5 Types of Information Security Assessments

Published On: April 15, 2024Categories: Cybersecurity, Tips & Best Practices, Blog

It is important to understand that there are five types of information security assessments a business or organization may undertake. Not surprisingly, there is still confusion about the different types of information security assessments an organization may undertake. When choosing the most appropriate assessment, identify the business objectives and the required outcome first before engaging in an information security assessment. There are five types of information security assessments that business leaders should understand. Each type of information security assessment has unique objectives, outcomes, goals, and benefits. The table below highlights these differences:

Table 1: Types of information Security Assessments Explained

Assessment TypeObjectivesGoalsBenefits
Security Controls AuditQuantify controls with validation to documented (legal or contractual) reporting requirements.Seek evidence that an organization implements and adheres to its internal policies and controls and meets current regulatory requirements.Provide assurances by aligning business practices with internal policies and control requirements.
Compliance AssessmentComply with prevailing legal and regulatory obligations.Measures how well aligned a business is performing to a regulatory set of controls required for the business to operate according to industry, government and/or contractual requirements.Reduce regulatory exposure by aligning business practices with static compliance requirements.
Threat AssessmentDesigned to address threat actors that may cause a negative outcome to business operations.
Identify internal and/or external threats that can cause a loss of revenue, Intellectual property, fines, or individual harm.Understanding threats and their likelihood enhances the identified risks documented by the business and helps to prioritize specific corrective actions.
Information Security Risk AssessmentMeasure risk exposure across a set of business-critical assets. This enables business to reduce unacceptable levels of risk.Identify and prioritize risks based on an analysis of threats, vulnerabilities and underperforming controls factored against the likelihood that a threat actor will exploit a given vulnerability. Typically paired with a maturity assessment to align with control effectiveness.Enable organizations to predict and prepare security defenses for potential future loss events.
Security Maturity AssessmentMeasure control effectiveness on a gradient scale to ultimately drive effectiveness and improvement priorities.Measuring capability of controls to manage an information security program effectively and efficiently. Maturity is typically scored using a five-point sliding scale. Assists in prioritizing remediation investments.Enable organizations to measure control effectiveness on a gradient scale to drive improvement with security-related controls that aligns with and reduces risk exposure.
information security assessments

Sub Categories of Assessments

Within each of the assessment types above, there are sub-types of assessments. For example, the information risk assessment can include technical evaluations such as IT network security assessments, vulnerability assessments, authenticated penetration testing, and so on. All these types of assessments are specifically targeted, and assist inform the major assessment types in the list above.

For example, a business may choose to conduct an annual application security or network security penetration test. These results typically inform a broader activity such as an Information Security Risk Assessment that will also include evaluating internal controls and exposure from internal or external threat actors.

About Information Security Maturity Measurement

Conversely, information security maturity assessments can oftentimes, and particularly when using a maturity automation platform, inform control maturity with quantifiable data from continuous vulnerability assessments, cloud security posture management platforms, or configuration compliance tools. Integrating continuous control monitoring tools with an information security maturity platform enables continuous and real-time cybersecurity posture management with up-to-date visibility on control performance. The visibility gained with such integrations allows information security teams to prioritize control improvement activities in near-real time and map the findings to their business-level risks.

Of these five information security assessment approaches, only the security maturity assessment approach explicitly aims to elevate the language of information security by recognizing that organizational culture (enabled by people, process, and technology) plays a significant role in the lasting success of an information security program. An information security maturity assessment allows security teams to identify, quantify, and recommend strategies to improve control performance while focusing on risk reduction through control improvement in a manner that should align with business objectives. Unlike other assessment types that can measure cybersecurity in a silo, the information security maturity assessment emphasizes information security as a critical business function that exists to help companies mitigate risk, improve control deficiency with sound prioritization to ultimately grow revenue, and minimize expenses due to loss or fines.

Compliment to Other Assessment Types

Now, before the risk and compliance purists pick up your pitchforks, let’s be clear: we are not suggesting that maturity assessments replace commonly employed information security assessments. We believe that the results of maturity assessments complement and inform audits, compliance, and risk assessments…and vice versa. At the end of the day, the assessment approach you use depends on the stakeholders who will consume the results and recommendations produced from the assessments. Reiterating that if you anticipate the audience will be senior executives and the board, using the language of control maturity aligned with risk improves your cybersecurity story and elevates your message with non-technical audiences.

Identify the Outcome and Objective

Before undertaking an information security assessment, be sure to identify the goals and the type of information you are required to supply. For example, if you need to prepare for a SOC2 audit with a CPA firm, consider taking a SOC2 control assessment focusing on how well the controls are performing. Doing a readiness assessment before the auditors show up eliminates surprises and provides the team with a plan for areas to improve. This will maximize the investment of time with auditors when the SOC2 certification review is underway. To accomplish this, and have an improvement plan, use a maturity assessment format for your SOC2 controls. The benefit of using a maturity assessment in a readiness exercise is this provides a clear focus on where to improve and how well the control is performing. In addition, through a maturity assessment, additional details will be captured that inform areas of strength and weakness. Unlike a compliance readiness assessment that will provide only a binary response of meeting, not meeting, or not applicable.

About TrustMAPP

TrustMAPP provides control maturity assessments, compliance reporting, risk registers, continuous improvement, and integrations with continuous control monitoring tools. TrustMAPP approach provides information security teams with a clear understanding of security posture – and investment estimates with its Improve-AI engine. The security posture is based on control maturity levels, providing trending analysis, planning (resources hours), and budgeting (capital costs), with built-in support for over thirty industry frameworks and regulations. With TrustMAPP, scoring, aligning maturity to risk registers, quantifying investment, and remediation, while quickly reporting to executive leadership on the overall information security program in minutes instead of weeks. TrustMAPP enables information security leaders to present and communicate cybersecurity effectiveness, impact business objectives, and align with strategic roadmaps.

By leveraging the best-practice MAPP model (Maturity Assessment, Profile, and Plan) using an automated tool like TrustMAPP, security leaders can now focus more time and interactions on security strategy and advisor roles for the business.