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“Over 97% of American businesses in 2023, operating in a digitally-driven landscape, heavily rely on the Internet for essential functions such as productivity, performance optimization, streamlined communication, bolstered sales, and various other facets of their daily operations. This heightened dependence on digital infrastructure, however, comes with a notable caveat: more than 87% of small businesses are entrusted with customer data that could be potentially compromised in the event of a cyberattack.”

 Alarming statistics from Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report reveal that one in every five data breach victims was from a professional services organization. Furthermore, only 47% of such organizations can detect breaches within days.

The financial consequences of data breaches have also soared. According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2021, data breach costs have risen from USD 3.86 million to USD 4.24 million. These figures underscore the urgent need for professional services organizations to prioritize cybersecurity.

When protecting your business from cybersecurity threats, the first thing you can do is perform a cybersecurity risk assessment or penetration test. A risk assessment analyzes potential risks that can threaten your data and systems, and the potential losses resulting from a breach.  Every business should have a comprehensive cybersecurity risk assessment plan to ensure they are prepared for any potential threats.  For Accountants (CPA) and Law Firms, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has implemented several safeguards rules to help businesses protect their networks, systems, and data from cyberattacks.

In this article, we’ll look at what goes into a cybersecurity risk assessment. Government agencies like the FTC’s Safeguards Rule (IRS) or Cyber insurance providers require companies to perform a cybersecurity risk assessment or penetration test (“pen test”) to identify security risks and put security measures to protect your data or consumer information.

What Is a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment or Penetration Testing?

A cybersecurity risk assessment is an analytical process to identify security risks and vulnerabilities in an IT system or network, which is the first step of the NIST Cybersecurity Framework. It involves analyzing network setup for weaknesses, assessing user access rights and privileges, evaluating the effectiveness of security controls, identifying threats from external sources such as viruses or malware attacks, and establishing response plans in case of an attack or breach. This process aims to minimize the likelihood of a successful attack on your system by minimizing vulnerabilities that hackers could exploit.

It’s analogous to a bank hiring an individual to simulate a break-in, attempting to gain access to their premises and vault. If the simulated “burglar” successfully infiltrates the bank or vault, it provides valuable insights into areas where security measures need to be strengthened.

According to FTC Safeguard Rules:

“You can’t formulate an effective information security program until you know what information you have and where it’s stored. After completing that inventory, conduct an assessment to determine foreseeable risks and threats – internal and external – to the security, confidentiality, and integrity of customer information. Among other things, your risk assessment must be written and must include criteria for evaluating those risks and threats. Think through how customer information could be disclosed without authorization, misused, altered, or destroyed. The risks to information constantly morph and mutate, so the Safeguards Rule requires you to conduct periodic reassessments in light of changes to your operations or the emergence of new threats.”

 

IT support specialist doing assessment

Is Cybersecurity Risk Assessment Safe? Can it distrupt my business in any way?

A cybersecurity risk assessment is generally a safe process for your business, and it’s designed to identify vulnerabilities and enhance your security posture. However, it’s essential to be aware of potential impacts during the assessment.

In most cases, the assessment itself should not cause major disruptions to your business operations. While the evaluation is underway, there might be instances where your computers or systems could experience temporary slowness or unavailability. This is because the assessment involves actively probing and testing various aspects of your IT infrastructure to identify potential weaknesses.

It’s crucial to communicate with your IT team or the cybersecurity assessment service provider to schedule the assessment at a time that minimally impacts critical business operations. This strategic planning ensures that any potential slowdowns or temporary unavailability align with periods of lower business activity, reducing the impact on your day-to-day operations.

Furthermore, the benefits of a cybersecurity risk assessment far outweigh the temporary inconveniences it may cause. Identifying and addressing vulnerabilities in your systems help prevent potential cyber threats that could have more severe and lasting consequences for your business. By proactively addressing these issues, you enhance the overall security and resilience of your IT infrastructure, safeguarding your business from potential cyberattacks and their disruptive effects.

 

What Happens During Cybersecurity Risk Assessment?

Here is a brief overview of the process:

  1. Interview Key Decision Makers
  2. Investigate your current security position
  3. Determine how susceptible the business is to attack
  4. Examine how likely staff or employees are to enabling or further the attack
  5. Identify physical and procedural weaknesses in the business that enable attacks
  6. Identify the most likely at-risk business assets
  7. Inspect Files & Documents for Sensitive Information
  8. Inspect your Cloud Applications
  9. Search for Passwords
  10. Dark Web Search
  11. Review Security Policies & procedures

It is important to note that this an outline and your business may or may not need all the items listed.

 

What Happens After Cybersecurity Assessment?

After completing the cybersecurity risk assessment, the security consultant will share the findings with your IT team or business owner.  This information can be used to implement a security upgrade, including patching the computer systems, upgrading the existing security tools (e.g., firewall, antivirus, anti-malware, email security, backup, encryption), providing employee security awareness training, and creating a written information security plan (WISP).

Ultimately, you want your cybersecurity risk assessment plan to comply with the FTC Safeguards Rules to protect consumers information or if you are purchasing or renewing a cyber insurance policy, you must comply with insurance provider security measures. It is recommended you work with an experienced cybersecurity professional firm that has the Ins and Outs of the industry and the resources to implement these security protocols.

IT Solutions for CPA and Accounting Firms

How Much Does Cybersecurity Risk Assessments or Penetration Testing Cost?

When contemplating the cost of cybersecurity risk assessment or penetration testing, businesses should assess the potential losses incurred by not implementing such security measures or not being able to conduct your business because you do not comply of the security requirements of their customers or supplier. These losses may encompass customer trust, financial assets, or compliance requirements like FTC Safegaurds Rules, HIPAA, PCI DSS, or Cyber insurance application, which are crucial for maintaining a secure operational environment.

While seeking to minimize expenses is understandable, opting for a low-cost penetration testing service raises questions about meeting excellence standards. Cutting corners might result in critical errors or future expenses surpassing the initial investment. Consumers need to balance cost savings with the assurance that the chosen service aligns with their security needs.

It’s crucial to note that a high price tag doesn’t automatically translate to the best service. Businesses should delve into the specifics of the service, considering factors such as scope of work, warranties, and the provider’s track record. Asking questions about the company’s experience in performing these services is essential. Time in the industry can impact efficiency, potentially affecting the cost-effectiveness of the service.

In essence, business should focus on the value proposition of penetration testing services, considering both the immediate and long-term benefits in safeguarding their systems against cyber threats.

On average, a one-time cyber security assessment or “pen test” cost ranges from $2,750 to $30,000.

Factors that influence scope of work and price include:

  • Size: how many users and devices; smaller organization fewer users is going cost less compare to medium-sized or larger businesses.
  • Complexity: the  type of business (law firms, accounting, manufacturing or wealth mangement), number of applications, number of workstations and servers that has be to tested will add more to the test cost.
  • Sites:  the number of sites or locations that needs to be tested, and if the test can conductly remotely or onsite is needed.
  • Report: one of the most important factor is whether or not you receive a comprehensive report detailing security gaps and recommendations for protection or a remediation plan.

 

How Often Should You Conduct Cybersecurity Risk Assessments?

In the dynamic landscape of network security, a proactive approach is key to safeguarding your business. It’s not a one-time event but an ongoing commitment to keep your systems resilient against evolving threats. With the rise of a mobile workforce and the omnipresence of phishing attempts, educating your employees and continuous monitoring are vital to prevent data breaches.

At eSudo, we advocate for an annual cybersecurity risk assessment. Why? Because your business evolves – new applications, employees, systems, and vendors may come into play. Regular assessments help identify and address any emerging security gaps, ensuring your business stays one step ahead of potential threats.

What’s in it for you? Peace of mind, enhanced reputation, and a robust defense against cyber threats. Our comprehensive services include managed cybersecurity, proactive IT solutions, and employee security awareness training.

Ready to fortify your business against cyber risks? Book a free strategy call with us now. Let’s empower your business to thrive securely in today’s digital landscape!

Frequently Asked Questions

eSudo is a local managed IT & Cybersecurity services (MSP/MSSP) company that helps businesses make technology seamlessly work over the last 22+ years in Silicon Valley. What sets eSudo apart is we focus on security first, and IT support happens to be part of the security services.

Our team of experienced and certified computer engineers understands that no two businesses are alike, that’s why we partner with our clients to develop efficient and cost effective computer networks, cloud solutions, network security, and phone solutions that help you run your business.

As a local Microsoft Partner and Cloud Technology Specialist, eSudo has the knowledge, skills, and commitment to help you implement modern technology solutions that match your exact business needs.

Our goal is to Keep your IT Systems running and data Secure (KISS) so you can focus on running your business safely!

We specialize in working with professional service organizations like law firms, accounting firms (CPAs), and wealth management. However, eSudo have helped other business such as non-profit organizations, manufacturing and other small businesses after we have reviewed their needs and determined if they are good fit for our services.

eSudo is not a traditional IT support company; we focus on security first, and IT support happens to be part of the security services.  In the dynamic landscape of network security, a proactive approach is key to safeguarding your business. It’s not a one-time event but an ongoing commitment to keep your systems resilient against evolving threats. With the rise of a mobile workforce and the omnipresence of phishing attempts or social engineering or AI, educating your employees, continuous monitoring and proactive support are vital to prevent data breaches.

If your business is looking for break-fix support or hourly IT services, we may not be for you because we cannot fully manage your risks and more importantly, it creates a trust issue in our relationship. Under a “break-fix” model, there is a fundamental conflict of interest between your business and eSudo.

“Over 97% of American businesses in 2023, operating in a digitally-driven landscape, heavily rely on the Internet for essential functions such as productivity, performance optimization, streamlined communication, bolstered sales, and various other facets of their daily operations. This heightened dependence on digital infrastructure, however, comes with a notable caveat: more than 87% of small businesses are entrusted with customer data that could be potentially compromised in the event of a cyberattack.”

We keep your IT Systems  running and data secure with our proven  IT Strategy, Managed Security, and Proactive Support & End User Management.  Our Strategy focuses on identifying, prioritizing, and recommending the right technology for your organization.  Our Managed Security includes data backup, device encryption, zero-trust access management, and policies & procedures. Our Support includes a live phone help desk, 24/7 monitoring, on-site support as needed, employee onboarding, and asset procurement. 

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  • Proven track record: We have been building our loyal customer base since 2001 in an industry where IT consulting firms come and go. Our customers, vendors, and employees stay with us because we build and value long term relationships with them. With operations all over the San Francisco Bay Area, eSudo provides reliable IT support to Northern CA-based businesses and beyond. We’re big enough to offer the facilities, services, and expertise you expect and small enough to provide the support and attention you deserve. 

  • People & Process:  Over the last 22+ years, we have created and adopted a proven process to ensure success in our operations and have trained our people to follow our proven process to provide consistent results for our customers.

  • Quality: We do not sell what we have not used or have tested. We recommend industrial and commercial-grade products for small businesses to provide uptime and reliability for our customers.

  • Responsiveness: A live person will answer your call, and emergency response time is one hour or less guaranteed. We use the most current remote support technology which lets us log in to your computers remotely to address many issues without the need to wait for a technician to come on-site.

CLIENT REVIEWS:

Sue Lompico
Sue Lompico
2023-07-11
eSudo has always been responsive and on time. They are knowledgeable
Ma. Guadalupe Garduno
Ma. Guadalupe Garduno
2023-06-22
Excellent customer service, very diligent
M.R. SCHURR
M.R. SCHURR
2023-01-30
I don't always write a review, but when I do.... it's a good one. Good partners in developing and supporting long-term performance, in-office and remote needs, cybersecurity safety and virtual workspace to take any office to the next level.
Matusich Raich Property MGMT
Matusich Raich Property MGMT
2023-01-27
eSudo is always friendly, helpful, and quick to respond! They are always there when I need them!
Anirudh Muralidhar
Anirudh Muralidhar
2023-01-11
Smooth interaction and support round the clock
Stacy Levy
Stacy Levy
2022-12-01
Matthew was so helpful and patient: he untangled a multi- layered knots made by years of jury-rigged email systems. And he did it all with deep knowledge and good humor
Gwen Vasquez
Gwen Vasquez
2022-11-23
Great customer service, fast response, always willing to help! Loved it!
Robert Liu
Robert Liu
2022-08-26
There are hundreds of companies in Silicon Valley that offer computer support; it's a commodity service that every IT provider does for small business. What sets Matthew and his team at eSudo apart is they focus on security first, and IT support happens to be part of the security services. He helps small businesses like ours to keep systems up and running, ensure the data is available and the information accessible only by authorized individuals. If you are a small business owner or IT manager concerned with the security of your organization or need reliable, IT support, consider giving Matthew a call or message him.
Robbie Starks
Robbie Starks
2021-11-29
Matthew and his team are fantastic. They are responsive, ask good questions, and make a strong effort to keep in touch when helping with IT issues. Would definitely recommend them to anyone shopping around for their business.
360Medical Supply
360Medical Supply
2021-10-22
Very professional team. Will use again. Thanks.