Wondering if your IT infrastructure is secure? You may need to consider an IT security audit that can offer valuable information about your security controls. Why? Risk management audits force us to be vulnerable, revealing all our strategies and systems. Security audits may be uncomfortable, but they are undeniably worth it. They allow you to stay ahead of security breaches, insider threats, and other cyber-attacks that put your company’s security, finance, and reputation at stake.
So, rather than live in fear or IT security audits, let’s get comfortable with them. In this article, we’ve outlined everything you need to know about security audits, how they work, and how to manage a proper security audit.
Why are cybersecurity audits necessary?
It comes as no surprise why the cybersecurity environment keeps changing. Rates of malware and malicious email continue to rise, and new threats are rising. What’s more, ransomware attacks have become so famous that targeted groups are now relying on them to provide cover for more in-depth forms of attacks.
However, if you believe a firewall is all you need to consider when evaluating the cybersecurity of your digital space – probably not. After all, cyberattacks are now a question of when, not if, and there is no one size fits all when it comes to cybersecurity. And, this is where having a second thought can go a long way in understanding the modern cybersecurity landscape of threats, third-party risk, available defense, and new regulations.
Define Your Audit
Your first task as an auditor is to share with everyone the scope of your audit – that means you’ll need to write down a list of all of your company’s assets. These assets may include evident things like sensitive company and customer data and computer equipment, but it also implies things without which your organization would necessitate money and time to fix like vital internal documentation.
Once you’ve created a lengthy list of assets, you need to define your security perimeter. A security perimeter is meant to divide your assets into two parts: things you will audit and things you won’t audit. For instance, if you are going to perform a compromise assessment, then the subject of the assessment would be to survey your network and all its devices to discover malware, unknown security breaches, and signs of unauthorized access.
Define Your Threats
To what kind of threats is your business most vulnerable? Take your time, build up lists of valuable assets, and write a matching list of prospective threats. This can range from protecting sensitive company data, poor employee passwords or customer data to DDoS attacks, and physical damage caused by natural disasters and breaches. In short, any possible threat should be acknowledged, as long as the threat can cost your business a significant amount of money.
Here is a list of common threats you should consider during this step:
Negligent Staff: Your employees are your first line of defense, but it can also be the weakest link – how well prepared are they to notice malicious activity and to follow security procedures laid out by your team? Are they using personal passwords to protect valuable company accounts?
Phishing Attacks: More and more breach perpetrators are turning to phish scams to get access to sensitive data. Statistics say that 37.9% of untrained users fail phishing tests, while 90% of the verified phishing scams are discovered in secure email gateways.
Poor Password Behaviour: Supported in 81% of hacking-related breaches, weak, and stolen passwords remain the number one strategy used by perpetrators.
Malware: This constitutes a number of different threats such as Trojan horses, worms, spyware, and ransomware.
BYOD (Bring Your Own Device): According to Techjury.net, 67% of us are doing it. And, if your company allows BYOD, the attack surface for cybercriminals is getting weaker and larger.
Assess Current Security Performance
At this stage, you’re evaluating your actual security structures’ performance, meaning that you’re basically evaluating the performance of your team, your department, and yourself. Keep in mind that it’s important to the efficacy and legitimacy of your IT security audit to try and even hinder any emotion or prejudice you hold towards assessing and evaluating your performance to date and the performance of your department as a whole.
Perhaps your department does a great job at monitoring the network and detecting threats, but are your employees current with the latest practices used by perpetrators to access your data?
Prioritizing is the most important job you get as an auditor. Where to start? Look at your current list of threats to weight the potential of a threat incidence versus the prospects that it actually can occur. For instance, a natural disaster will wipe out your business, but if your asses exist in a “hurricane-free” region, the risk score should be dropped accordingly. During risk scoring, it’s important to take a step backward and consider additional factors:
Current cybersecurity trends: What threats are growing in popularity? What is the best choice for perpetrators?
Regulations and compliance: What kind of data does your company handle? Are you private or public?
Industry-level trends: How does working in the financial industry affect your data? What’s the likelihood of a breach?
Formulate Security Solutions
The last step in your IT security audit is pretty simple, take your highest-scored threats and write a matching list of practices and improvements to either negate or eliminate them. Here’s a list of common solutions you should consider during this step:
Email Protection: Email remains the simplest and fastest way to get to your data. Once clicked, a phishing email provides attackers with numerous options to access data through software installation.
Employee Education Awareness: As we’ve previously mentioned, your employees are the weakest link in your network security – create training programs for the new ones and updates for existing ones to install awareness around best practices.
Access Management and Password Safety: We’re born to make mistakes. We’re not wired to remember hundreds of passwords, so we tend to either store them in unprotected places or reuse them. A business password manager will enhance your password complexity, eliminate reuse, and enable safe password sharing.
Network Monitoring: Most cyber-attacks are meant to strike your network. Your monitoring software can tell you whether there is a suspicious activity, unknown access attempts, and more.
Educating your employees and rising awareness, defining the scope, the threats and risks associated with each individual threat are all essential steps in a successful security audit.