Cyber risk

Prioritize Cyber Risk With Business Impact Analysis

As an industry, cybersecurity companies often talk about risk. However, we rarely take the time to explain what risk is or how it impacts organizations. It’s important to understand that risk is measured based on the negative impact it can have on the enterprise’s mission.

Let’s look at a basic example: Many employees play solitaire on their computers over the course of a workday. If there were a cyberattack that removed Freecell from every computer, that attack would be considered low risk since it doesn’t impact the organization’s mission.

In contrast, the potential for an attack that could shut down an e-commerce site, encrypt data in Salesforce, or cause all corporate computers to crash would be high risk and bring out all measures of cyber defense since it materially impacts the company’s mission.

Last June, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) issued a paper describing the use of Business Impact Analysis (BIA) to guide risk prioritization and responses. The paper explains that BIA “provides a solid foundation to identify, monitor, and communicate about potential impacts related to the loss of availability, confidentiality, and integrity.

Essentially, BIA helps organizations identify their most important assets to safeguard by looking at what might happen if those assets were unavailable. When performing a BIA, it’s important to consider worst-case scenarios, such as an attack on Black Friday. According to the NIST paper, “By documenting the harmful impacts of losses to enterprise assets, the BIA provides important input into the information security risk assessment process.

Challenges for Cybersecurity Leaders

While BIA helps identify high-risk assets in theory, it’s not easy to use in practice. NIST points out as much in its paper, saying, “Public- and private-sector enterprises must maintain a continual understanding of potential business impacts, the risk conditions that might lead to those impacts, and the steps being taken.

Performing accurate business impact analysis requires extensive knowledge regarding all company assets. This includes all reports coming from the cybersecurity stack, as well as endpoint data, network device data, and logs. Gathering this data is not simple, and turning it into something useful to guide a cyber defense approach against a nation-state-grade attack without any analytical tools is almost impossible.

Additionally, inefficiencies and a fragmented incident response process make it difficult to accurately prioritize the risks which require immediate attention. Relying on business impact analysis alone also provides limited visibility into emerging threats. The reactive nature of this process makes it difficult for the CISO and the security team to stay ahead of threat actors.

In its current state, business impact analysis isn’t providing enough guidance for companies to mount an effective cyber defense against nation-state-grade attackers. It leads to decision-making processes that are reactive rather than proactive and makes it challenging to stay ahead of evolving cyber threats.

Combining BIA with AI Creates a Potent Defense Strategy

At HolistiCyber, our security experts put themselves in the attacker’s mind. From that perspective, we can see corporate assets that are attractive to the different types of threat actors. We also see attack vectors that would be more convenient to use, and exploitable vulnerabilities that are available to launch an attack. Our analysis enables cybersecurity leaders to take calculated risks without the need to endlessly review every potential vulnerability. Our team looks beyond cyber risk, putting it in context with business needs and the impact it would have on key assets and critical data.

Now, the power is moving into the hands of the CISO. SAGE, our AI-driven cyber defense platform, allows CISOs to build and operate effective cyber defense planning and optimization (CDPO). By using “What-If” analysis, they can optimize cybersecurity plans and budgets on a continual basis.

SAGE’s AI engine also allows CISOs to maximize the use of BIA. It helps to create a contextual map of everything that matters, from risks, vulnerabilities, assets, and threats, and see how each of those impact the business and its operations. SAGE displays an easily understood risk assessment, which is constantly updated based on changes in the environment, new cyber threats, and changes within the company.

Advances in cybersecurity technology have improved our ability to collect data, analyze impacts, and gain deeper visibility into the cyber threats that are attacking us today and are expected in the future. SAGE automates this process, rapidly analyzing millions of data points to provide critical insights, recommended mitigations, action items, and security policy recommendations.

Business impact analysis comes from domain expert reports combined with data from XDR/ EDR platforms, GRC ticketing systems, and other cybersecurity tools. SAGE analyzes the data and offers insights and recommendations that enable organizations to optimize their cyber defense spend and stay ahead of emerging and existing threats.

BIA Is Truly a Powerful Cyber Defense Tool

Security leaders have long believed that business impact analysis can offer significant direction and assistance in developing an effective cyber defense plan. However, efforts to utilize that data have been hampered by the difficulty in mining that data and then being able to apply its lessons toward a security plan.

Fortunately, AI has enhanced our abilities to analyze data far beyond human capabilities. With the tools available at our disposal, security leaders can harness that data and apply it to risk prioritization activities. As a result of those efforts, they can protect their most important assets while maximizing value from their security budget.

As new nation-state-grade attacks continue to emerge and state-based threat actors continue probing for vulnerabilities, it’s never been more important for businesses to stay ahead of emerging cyber threats. Unlocking value from BIA within SAGE AI tools is a key step forward in securing a company’s assets.

Learn more about SAGE and how it connects and analyzes all the pieces in your cyber defense plan.


HolistiCyber enables organizations in their cyber defense challenge, providing them with state-of-the art consultancy, services & solutions to help them proactively and holistically defend themselves in a new era of constantly evolving cyber threats, many of which lead to nation state grade attacks. 

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