Your organisation runs on data, and in the 21st century, almost all those data is digital, one way or another. So your digital assets are the most valuable in your company and hence they are the most susceptible to data breach and other costly security threats. Simply developing a set of information security policies and procedures and educating your employees about them doesn’t guarantee the proper enforcement of them and therefore, the security of the big data. That is exactly where IT Security audit procedures come in.
What is IT security audit
An IT security audit involves an IT expert using specialist tools to examine the existing information technology infrastructure of your organisation by gathering data from the various systems that your business uses to carry out its digital day-to-day tasks. Through this, he/she aims to identify all the aspects where the current security arrangements are strong, both physical (hardware) and non-physical (software), and find out if there are any potential vulnerabilities.
The IT security auditor analyses the obtained evidence to determine if the information systems of your company are safeguarding your assets, maintaining data integrity properly, and operating effectively to achieve the organization’s goals or objectives. Auditing information security includes the physical security of data centres as well as the logical security of databases. IT security audit can be undertaken as a separate activity or as part of the risk assessment process under the risk management program.
Essentially, an IT security audit includes two major assessments of different kinds.
- As part of the manual assessment, an internal or external IT security auditor interviews your company’s employees, reviews their access controls, analyses their physical access to hardware, and performs vulnerability scans.
- The system-generated automated assessments not only incorporate that data, but also respond to software monitoring reports and changes to server and file settings.
Who will be your auditor?
You can decide to conduct the audit internally or externally. However, it is recommended to carry out the audit by an external auditor at least once annually. It costs a bit much, but it ensures a thorough review of every business unit, removing any possible biases. Given the sensitivity of the job, the auditors are chosen very carefully. Generally, computer security audits are executed by:
- Federal or State Regulators – Certified accountants, CISA. Federal OTS, OCC, DOJ, etc.
- Corporate Internal Auditors – Certificated accountants, CISA, Certified Internet Audit Professional (CIAP).
- External Auditors – Specialized in areas related to technology auditing.
- Consultants – Hiring an IT security audit company when the organisation itself lacks the specialized skill set.
How does IT security audit work
Whether you are conducting an internal or an external security audit, you as the owner need to be in the know of everything and supervise the thoroughness of the work done. So you should know the details of the procedure step by step.
Defining where the vulnerability lies:
The first task an IT security audit specialist performs is to define a list of all the assets your company has. These include computer equipment, and sensitive company and customer data, as well as things like important internal documentation which can cost the company a lot in terms of time and money if exposed.
Once the assets are listed, the security perimeter is determined which sorts through the assets into auditable and non-auditable piles, based on their value to the company and vulnerabilities.
Identifying the threats in the system:
Next, the auditor writes down a corresponding list of potential threats to those assets, which has a lot of possibilities. You should acquire as much information regarding threats and vulnerability from as many sources as possible, including any outside sources available to you, which might provide you with more valuable insights than internal ones. Below are the threats that occur most often so you can have a hint:
- Employee negligence: You need to make sure all your employees are following the compliance rules and security protocols diligently and there is no suspicious activity going on, or no personal or vulnerable passwords are being used to protect sensitive company accounts.
- Phishing Attacks: These are the most common type of cyber threat out there which try to steal your data or money from the accounts.
- Insider threat: You need to keep an eye open for any employee potentially stealing or misusing your inside information via a third-party connection.
- DDoS Attacks: A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack happens when multiple systems target one particular system, typically a web server, to overload and make it useless.
- Personal devices: If the employees are allowed their personal devices in the premises and access your company systems, your company information might be more vulnerable. So those devices need to be checked too.
- Malware: This has become the most infamous in recent years. These account for a number of different threats, like worms, Trojan horses, spyware, and includes an increasingly popular threat: ransomware.
- Physical Breach or Natural Disaster: These may not occur often, but your company data still need to be protected from events like these just in case.
Assessing security performance currently at a place:
Once you have identified the potential threats, assess the amount and quality of the resources and procedures in your corporation to fight them, along with the education of your employees about the threats and the compliances. This needs to be done with absolutely no internal bias.
Prioritising the resolution of the threats:
Now you need to weigh the potential threats to your assets against the security measures your company is following to evaluate the probability of those threats occurring to you. So do a thorough analysis based on past attack data, current cybercrime trends, industry-specific risk, data flow in your company, and compliance maintenance – leave nothing out, you can never be too safe.
Offering final resolution:
Once you have all the information, it will be much easier to set up a secure system. If the auditor finds any loopholes in your system, take his/her advice to re-evaluate your entire security system – put a monitoring system in place, ensure data backups and software updates, take necessary steps inside your organisation as harshly as required, and educate your employees accordingly.
Why is it important
In principle, the major reason behind an IT security audit is to ensure that you are using the latest cyber-defences wherever required, in order to effectively respond to the threats posed by hackers and other cybercriminals who manipulate IT systems. Small businesses become more vulnerable to cybersecurity threats when they try to save money by not investing in IT security audit companies who can assess their systems and provide effective IT security support. This essentially ends up making them spend way more in reconstructing the entire system and deal with legal and other battles post infiltration. In fact, statistics say that a company can limit its risk by nearly 50% simply by completing a security audit and making appropriate changes. Having a frequent IT security audit of your business is absolutely critical, and here is why –
Evaluating the course of data in your company:
Data is the life of your company and everyone remotely affiliated to it, so it is the most important asset of your company and requires high security. IT security auditors check the type of information your company has, how it flows in and out of your organisation, and who all can access that information. It is extremely important to review all technologies and processes related to your anti-data breach measures to prevent any loss, theft, misuse, or mishandling of the data.
Identifying the weaklings:
Your IT system is huge, consisting of several components including hardware, software, data, and procedures. Expert IT security auditors can check the configuration of hardware and software tools and past background of your company to find out the weak points in your IT security. Through this assessment, they will figure out if you need an upgraded IT security support.
The strategies of information security integration in your business:
The cybersecurity requirements for businesses vary. It is the IT security auditors that can help you understand how to choose the right security tools for your organisation. It is part of their job to inform you if you need one centralised or several separate security solutions. They also let you know about how to allocate your business resources based on the requirement of the level of security for your particular business, so you don’t underspend or overspend in the regards. Your IT security audit report typically highlights problem areas in your IT security support and solutions proposed to handle them; as well as their compliance with industry standards, security policies, and the like.
The world is digital today and it is only going to become more so. As a result, cyber threats are not going anywhere, but your fear about them sure can. By identifying and documenting vulnerabilities in time, you can eradicate them, and by being updated with the current trend, you can stay secure. Either way, unless you, yourself, are a tech expert, you will need a professional team from an authorised and experienced IT security audit company to evaluate your systems and make them secure. Don’t be shy to contact one.