IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.
Sponsor Content
What does this mean?

Reporting on Risk in the Public Sector


Experts offer insights and guidance for reporting risks in today’s highly distributed world.

Managing risk is one of the top responsibilities of any elected official in the public sector. But they can only manage the risks they know about. And with silos that often plague public-sector agencies of all types, from the federal government to K-12 school districts, there can be many unknowns. Ensuring service continuity, as it turns out, starts with reporting on your agency’s level of risk. If you’re new to performing risk assessments, we recommend that you read our e-book on measuring risk to learn about interviewing subject matter experts and building risk probability calculations that go into risk reports.


Risk means a lot of things to a lot of different people. If you talk to IT people about risk, you’ll probably hear about the risk of server outages or data breaches or software vulnerabilities that could lead to data breaches. You might also hear about unauthorized devices, bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies, and how difficult it is to monitor what employees are doing with the organization’s data on their home networks if they’re working remotely.

All those things — from server outages to remote employees — represent risks of one kind or another. But if you’re in charge of reporting risk to your organization’s leaders, do you really want to give them a list of unpatched assets or an estimate of how many employees or students are using BYOD devices?

What risks does your organization ultimately care about?

To answer that question, let’s ask about risk itself. Fortunately, there’s a generally agreed-upon definition of risk, at least among IT professionals. ISO 31000, the International Organization for Standardization's guidelines for risk management, defines risk as “the effect of uncertainty on objectives.”

“Uncertainty” seems straightforward enough. If something is certain, there’s no risk involved. If we know absolutely that our power systems have functional backups, there is no risk of power loss.

But what about “objectives?” Every employee, team, department and organization has objectives. When reporting risk to department heads and elected officials, you need to ask yourself which objectives they care about. It’s not that they’re indifferent to the goals of individual teams and projects. But leadership’s job is to focus on the big picture.

Here are three objectives you can be sure your organization’s leaders care about:

•Data confidentiality, integrity and availability

•Delivering services to constituents or students

•Regulatory compliance

There may be other objectives, such as protecting your reputation and the public’s trust. But you can be sure that your agency leaders care about protecting important student, employee and constituent data, avoiding IT outages that bring constituent services to a halt, and ensuring that the organization never makes headlines about embarrassing ransomware.

Each of these objectives will likely require detailed reporting to support the overall risk assessment. For example, the data leadership cares about can include everything from constituent and employee data to student or medical records. All of these data types need to be managed and secured.

Different types of data may be facing different risks of varying severity. Agency leaders will need to know how much this objective is at risk overall, as well as what specific types of data might require new investments in security or personnel training.

Before you prepare a report about risk in your organization, make sure you understand your agency’s objectives. Some of those objectives might be posted on your organization’s website. But others might be listed in an internal, long-term strategic plan. One way or another, though, you need to know what those objectives are, because you’re going to use them to frame your discussion of risk.


Now that you’ve generated a report, share your findings with these stakeholders. Get their thoughts on the ways risks have been measured and reported. And after leadership has had a chance to review the report, share any news about areas of opportunity for improvement and so on with the report’s contributors.

People want to know that they’ve been listened to and understood. By sharing the results of the report, you close the loop with people you talked to early in your risk management process, and you make it more likely that they’ll contribute to risk assessments in the future.


In many organizations, reporting on risk is an annual or quarterly activity – if you’re lucky. But risks are shifting all the time. Regulations change. New malware variants are created. And new digital transformations can shift priorities, eliminate some risks and create others.

Put IT systems and workflow processes in place to help automate and accelerate data collection for risk reporting. That gives you a much more timely and accurate report of risks at any given moment. It also makes it easier to quickly assess and respond to risks.

One important requirement for automating risk analysis is being sure you can collect real-time data from endpoints – desktops, laptops, tablets, smartphones and servers your employees depend on. By gaining real-time access to what’s happening on endpoints, you’ll gain insights into employee productivity, threat status, IT resource utilization and more.


With cyber threats increasing and the pace of attack on the public sector moving faster than ever before, it’s vital for agency leaders and elected officials to understand and mitigate risks that could jeopardize their major initiatives. That understanding begins with effective risk reporting.

In this e-book, we’ve discussed what makes risk reporting successful. We’ve stressed the importance of understanding risk as uncertainty about objectives and aligning risk measurements with the objectives your organization cares most about.

We also talked about how focusing on these objectives can help your security team identify how cyber criminals might target your IT infrastructure.

Ideally, risk reporting should be an ongoing practice. Risks are continually changing, whether they’re arising from new initiatives or new types of cyber threats. Automating data collection and risk assessment helps provide your organization’s leadership team with the vital information they need for making the right decisions to mitigate risk and protect sensitive data, and ensure constituent services are offered at all times.

Endpoint devices play an important role in risk assessment and reporting. To learn how the Tanium platform helps organizations manage, monitor and secure their endpoints, visit or request a demo today.


1. Meet with your organization’s leaders to understand their long-term objectives.

2. Assign these objectives a score to understand the relative importance of each.

3. Identify the people, processes and technologies that support each objective.

4. Explore the uncertainties about each supporting factor in an objective’s supply chain.

Whenever possible, rely on automation to collect data, such as data about the operating status of endpoints.

Meet with stakeholders in various departments to understand their concerns about risks and to collaborate on recommendations for reducing those risks.

5. Assign each uncertainty a score in terms of importance and a percentage in terms of likelihood. Multiply scores by the likelihood to derive a risk score for a particular person or team, process or technology in an objective’s supply chain.

6. Tally the results of your measurements and organize them in a way that relates each risk to one of the main objectives.

7. Meet again with your department head for a data-driven discussion about risk. Help them understand existing risks and the decisions that can be made to reduce them.

8. Now that you have a risk measurement framework in place, continue updating it, using automation whenever possible so that risks can be assessed in detail at any time.

9. Use your risk reporting to guide your security planning. Now that you know where risks lie in the areas of data security and service continuity, take appropriate action to reduce those risks.

Visit us at