in enterprise-level controls and create a plan of action to mitigate or eliminate reputational risks using an efficient risk management framework.

  1. IP Security

A risk management strategy applies to the intellectual property just as much as it does to your data and assets because almost every business contains intellectual property that has to be secured. You risk intellectual property theft if you sell, offer, distribute, or supply a service that gives you a competitive edge. A risk management framework aids in preventing potential losses of commercial opportunities, competitive advantages, and even legal risks.

  1. Competitor Research

Last but not least, creating a framework for risk management can improve the core functions of your company. By listing the dangers you face and taking steps to reduce them, you will also be learning a tonne of insightful information about the industry you work in, which can help you stand out from the competition.

Risk Management with Akitra!

The NIST RMF is a great way to get your organization headed toward a better security posture. It provides a solid, cyclical six-step process that guides you in categorizing your data and selecting, implementing, assessing, and monitoring appropriate security controls. As you work on your information security program, remember that good security takes considerable time and effort. Like life, security is a journey, not a destination.

This is why we at Akitra may be the perfect option for you to take care of risk assessment and subsequent management. Akitra offers an industry-leading, AI-powered Compliance Automation and Cybersecurity platform for SaaS companies. Andromeda Compliance uses automated evidence collection and continuous monitoring, together with a full suite of customizable policies and controls as a compliance foundation to help customers become certified for regulatory frameworks like SOC 1, SOC 2, HIPAA, GDPR, PCI DSS, ISO 27001, ISO 27701, ISO 27017, ISO 27018, NIST CSF, NIST 800-53, NIST 800-171, FedRAMP, CCPA, CMMC, and more such as CIS AWS Foundations Benchmark, etc. In addition, companies can use Akitra’s Risk Management product for overall risk management for your company, Trust Center, and AI-based Automated Questionnaire Response product to streamline and expedite security questionnaire response processes, delivering huge cost savings. Our compliance and security experts will provide customized guidance to navigate the end-to-end compliance process confidently.

Our solutions’ benefits include enormous time, human resources, and money savings. Customers can stay safe from cybersecurity threats and unforeseen IT infrastructure breakdowns, achieve compliance certification fast and cost-effectively, and stay continuously compliant as they grow. 

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