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Conduct a system-level risk assessment and update the risk assessment results on an ongoing basis.
Potential Inputs: Assets to be protected; missions, business functions, and mission/business processes the system will support; business impact analyses or criticality analyses; system stakeholder information; information about other systems that interact with the system; provider information; threat information; data map; system design documentation; Cybersecurity Framework Profiles; risk management strategy; organization-level risk assessment results.
Expected Outputs: Security and privacy risk assessment reports.
Primary Responsibility: System Owner; System Security Officer; System Privacy Officer.
Supporting Roles: Senior Accountable Official for Risk Management or Risk Executive (Function); Authorizing Official or Authorizing Official Designated Representative; Mission or Business Owner; Information Owner or Steward; Control Assessor.
System Development Life Cycle Phase: New – Initiation (concept/requirements definition). Existing – Operations/Maintenance.
Discussion: This task may require that organizations conduct security and privacy risk assessments to ensure that each type of risk is fully assessed. Assessment of security risk includes identification of threat sources67 and threat events affecting assets, whether and how the assets are vulnerable to the threats, the likelihood that an asset vulnerability will be exploited by a threat, and the impact (or consequence) of loss of the assets. As a key part of the risk assessment, assets are prioritized based on the adverse impact or consequence of asset loss. The meaning of loss is defined for each asset type to enable a determination of the loss consequence (i.e., the adverse impact of the loss). Loss consequences may be tangible (e.g., monetary, industrial casualties) or intangible (e.g., reputation) and constitute a continuum that spans from partial loss to total loss relative to the asset. Interpretations of information loss may include, for example, loss of possession, destruction, or loss of precision or accuracy. The loss of a function or service may be interpreted as a loss of control, loss of accessibility, loss of the ability to deliver normal function, performance, or behavior, or a limited loss of capability resulting in a level of degradation of function, performance, or behavior. Physical consequences of compromise can include unscheduled production downtime, industrial equipment damage, casualties at the site, environmental disasters and public safety threats. Prioritization of assets is based on asset value, physical consequences, cost of replacement, criticality, impact on image or reputation, or trust by users, by collaborating organizations, or by mission or business partners. The asset priority translates to precedence in allocating resources, determining strength of mechanisms, and defining levels of assurance.

Privacy risk assessments are conducted to determine the likelihood that a given operation the system is taking when processing PII could create an adverse effect on individuals—and the potential impact on individuals.68 These adverse effects can arise from unauthorized activities that lead to the loss of confidentiality, integrity, or availability in information systems processing PII, or may arise as a byproduct of authorized activities. Privacy risk assessments are influenced by contextual factors. Contextual factors can include, but are not limited to, the sensitivity level of the PII, including specific elements or in aggregate; the types of organizations using or interacting with the system and individuals’ perceptions about the organizations with respect to privacy; individuals’ understanding about the nature and purpose of the processing; and the privacy interests of individuals, technological expertise or demographic characteristics that influence their understanding or behavior. The privacy risks to individuals may affect individuals’ decisions to engage with the system thereby impacting mission or business objectives, or create legal liability, reputational risks, or other types of risks for the organization. Impacts to the organization are not privacy risks. However, these impacts can guide and inform organizational decision- making and influence prioritization and resource allocation for risk response.

Risk assessments are also conducted to determine the potential that the use of an external provider for the development, implementation, maintenance, management, operation, or disposition of a system, system element, or service could create a loss, and the potential impact of that loss. The impact may be immediate (e.g., physical theft) or on-going (e.g., the ability of adversaries to replicate critical equipment because of theft). The impact may be endemic (e.g., limited to a single system) or systemic (e.g., including any system that uses a specific type of system component). Supply chain risk assessments consider vulnerabilities which may arise related to the disposition of a system or system element and from the use of external providers. Vulnerabilities in the supply chain may include a lack of traceability or accountability leading to the potential use of counterfeits, insertion of malware, or poor-quality systems. The use of external providers may result in a loss of visibility and control over how systems, system elements, and services are developed, deployed, and maintained. A clear understanding of the threats, vulnerabilities, and potential impacts of an adverse supply chain event can help organizations appropriately balance supply chain risk with risk tolerance. Supply chain risk assessments can include information from supplier audits, reviews, and supply chain intelligence. Organizations develop a strategy for collecting information, including a strategy for collaborating with providers on supply chain risk assessments. Such collaboration helps organizations leverage information from providers, reduce redundancy, identify potential courses of action for risk responses, and reduce the burden on providers.

Risk assessments are conducted throughout the SDLC and support various RMF steps and tasks. Risk assessment results are used to inform security and privacy requirements definition; categorization decisions; the selection, tailoring, implementation, and assessment of controls; authorization decisions; potential courses of action and prioritization for risk responses; and continuous monitoring strategy. Organizations determine the form of risk assessment conducted (including the scope, rigor, and formality of such assessments) and method of reporting results.

References: [FIPS 199]; [FIPS 200]; [SP 800-30]; [SP 800-39] (Organization Level); [SP 800-59]; [SP 800-60 v1]; [SP 800-60 v2]; [SP 800-64]; [SP 800-160 v1] (Stakeholder Needs and Requirements Definition and Risk Management Processes); [SP 800-161] (Assess); [IR 8062]; [IR 8179]; [NIST CSF] (Core [Identify Function]); [CNSSI 1253].

67 In addition, the use of threat intelligence, threat analysis, and threat modelling can help organizations develop the security capabilities necessary to reduce organizational susceptibility to a variety of threats including hostile cyber- attacks, equipment failures, natural disasters, and errors of omission and commission.

68 [IR 8062] introduces privacy risk management and a privacy risk model for conducting privacy risk assessments.