Cybersecurity Risk Management for Startups

Cybersecurity Risk Management for Startups

Cybersecurity risk management is the process of identifying an organisation’s digital assets. Not only does the process provide an overview of existing security measures but also delivers solutions to mitigate risks that could threaten a business. Cybersecurity risk management is especially important for startups because it assesses the organisation’s cybersecurity risk profile early on to ensure assets are protected from the outset. 

Read on to find out how to implement an effective cybersecurity risk management framework that will keep your startup safe and secure.  

Why Cybersecurity Risk Management Matters for Startups? 

Cybersecurity risk management matters for startups because it provides an early stage assessment of an organisation’s cybersecurity risk profile. This risk profile can be used to inform decisions that cybersecurity teams make to address vulnerabilities and reduce the level of risk. It can also help to provide added peace of mind to investors who will do their due diligence before pumping funds into any new business.  

Simply put, cybersecurity risk management provides an umbrella under which different kinds of security risk mitigations stand. Implementing a strategy to identify, asses, mitigate, and remediate risk and vulnerability is key to every cybersecurity entity operating within any business in any sector. It’s not only crucial to have a clear understanding of the risks that currently reside within your organisation but also for those that might arise in the future.  

What are the biggest cyber threats facing startups?        

There are four main threats startups face. Bear the following in mind in the early stages to avoid attack: Human error or employee mismanagement, distributed-denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks, data loss due to infrequent data backups, and social engineering

Understanding Cybersecurity Risk Management Frameworks 

Cybersecurity risk management prioritises threats strategically. Organisations utilise cybersecurity risk management frameworks to ensure that the most critical threats are handled as quickly as possible. Startups often overlook this step when setting up their networks and systems which could lead to significant losses later down the line. Investor confidence is key when starting from the ground up, and ensuring you have robust cybersecurity measures goes a long way toward proving that you’re serious about your business and its goals. 

For example, the NIST Risk Management Framework provides a process that integrates security, privacy, and cyber supply chain risk management activities into the system development life cycle. The risk-based approach to control selection and specification considers effectiveness, efficiency, and constraints due to applicable laws, directives, policies, standards, or regulations. Managing organisational risk is paramount to effective information security and privacy programs; the risk management framework approach can be applied to new and legacy systems, any type of system or technology (e.g., IoT, control systems), and within any type of organisation regardless of size or sector. 

How can startups assess their cybersecurity risk?      

Startups can utilise a cybersecurity risk assessment to remain secure online. By evaluating the organisation’s current risk environment, a cybersecurity plan can be devised to align with the goals of your business. 

How to Perform a Cyber Security Risk Assessment for Startups? 

Conducting a cybersecurity risk assessment for startups is key to building a secure business from its inception. NIST recommends following the following seven-step process when establishing a new or evaluating an existing cybersecurity program to determine the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses. Let’s take a closer look at the seven steps: 

  1. Prioritise and scope 

To start with, the organisation must identify its overall business objectives and high-level organisational priorities. 

  1. Orient 

The organisation must identify related assets and systems, regulatory requirements, and an overall risk approach that identifies vulnerabilities and threats to assets and systems. 

  1. Create a current profile 

The organisation then develops a “current profile” by indicating which subcategory and category outcomes from the framework are being achieved. 

  1. Conduct a risk assessment 

The next step is for the organisation to analyse the operational environment to determine the likelihood of a cybersecurity event and the impact that event could have on the organisation. 

  1. Create a target profile 

A “target profile” is created next which focuses on the assessment of the framework subcategories and categories outlining the organisation’s cybersecurity goals. 

  1. Determine, analyse, and prioritise gaps 

The organisation then compares the “target profile” and “current profile” to determine gaps. A prioritised action plan is then devised to address gaps that draw upon mission drivers, a cost/benefit analysis, and understanding of risk to achieve the outcomes in the “target profile”. 

  1. Implement action plan 

The action plan is put into place to allow the organisation to determine which actions to take in regard to the gaps identified in the previous step. 

Essential Elements of a Cybersecurity Risk Management Plan 

A cybersecurity risk management plan includes four main quadrants that deliver a detailed and continuous digital risk protection (DRP). DRP uses multiple reconnaissance methods to locate, track, and analyse threats in real time. By using both indicators of attack (IOA) and indicators of compromise (IOC) intelligence, a DRP solution analyses risks and can warn of attacks. Let’s take a closer look at the four quadrants: 


Locate and map all digital assets to outline the entire attack surface. The map can be used as a foundation to monitor cyber activity. 


Search the internet and dark web for threat references to your organisation’s digital assets. Once threats have been found, translate them to actionable intelligence. 


Automate actions to remove and block identified threats to digital assets. This includes integration with other security initiatives to mitigate threats.  


The final step is to manage the processes used in the previous three stages – map, manage and mitigate. Prioritising vulnerabilities and enriching IOCs in this “manage” step is key to successful digital risk protection. 

Best Practices for Cybersecurity Risk Management 

The best cybersecurity risk management programs allow businesses to prioritise risks and apply the right kinds of security controls to minimise the impact of those risks. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at the best practices for cybersecurity risk management: 

How to Build a Cybersecurity Culture in Your Startup? 

Cybersecurity risk management programs should be properly implemented across the entire organisation. It is important to document your plans, strategies, and procedures and communicate them to stakeholders companywide. Ensure that cybersecurity risk management is embedded into the organisation’s values and culture. Stakeholders must understand and be made aware of their role in managing cyber risks within the company. 

What are some resources available for startups to improve their cybersecurity risk management? 

Startups can start with identifying cyber risk management KPIs to measure their current cyber health.

Cybersecurity Risk Management for Remote Startups 

Cybersecurity risk management for remote startups is especially important because the work comes with the added responsibility of taking the appropriate actions to protect your organisation’s data while working remotely. The following tips should always be kept in mind when considering cybersecurity measures for a remote workforce: 

  • Ensure your organisation’s telework policies are clearly defined. 
  • Only use devices approved by the organisation.  
  • Utilise a VPN when connecting from a remote location.  
  • Adopt a “think before you click” approach and educate staff on the dangers of phishing and malware.  
  • Protect company devices so that they can never fall into the wrong hands. 
  • Connect only to trusted home or external Wi-Fi networks. 
  • Ensure the router is up to date with the latest protection methods and it includes a complex passcode. 
  • Create sophisticated passwords to ensure that they are impossible to break.  
  • Refrain from sharing passwords or sensitive information online.  
  • Use multifactor authentication.  
  • Encrypt emails and messages. 
  • Make use of firewalls and anti-virus software. 
  • Keep your devices updated with all the latest software updates and security measures. 
  • Don’t try and fix things yourself. Always report any cybersecurity issues or fears to the IT team so that they can snap into action as quickly as possible.  

Cybersecurity Insurance for Startups 

Cybersecurity insurance covers loss of information or damage caused to networks and systems within your business. There are many different types of policies, but the main ones cover malicious cyberattacks and data breaches.  

Cybersecurity insurance can be broken down into two main categories: First-party insurance which covers your business assets and third-party insurance which covers the assets of others, typically customers. It’s important to ensure that as a startup, your organisation is protecting itself and its customers if anything were to go wrong.  

Following an attack, cybersecurity insurance provides key financial support to help businesses stay afloat. With millions being lost each year at the hands of hackers and reputations damaged due to an attack, cybersecurity insurance has become a godsend to organisations right around the world.  

The Future of Cyber Security and Risk Management for Startups 

Cybersecurity and risk management assessments are key for any kind of business in today’s digital age, but they are especially important for startups. Not only are startups more prone to cyberattacks and data breaches due to a shortage of experienced IT professionals, but they also tend to have limited security awareness and smaller budget allocation. Startups may not have the same level of threat as larger businesses, but they are still entrusted with sensitive employee and customer data which is exactly what cybercriminals are interested in.  

How RiskXchange Can Help You 

Startups and small businesses are able to withstand cybersecurity threats in the early stages by positioning cybersecurity and risk management as a core function of the business. With that in mind, RiskXchange is one of only a few security firms that provide effective cybersecurity risk management solutions.  

RiskXchange’s integrated cybersecurity risk platform helps you discover, continuously monitor, and reduce the risk across your enterprise and supply chain. RiskXchange is the only platform that provides a complete 360-degree view of your attack surface, including that of your vendors. It will continuously monitor your attack surface, highlight any risk, and enable you to fix any issues before the attacker discovers them.