A security audit is a regular form of maintenance organizations can perform to fortify their cybersecurity posture. While it's a helpful tool, it is often overlooked.
If you're unsure what a security audit is—or how it can benefit your organization—this article is for you.
What Is An IT Security Audit
There are a couple of ways that IT security audit is defined. For our purposes, we're going to use IT security audit and security assessment interchangeably.
Security audits are reviews of an IT systems configurations, technologies, and infrastructure to look for vulnerabilities and areas to fortify. In general, a security audit will encompass two types of assessments: manual and automated.
There are lots of companies that say they do audits, but there is a difference between running a scan on the exterior of the infrastructure and actually assessing from within the system. Your IT team or MSP can run an assessment, but it is advisable to bring in a third party.
A comprehensive IT security audit will assess
- physical components. An IT security audit will assess all physical components of your information system and environment.
- applications and software. This includes assessing security patches already implemented.
- network vulnerabilities. An IT security audit will evaluate how information travels between east/west (inside) and north/south (externally).
- policies and procedures. The audit will also review what policies and procedures are in place. You may already have the proper technology, but that tech needs policies in place, such as what to do in the event of a data breach.
- human vulnerabilities. As we've said before, humans are the biggest threat to a security posture. A security audit will look at how employees collect, share, and store highly sensitive data.
What Does an IT Security Audit Consist of?
Just like with anything else, there are steps in a security audit. While the specifics of each step will look different depending on the organization, the general idea is the same.
- Define assessment criteria. In order to determine success, assessment criteria must be identified. Organizations should determine the overall objectives the company needs to address in the security audit. Some of the items to consider would any industry compliance standards. There are a variety of assessment frameworks out there such as CIS 20, or NIST. They each have their own merit, but a framework needs to be selected for the audit and to start standardization.
- Prepare the audit. Once the assessment criteria are defined, it's time to prepare for the audit. Identify the most important assessment criteria and the tools/methodologies required to assess them.
- Conduct the audit. During the audit, information will be documented.
- Complete and share results. Following the audit, data will be consolidated and compared against previous audits (if there are any) as well as the assessment criteria.
Following the audit, your IT partner should create a list of action items based on the audit findings that correlate with your organization's goals. Then, those action items should be prioritized and a plan should be put in place.
Why Do Organizations Need an IT Security Audit
An IT security audit identifies vulnerabilities and security risks. They are a necessary piece of a strong cybersecurity posture. In addition to identifying vulnerabilities, completing regular IT security audits can help strengthen your cybersecurity posture through helping your organization
- Define security standards. An IT security audit allows you to weigh your current security structure and create new standards for your organization.
- Mitigate risks. A security audit uncovers potential entry points for cybercriminals before they become an issue.
- Verify compliance. As previously mentioned, an IT security audit can help your organization stay compliant.
- Identify areas for employee training. Inevitably, there will be areas that need additional training, especially since the landscape of cybersecurity is constantly shifting.
How Often Should IT Security Audits Be Performed?
There are a variety of reasons that IT security audits are performed including special circumstances or when adding a new process. In general, security audits should be performed on a minimum of an annual basis. These audits work to verify that your IT security processes and procedures are both effective and being followed.
How Anteris Can Help
Audits are an important and often overlooked component of a strong cybersecurity posture. Data breaches can have serious consequences to organizations. We strongly believe the best protection is prevention and regular audits identify gaps before they become problems.
As mentioned earlier, there are a variety of assessment frameworks available. At Anteris, we can help you choose the framework that will work best for your organization. In general, it is important to just start standardizing. Without a framework to work from, there won't be anything to compare against.
Good audits are not inexpensive. But neither is a data breach. The cost of a comprehensive IT security audit will vary from business to business, but it's an investment.
If it is the first time your organization is running a security audit, you probably won't be happy with the result. We find that first-time assessments receive a score between 30-40% and that's okay. The first assessment is the baseline to start working from.
The security audit won't solve problems for you, but it will highlight areas for remediation. Cybersecurity is a posture, and you can always keep working and getting better. Two common forms of remediation we see following a security audit are regular vulnerability scans and implementing a SIEM. As a strategic provider, we will consolidate that data and make suggestions for steps that will work best for your organization. There may be a lot of work to be done, but with the right partner and the right strategy, it won't feel so daunting.
We're going to get to a point where you need to prove you have security measures in place, such as for an insurance company. An IT security audit is proof. When your insurance company wants an audit, you will have documentation to hand them (or at least have the information to put into their forms).
As a security-minded IT partner, we will work with your organization to perform an IT security audit. In addition, we will work with you to provide strategic initiatives based on the findings of the security audit that align with your business goals.
Let us make your technology freeing, not frustrating.