Cyber-attacks over the years have proved to be a threat to most organizations, individuals, and industries. Information sharing over the internet or remotely might not be saved as we perceive it.
According to CheckPoint Research, there has been a global escalation in cyberattacks in 2022 as compared to the previous year. Looking at the report, one becomes aware that not a single internet user is safe unless appropriate cyber-security standards are implemented.
You might have security controls and cybersecurity policies in place, but how often do you review or update them? Have you considered cybersecurity auditing?
This article will take you through the cyber security auditing process, its importance, and the best practices that might be helpful for your company.
Table of contents
- What is a Cybersecurity Audit?
- What Is the Main Purpose of a Network Security Audit?
- The Scope of a Cybersecurity Audit
- Internal vs External Cybersecurity Audit
- What Are the Benefits of a Cybersecurity Audit?
- How Often Should Organizations Audit Their Cybersecurity?
- How Will a Cybersecurity Audit Be Helpful for Your Business?
- Best Practices for a Cybersecurity Audit
What is a Cybersecurity Audit?
With the rising number of cases of cyber-attacks, businesses need to urgently include cybersecurity processes in their audit plan. A cybersecurity audit is an inspection or assessment of your company’s IT infrastructure. It is carried out to evaluate whether your cybersecurity practices and policies adhere to compliance requirements.
The review and analysis of your systems help to detect threats and vulnerabilities including weak links, malicious actors, and high-risk practices. This requires a comprehensive audit and thorough vulnerability scans with the help of experienced professionals.
Cybersecurity auditing also exposes weaknesses that allow the threat actor to have unauthorized access to sensitive information, data, or business processes that can lead to your workforce negligently or unintentionally breaching security protocols.
Cybersecurity auditing should not be mistaken for cybersecurity assessment. Although they might sound similar, they have a notable difference. However, your business’ security position highly relies on them both.
The difference is, while your cybersecurity audit teams focus on the implemented security controls, they hardly test the efficiency of those policies. The mere existence of security measures does not signify successful cyber risk management. A cybersecurity assessment offers a better chance for your auditing team during the auditing process to examine the actual efficiency of the security program.
Additionally, your security team will be informed of where to rectify issues to reduce cybersecurity risk continuously. While implementing a cybersecurity audit, it is worth conducting a cyber assessment that will aid to uncover cybersecurity threats and improve available security gaps that the potential threats might exploit.
What Is the Main Purpose of a Network Security Audit?
While evaluating the resilience of your organization’s infrastructure, a cybersecurity audit also focuses on data and informational security. The reasons why your cyber security specialists should do a security audit are as follows:
To identify gaps in security and weaknesses in the security architecture
To verify that your organization conforms to external and internal regulatory requirements
To determine if your security personnel have adequate and relevant training
To protect critical information while providing a cybersecurity framework to generate new security policies
Comprehensive analysis and continuous monitoring help to ensure your employees are devoted to security practices thus enabling them to stop new security weaknesses
Also Read: AI and Cybersecurity
The Scope of a Cybersecurity Audit
A cybersecurity audit’s scope differs depending on the needs and the size of your business. It offers a thorough 360-degree assessment and evaluation of your company’s security issues. As a result, your cybersecurity audit team can detect cyber risks around the security perimeter that affect the following areas in your organization:
Data security – Includes critical evaluation of transmissions, use of encryption, data security, and review of network access policy
Involves evaluation of controls, procedures, and review of policies
Consists of reviewing security monitoring capabilities, network access control, and anti-virus layouts
Includes a review of biometric information, disk encoding, multi-factor authentication, and role-based access controls. It also includes physical devices and premises of your organization that contain classified information.
The review handles patching activities, hardening processes, and privileged account management.
Apart from these areas, the cybersecurity scope extends to the management of third-party, technical policies, risk management, governance of risk, legal requirements, incident management, and business continuity.
There are different aspects of cybersecurity, and the cybersecurity role is not just limited to one area. Let’s differentiate the internal vs external cybersecurity assessment process below.
Internal vs External Cybersecurity Audit
Security audits take place in two ways – externally and internally. When performing a security audit, three steps are involved.
This phase involves objectives and goals identification of the auditing procedure. It also defines the methodology and the auditing scope.
An actual audit is conducted through an independent review of internal documentation, site visits, or interviews.
This involves writing a complete cyber-security audit report that sums up all findings and recommended changes to be implemented.
For internal audits, an organization will use its in-house audit department and resources. This is necessary when your business might be seeking to validate its systems for procedure and policy compliance. Internal auditors are preferred by most businesses due to their cost-effectiveness, consistency, speed, and efficiency. Information collection and sorting processes are comprehensible since there is no involvement of a third party.
External audits, on the other hand, can be carried out if your organization needs to confirm its compliance with government rules or industry standards. In this case, a team of skilled professionals equipped with suitable tools and software for an extensive audit comes in.
Although external audits might be expensive, they offer an important value. External auditors have a commendable understanding of security procedures and technical skills – they are trained to implement intensive vulnerability assessments of your company’s risk management. As a business leader, if you decide to undertake an external cybersecurity audit, you have a few responsibilities.
Find the appropriate auditing company to outsource the task to
Make sure it’s within your company’s budget.
Provide accurate and relevant information to the auditors.
Deploy the recommended changes once they have completed the audit.
What Are the Benefits of a Cybersecurity Audit?
Your business will benefit from cybersecurity auditing in various ways. For instance, security experts, or security analyst, and the cybersecurity team can assess existing security measures in regards to cybersecurity and physical controls like IDS (intrusion detection services) and firewalls to verify if they are functioning well and conform to the relevant compliance standards. With administrative privileges, they also perform risk analysis even during the initial assessment and make sure that security on enterprise networks is intact.
Also, a cybersecurity audit offers your company a better security posture, therefore, your business partners and sensitive customers can attain a level of assurance, especially for a sensitive company that requires to have a thorough dynamic threat management for their vulnerable site.
By using the appropriate tools – such as BitSight and Rapid7 Nexpose, you can have automated and continuous security auditing with an upper hand on emerging cyber threats. Instant alerts are sent to your cybersecurity system for quick action against the software vulnerability.
Other benefits that your business can gain by undertaking a security audit are:
- Identify security gaps.
- Outline network vulnerabilities and other business risks.
- Streamline its compliance posture.
- Improve the reputational value.
- Enhance security posture.
- Gain an edge over malicious actors.
- Assure vendors, customers, and the workforce.
- Increase its security and technology performance.
How Often Should Organizations Audit Their Cybersecurity?
Performing auditing for your firm will depend on your security and compliance frameworks. There are compliance laws that require companies to perform cybersecurity audits once or twice a year. Failure to comply with such compliance policies attracts penalties and fines. Monthly audits can also be performed while some compliance regulations do not require any audit – it depends on the industry your business is in, the type of information it works with, and legal policies it should adhere to.
Small businesses will most likely be unable to carry out regular audits due to the cost burden. Large companies, on the other hand, are required to have frequent audits due to complex business processes and a high number of systems that pose a greater cyber security threat.
The following cases will require a special cybersecurity audit:
- If your business has made a crucial operational change When dealing with confidential or sensitive data
- When compliance standards are upgraded
- Modification in your company’s infrastructure
- Installation of a new system or upgrade–operating system and other software
- When security incidents and breaches take place
How Will a Cybersecurity Audit Be Helpful for Your Business?
Have you ever been a victim of a cyber-attack or data breach? It can be overwhelming and annoying for you will have to inspect how it happened while dealing with affected systems.A cybersecurity audit can protect your business and help you avoid these headaches. The process does not require complexity as much as the right approaches and tools.
Performing a cybersecurity audit brings the following benefits:
The overall security of your network infrastructure and systems can be enhanced. Identification of threats, vulnerabilities, and risks in advance helps to prevent breaches.
Gives peace of mind
Management and the rest of the workforce can work without the fear of the unknown.
Increases customer confidence
Customers will be at ease knowing that your company’s security posture is at a high level.
Enhances insurance coverage
A cybersecurity audit paves a way for your business to gain greater insurance coverage for its potential perils.
Best Practices for a Cybersecurity Audit
The following best practices for cybersecurity audits can be taken into consideration whether you will be using internal or external auditing services:
- Ensure that your business’s security and data policies are reviewed concerning data confidentiality, availability, and integrity ahead of the audit process.
- Information security protocols should be consolidated to help the auditors categorize information and identify the levels of security required to protect it.
- Compliance and cyber security policies should be solidified into a single document to help auditors achieve a complete understanding of your company’s security operations. It then becomes easier for them to identify security gaps.
- Your network structure should be detailed. Illustrate your IT infrastructure to the auditors to grant them a comprehensive understanding of the expedition of the auditing process. The network structure illustration should indicate network assets and their top-down relationships. This will help auditors establish edges and potential vulnerabilities.
- The IT and cyber security specialists in your organization must review compliance requirements and standards before the audit process begins. It will aid in aligning the firm’s needs with the goals of cybersecurity audits.
- Your company ought to have a list of security personnel responsibilities – workers’ interviews are a significant element of security audits. Your security team might be interviewed by the auditors to gain a clear insight into your security structure.
- Prioritize risk responses. Having a response plan in the event of security risk or attack should be a priority in your cyber security audit. A disaster recovery plan should be put in place. Also, prioritize potential threats and weigh their harm with their likelihood of occurrence.
- Schedule external audits once a year and internal audits once every three months.
A cybersecurity audit is a crucial part of every business’ cybersecurity policy. It’s vital to schedule and conduct regular cybersecurity audits for your network, systems, and general business operations.
Adopt a proactive approach to discover system and network vulnerabilities before an attack is launched. For a successful auditing process, ensure your business audit plan conforms to compliance requirements and standards. Cybersecurity audits help your company to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals, help it avoid fines, and provide peace of mind for employees and customers alike.
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