The 4 key IT security assessment types

4 min. read
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Many companies are completely dependent on the digitisation of their business operations. This makes them more efficient, but at the same time, also presents a threat. Malware, spyware, unwary employees and hackers are persistently threatening business continuity.

We’ve seen the number of DDoS attacks increasing in recent years. DDoS attacks are becoming simpler to execute and the software can be purchased online for just a few euros. For this minor ‘investment’, attackers can cause significant damage to a company. From negative media attention and reputational damage to financial damage incurred by employees not being able to perform business-critical tasks.

IT security assessments

Cybersecurity assessments or IT security assessments map the risks of the different types of cyber threats. This is what makes these assessments a crucial instrument to prevent attacks and guarantee operational business continuity in the case of one. However, there are quite a few types of these security assessments and periodically a new one appears. It can be difficult to see which one does what and which one is suitable for your organisation.

How do you know which IT security assessment is the best fit for your situation and what threats can these assessments help you to defend against?

In this article, we summarise four different types of IT security assessments and explain briefly when you can apply them.

1. Vulnerability assessment

This technical test maps as many vulnerabilities that can be found within your IT environment as possible. During the vulnerability assessment, testers look at the (potential) severity of a possible attack on each part of a system, as well as recovery options and scenarios. The outcome is a priority list of issues in order of importance, that should be addressed.

When to perform a vulnerability assessment?

This test is particularly relevant when not much has been done about security. The aim of the assessment is to fix as many defects as possible, based on a priority list, available budgets and time. Budgeting can also be determined after the vulnerability assessment has taken place so that there is always a sufficient budget to tackle a detected vulnerability.

2. Penetration testing

With a penetration test, a specific potential target is inspected. For example, domain rights that could be hacked, but also customer or payment data that could be stolen, or stored information that cybercriminals could alter. The outcome of the penetration test will show whether the current security posture is sufficient or not.

When to perform a penetration test?

They are mainly used to confirm that the configuration of software, version management and local written code is secure. For this, several other tests have already been performed in previous stages. This is a test at a higher level and for the best results, they should be performed by experienced testers.

White/grey/black-box security test assessments

The white, grey and black-box 'assessments' are part of the penetration testing toolkit. The colours indicate how much information a tester has at their disposal. White stands for a test in which the tester has full access to the code, network diagrams and other relevant information. With a grey-box assessment, that level of access and information is not complete, but only partially provided and available. A black-box tester has no prior knowledge about the system that will be targeted.

In the case of a black-box assessment, the tester acts like an external hacker that tries to find weaknesses using all sorts of methods and tactics.

3. IT audit

An IT Audit charts whether the current configuration matches the desired compliance standard. This can be based on both technical aspects as well as documentation. An IT audit in essence does not really test how secure a network is. It only indicates how people define security within a company. The result is a document that shows whether the compliance standards have been met.

When should you perform an IT Audit?

Audits are primarily instruments that demonstrate compliance and provide some proof of the level of quality of a company’s network security. Often, companies that are compliant are stricter on safety.

4. IT risk assessment

An IT risk assessment determines the acceptable level and the actual level of risk. This type of cybersecurity assessment analyses 2 dimensions of risk: the likelihood and the impact. This can be measured both quantitatively and qualitatively.

After the analysis, the team decides which actions should be initiated to mitigate the actual risk level to an acceptable level as much as possible. The IT risk assessment comes with a list of prioritised risks that should be mitigated and recommended actions to achieve this goal.

When is an IT risk assessment relevant?

'Risk assessment' is an umbrella term for mapping and identifying potential risks to a company's assets and how the organisation wants to protect those assets. For this reason, IT risk assessments are useful to perform at any time.

Reduce the risk of successful cyberattacks with a cybersecurity assessment

With a cybersecurity assessment, you accurately determine potential exposure to cyber threats. Which one fits best with your company depends on your level of security and any previous tests performed. Nomios can advise you and is able to perform and arrange IT assessments for you. Together, we bring your company's security policy to a higher level.

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