Information Technology Risk (IT Risk)

Definition of IT Risk (Information Technology Risk)

Information Technology Risk, IT risk, IT-Related Risk, Technology Risk or Cyber Risk is any risk related to Information Technology (IT). While information has long been appreciated as a valuable and important asset, the rise of the knowledge economy and the Digital Revolution has led to organizations becoming increasingly dependent on information, information processing, and especially IT. Various events or incidents that compromise IT in some way can therefore cause adverse impacts on the organization's business processes or mission, ranging from inconsequential to catastrophic in scale. Assessing the probability or likelihood of various types of event/incident with their predicted impacts or consequences, should they occur, is a common way to assess and measure IT risks. Alternative methods of measuring IT risk typically involve assessing other contributory factors such as the threats, vulnerabilities, exposures, and asset values.[1]

What Causes Technology Risk?[2]

A Taxonomy of Cyber Security/Operational Risks has identified four primary causes:

  • Actions of People – activities that people either perform or fail to perform that cause harm. These people can be insiders or outsiders; their actions can be inadvertent or deliberate, or the result of no action at all.
  • Systems and Technology Failures – reflects the abnormal or unexpected functioning of technology. This can include hardware, software or integrated systems.
  • Failed Internal Processes – the failure of internal processes to perform as needed or expected. This comes from poor process design or execution, or faulty process controls.
  • External Events – events that are generally (but not always) outside the organization’s control; these include disasters, infrastructure failure, legal issues, business issues, and service dependencies.

Types of IT Threats[3]

  • General IT Threats: General threats to IT systems and data include:
    • Hardware and Software Failure - such as power loss or data corruption
    • Malware - malicious software designed to disrupt computer operation
    • Viruses - computer code that can copy itself and spread from one computer to another, often disrupting computer operations
    • Spam, Scams and Phishing - unsolicited email that seeks to fool people into revealing personal details or buying fraudulent goods
    • Human Error - incorrect data processing, careless data disposal, or accidental opening of infected email attachments.
  • Criminal IT threats: Specific or targeted criminal threats to IT systems and data include:
    • Hackers - people who illegally break into computer systems
    • Fraud - using a computer to alter data for illegal benefit
    • Passwords Theft - often a target for malicious hackers
    • Denial-of-Service - online attacks that prevent website access for authorised users
    • Security Breaches - includes physical break-ins as well as online intrusion
    • Staff Dishonesty - theft of data or sensitive information, such as customer details.
  • Natural disasters and IT systems
    • Natural disasters such as fire, cyclone and floods also present risks to IT systems, data and infrastructure.
    • Damage to buildings and computer hardware can result in loss or corruption of customer records/transactions.

Categories of IT Risks[4]

IT risk spans a range of business-critical areas, such as:

  • Security - eg compromised business data due to unauthorised access or use
  • Availability - eg inability to access your IT systems needed for business operations
  • Performance - eg reduced productivity due to slow or delayed access to IT systems
  • Compliance - eg failure to follow laws and regulations (eg data protection)

IT risks vary in range and nature. It's important to be aware of all the different types of IT risk potentially affecting your business.

See Also


  1. Definition - What is Information Technology Risk (IT Risk)? Wikipedia
  2. What Causes Technology Risk? Marc H. Pfeiffer, MPA
  3. What are the Different Types of Threats that Information Technology Faces? QLD.Gov
  4. What are the Different Categories of IT Risks NI Business Info