What is cybersecurity risk management

| By:
Frank DePrisco

MSPs and other IT professionals use cybersecurity risk management as a strategy to prioritize incoming and potential cyber threats. Sticking to an efficient cybersecurity risk management plan ensures that the most dangerous threats are handled first – reducing dwell time and, thus, the amount of damage these threats can cause to client systems.

The goal of your cybersecurity risk management plan shouldn’t be eliminating all possible threats. Your goal here is to develop a specific strategy to ensure the most critical threats – or threats to your client’s most essential digital assets – are handled first. From there, you can work through potential threats and your client’s inventory of assets, addressing them from most to least important.

Many MSPs think that as long as they’re addressing threats, they’re doing their job. But, without cybersecurity risk management, you’ll be managing your clients’ cybersecurity reactively instead of proactively. If you can design a clear and repeatable plan your team can stick to, your threat response will become much easier and more organized. Incoming hacking attempts can be handled with a clear and calm head, and you won’t be left scattered – responding to every threat like a five-alarm emergency.

Cybersecurity risk management explained

As mentioned, your cybersecurity risk and management outline your plan to prioritize and handle client threats in a way that best preserves the health of their system. A threat is considered any malicious software or attack attempt launched at a vulnerability or weakness in your client’s network infrastructure. 

There are 9 major threat categories affecting most organizations today. They are:

  • Human error. This is the most common source of cyber threats most organizations deal with. Most of these are social engineering attacks that play on the emotional state of endpoint users within the network’s infrastructure. Phishing is a prime example.
  • Unauthorized access. Whether your clients are aware of it or not, hackers are constantly using the latest techniques, tactics, and tips (TTPs) to infiltrate their networks. These unauthorized users can potentially wreak havoc on clients’ internal infrastructure if they successfully bypass cybersecurity measures. Endpoint user error can also allow unauthorized access to the network through clicking a malicious link or opening an infectious file.  
  • Unauthorized users misusing data. Once inside, threat actors, unscrupulous employees, or employees without the proper knowledge of cybersecurity best practices, may change, remove, or misuse your clients’ mission-critical data without proper approval or authorization.
  • Data breaches and leaks. Hackers, incorrect cloud configurations, and careless endpoint users can all lead to data breaches or leaks. If sensitive data like personally identifiable information (PII) is leaked, this could be potentially catastrophic for your client’s business. Depending on their industry, the breach could land them in legal trouble – potentially owing large sums of money in fines or sanctions. Data loss prevention investment is essential in order to mitigate or avoid these consequences.
  • Loss or corruption of data. If hackers successfully execute a data breach or your client’s backup and disaster recovery (BDR) processes aren’t up to par, it could result in significant data loss or corruption. 
  • Service disruption. In business, time is money. Any downtime for your client’s system could cost them future business and current revenue. Whether the downtime was accidental or intentional, service disruption costs your clients both money and reputation.
  • System failure. Digital threat actors may try to overwhelm and crash a system rather than send a malicious file or link. Any system failure, much like service disruption, can cause data loss or a costly pause in business operations.
  • Weather events or natural disasters. Natural disasters can cause significant damages and outages to critical server hardware and cloud resources. Fortunately, cloud technology alleviates this risk since business owners can migrate their important digital assets to cloud storage out of harm’s way.
  • Adversarial threats. These threats include any outside actors who maliciously and intentionally attack your clients’ systems. They can be perpetrated by hacker groups, unauthorized users, unscrupulous inside users, careless endpoint users, and more. 

There are several ways your client’s systems can be compromised, and, unfortunately, that list continues to grow. Effective cybersecurity risk management is about adopting an attitude of - “it’s not a matter of ‘if’ your clients’ networks get compromised, it’s a matter of ‘when.’”

Naturally, you’ll do everything in your power to ensure your clients receive the highest possible level of protection. With that said, it always helps to consider an additional layer of protection. Read our latest blog on cybersecurity insurance policies and what they can offer you and your clients.

Additionally, you may want to consult our cybersecurity glossary to gain a deeper understanding of some of these threat types and how to best avoid them. If you have any questions or want to see how ConnectWise can help bolster your clients’ protection, contact us any time. 

How cybersecurity risk management works

While every client and MSP business is different, there are general steps that can help organizations align to cybersecurity and risk management best practices. Experts agree on four main stages of a sound cybersecurity risk management plan:

  1. Identification – gauge the ability of your client’s organization to identify current or future cyber threats. Call out and inventory any loopholes or vulnerabilities to their digital infrastructure that could affect daily business operations.
  2. Assessment – Once risks are identified, they should be evaluated to see the level of threat they pose to your client’s business. You and your team should also consider the potential impact of each identified threat.
  3. Control – Suggest tools, techniques, tips, and technology that can be used to help your client and their team minimize their organization’s cybersecurity risk.
  4. Review – Take time to constantly review, update, and improve the controls you have in place to mitigate your client’s cybersecurity risk. Adding, removing, or recalibrating security protocols will only improve the system over time.

Running a cybersecurity risk assessment

A cybersecurity risk assessment is an integral part of the overall risk management plan for your clients. Your and your client’s team should discuss your client’s primary business goals and what digital assets they consider mission-critical.

Through this meeting of the minds, you should come away with a better idea of what infrastructure your client will need to keep the business running smoothly. Together, you can configure and create the bigger picture of your client’s overall IT infrastructure, inventory and identify all components of the network environment, and determine how potential threats could possibly impact your client’s objectives.

If done right, this assessment will serve to arm all security teams and invested stakeholders with the data necessary to implement security measures to mitigate all current and potential cyber risks.

Cybersecurity risk management frameworks

To ensure the safety of sensitive data across vital industries, several government agencies and cybersecurity organizations have instituted their own cybersecurity risk management frameworks. These processes outline the key areas MSPs should focus on when designing cybersecurity risk management protocols for their clients. Let’s take a brief look at each down below. 

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework (CSF)

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework offers IT professionals a set of best practices and protocols to minimize their clients’ cybersecurity risks. This particular framework focuses on standardizing the primary functions and critical areas of protection covered by risk management – protect, detect, identify, respond, and recover.

The Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Model (C2M2)

C2M2 isn’t a cybersecurity risk management plan per se, but it’s constantly mentioned in the same breath as NIST CSF and bears mentioning when it comes to cybersecurity. This tool is a cybersecurity maturity model and helps MSPs determine the security capabilities of their client’s current digital frameworks. C2M2 helps MSPs optimize security investments for their clients and improve their overall protection protocols.

The Department of Defense (DoD) risk management framework (RMF)

This cybersecurity risk management framework establishes the guidelines for all DoD agencies and vendors. DoD procedures focus on six key areas – categorize, select, implement, assess, authorize, and monitor.

ISO 27001

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) is responsible for the ISO/IEC 27001 framework. ISO partnered with the International Electrochemical Commission to create the system and focuses solely on IT asset risks. Larger organizations look to the ISO 31000 framework, which is designed specifically for the risk management of enterprise organizations.

FAIR framework

FAIR, or the factor analysis of information risk, educates organizations on understanding, measuring, and examining their information risks. The FAIR process is designed to help businesses make wiser choices when laying out their overall cybersecurity plan and best practices.

For a deeper dive into any of these cybersecurity risk management frameworks, be sure to visit the available resources in our cybersecurity center.

Why cybersecurity risk management is important for MSPs

Being proactive is essential to running an effective cybersecurity center  as an MSP. Establishing clear ground rules on how that process flows, works, and helps MSPs stay ahead of their clients’ cybersecurity threats. 

Having a tried-and-true cybersecurity risk management system also helps MSPs scale their businesses. Much like a signature item at a fast food chain, MSPs need standardized processes to accommodate growth. How can you handle growing a business to 10 clients if you’re struggling to handle cybersecurity management for 2? Being consistent with your cybersecurity management protocols also leaves no room for mismanagement of client accounts and human error (we don’t have to tell you how damaging that can be) as you add members to your team.

Best practices for cybersecurity risk management

At ConnectWise, we’re not one to present a problem without providing a solution. By now, you’re familiar with how important managing your client’s cybersecurity risk is to the health of their organization. Below are some best practices to keep in mind when working with clients to establish risk management protocols.

Focus on prioritization

Inventory and evaluate the totality of your client’s IT estate. Consider which equipment would be most costly to replace, where the highest-value data is located, etc. From there, list all digital assets from most to least important.

If a particular asset – hardware or otherwise – costs more than its value to the organization, then it may not make much sense to give it a high priority. The only exception would be if losing that asset, or the information it contains, would significantly affect your client’s reputation.

Run routine risk assessments

Your risk assessment, as well as maturity models like C2M2, serve as a barometer of how your cybersecurity risk management practices are progressing. Running them routinely and implementing your findings are an effective way to constantly improve your risk management services for your clients. 

Make cybersecurity part of the overall risk management framework

Talk to your clients about making cybersecurity risk management part of their culture. If it’s put to the forefront of their overall risk management strategy, your clients are more likely to take the process seriously and do it effectively. This requires buy-in throughout your organization, from the top down, and an inherent belief that digital assets are just as important as other assets or aspects of the business.

Getting started with cybersecurity risk management

One of the simplest ways to get started with cybersecurity risk management is to choose the right partner, and ConnectWise is here to help you expand those services for your clients. The ConnectWise team can help you navigate our suite of MSP management and automation software to choose the tools that are best for your business model and your individual clients.


Cybersecurity risk management is a strategy MSPs use to prioritize risks to their client’s infrastructure and protect their assets accordingly. Effective management of cybersecurity threats means the most dangerous threats are handled first, and the most mission-critical information is protected.

Cybersecurity risk management is important because it sets forth a standardized process for handling current and incoming cyber threats. Implementing a cybersecurity risk management plan effectively helps MSPs be proactive in protecting their client’s networks and helps keep their overall business processes consistent to facilitate future growth and scaling.

Yes, general risk management and cybersecurity are related. Enterprises should work to ingrain the importance of solid cybersecurity and protecting digital assets into their company culture. Doing so will make their cyber threat protection efforts more effective in the long run.

A cybersecurity assessment helps MSPs and their clients get onto the same page regarding the client’s business goals and the IT infrastructure necessary to get there. Once established, MSPs can look at their client’s overall digital presence to locate any vulnerabilities or loopholes.

Risk management and cybersecurity do go hand-in-hand. With the majority of business being conducted in the cloud, today’s businesses need to place an emphasis on protecting and maintaining their companies’ digital presence. Failure to do so could result in significant damages to financial resources, as well as their reputations.