Cybersecurity Risk Assessment Tools You Can Rely on Year-round

Last updated by Abi Tyas Tunggal on June 16, 2020

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Traditional cybersecurity risk management remediation efforts start with cybersecurity risk assessments and penetration testing. This commonly involved outsourcing to a consultant who would offer the assessment as a standalone service or as part of a larger risk management program. 

The issue is cyber risk assessments offered by third-parties only provide a point-in-time assessment of your (or your vendor's) security controls, an inaccurate measure of the true level of risk. Additionally, they are costly. Both in monetary terms and the disruption of day-to-day activities. 

For these reasons, organizations are prioritizing the replacement or supplementation of third-party consultative engagements with their own cyber risk management processes.

This has been made possible thanks to initiatives like the National Institute of Standards (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework, which provides any organization with standards, guidelines, and practices to better manage and reduce their cybersecurity risk, as well as an explosion of sophisticated SaaS platforms.

These SaaS platforms offer continuous security monitoring, third-party risk management, attack surface management, risk assessment and remediation workflows, automated security questionnaires, and executive-friendly dashboards and reports. 

A large focus on these services is automating manual activities. This means small IT security teams can protect large IT environments and measure the external security posture of hundreds or even thousands of third-party vendors.

In this post, we'll show you how this software can be used by IT and cybersecurity teams to prevent data breaches, understand cyber threats, and stop cyber attacks.

Because these services focus on automating manual activity sets, IT security teams can use them to provide continuous threat intelligence information that would have been missed by traditional point-in-time risk assessment processes. 

Table of contents

Vulnerability assessment platforms

Vulnerability assessment platforms are designed to continuously scan information systems for known vulnerabilities like those listed on CVE. Some solutions will also provide workflows that help with the identification, classification, and prioritization of vulnerabilities, often by leveraging the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS).

CVSS is a set of open standards for assigning a number to a vulnerability to assess its severity. CVSS scores are used by the NVD, CERT, UpGuard and others to assess the impact of a vulnerability.

CVSS scores range from 0.0 to 10.0. The higher the number the higher degree of severity.

For example, UpGuard BreachSight automatically scans your Internet-facing information technology assets and identifies any vulnerable software that may be running on it via details exposed in HTTP headers and website content. While this does not guarantee the asset is vulnerable, it provides you with the information needed to review potentially vulnerable systems and to patch them before bad actors can exploit the vulnerability to install malware or steal sensitive information

Vendor-provided tools

When developing an action plan to determine the cyber risk of an information asset, it can be tempting to buy the most comprehensive, expensive solution there is. However, most teams we speak to don't have an unlimited budget that would be better spent on high leverage activities.

That's why it's important to check whether the vendor who provides the different components fo your IT environment can provide tools that scan their own products for issues. 

For example, Microsoft has a Security Compliance Toolkit which can be downloaded for free will provide security recommendations for Microsoft products.

While assessing IT components on a manufacturer-by-manufacturer basis isn't quick or easy, it's often inexpensive as most providers will provide these tools at no cost to their customers. As part of a larger information security risk assessment, this kind of analysis can be an extremely valuable data point to determine your inherent risk profile. 

Breach and attack simulation tools

Penetration testing is an important part of a comprehensive cybersecurity risk assessment. In these tests, an agent attempts to gain unauthorized access to sensitive data or a system under controlled conditions by bypassing security controls or through a form of social engineering like phishing

In the past, many businesses relied on third-parties for penetration testing, and like other parts of the assessment process, these texts were expensive and produced only point-in-time results.

This led to the development of a new type of software designed to supplement penetration tests and provide a more continuous, DIY version of penetration testing. Breach and attack simulation software, as it's come to be called continuously attack your system using automated methods informed by the latest threat intelligence methods. 

While these automated solutions don't provide the same level of insight as a human pen tester, they can help fill gaps between pen tests and provide incident response practice. 

Automated security questionnaires

Security questionnaires are one method to verify that service providers follow appropriate information security practices that allow you to weigh the risk of entrusting them with your or your customer data. 

In the past, these questionnaires were hard to administer and required expertise to create. However, third-party risk management software, like UpGuard Vendor Risk, provide extensive pre-built questionnaire libraries and workflows that can help you improve coverage even if you don't have the expertise required to create them.

For example, we can help you develop a questionnaire designed to assess whether your vendors are ISO 27001, HIPAA, or PCI-DSS compliant.

Security ratings

Security ratings are a data-driven, objective, and dynamic measurement of an organization's cybersecurity performance. Ratings are derived from objective and verifiable information by independent organizations, like UpGuard.

Because they don't require privileged access to a system, security ratings were historically used to understand third-party risk exposure. As an organization could use these ratings to determine the cybersecurity maturity level of each of its vendors at a glance. If you are interested if third-party risk management, be sure to check out UpGuard Vendor Risk.

Many organizations now use security ratings to measure the quality of their own information security initiatives. Security ratings providers offer instant insights into any organization's attack surface–whether that be via vulnerabilities, open ports, email security, network security, or known third-party data breaches. These insights are normalized into one comprehensive rating, that is updated on a daily basis. 

Unlike other point-in-time cybersecurity assessment tools, security ratings platforms are always up-to-date and easy to set up and use. 

Importantly, security ratings are a useful way to communicate how cybersecurity efforts complement business objectives, as they allow for immediate comparison of peer, competitor, and industry performance that can be understood by even the most non-technical stakeholders. Using a platform like UpGuard BreachSight allows IT and security leaders to prioritize resources to places that will have the greatest impact on their risk level. 

Our executive reporting tools can be included in security assessment reports to the C-suite or board who want to know how your organization stacks up against its competitors and the industry as a whole.

How UpGuard can help

Companies like Intercontinental Exchange, Taylor Fry, The New York Stock Exchange, IAG, First State Super, Akamai, Morningstar, and NASA use UpGuard's security ratings to protect their data, prevent data breaches and assess their security operations.

UpGuard Vendor Risk can minimize the amount of time your organization spends assessing related and third-party information security controls by automating vendor questionnaires and providing vendor questionnaire templates.

We can also help you instantly benchmark your current and potential vendors against their industry, so you can see how they stack up.

For the assessment of your information security controls, UpGuard BreachSight can monitor your organization for 70+ security controls providing a simple, easy-to-understand cyber security rating and automatically detect leaked credentials and data exposures in S3 buckets, Rsync servers, GitHub repos, and more.

This includes open ports and other services that are exposed to the public Internet. Our platform explicitly checks for nearly 200 services running across thousands of ports, and reports on any services we can't identify, as well as any open ports with no services detected.

The major difference between UpGuard and other security ratings vendors is that there is very public evidence of our expertise in preventing data breaches and data leaks

Our expertise has been featured in the likes of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The Washington Post, Forbes, Reuters, and TechCrunch.

You can read more about what our customers are saying on Gartner reviews.

If you'd like to see your organization's security rating, click here to request your free Cyber Security Rating.

Get a 7 day free trial of the UpGuard platform today.


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