What Is Cyber Security Audit and How Is It Helpful for Your Business?
When was the last time you performed your cybersecurity audit? An audit of complete cybersecurity management, not a simple scan. If it has been longer than you remember, then you are probably at risk of being a victim of cyberattacks.
As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the risk of cyberattacks escalates. To safeguard against these threats, it is essential to have a robust cybersecurity management system in place.
Conducting periodic, in-depth cybersecurity audit is a vital part of this process.
What is a Cybersecurity Audit?
A cybersecurity audit involves a comprehensive analysis and review of your IT infrastructure. It detects vulnerabilities and threats, displaying weak links and high-risk practices.
Significant benefits of IT security audits are:
- Risk assessment and vulnerability identification
- Strengthened security measures
- Compliance with regulations and standards
- Incident response preparedness
- Safeguarding sensitive data and customer trust
- Proactive threat detection and prevention
How Prepared is Your Organization against Cybersecurity Risks?
Recent studies and statistics highlight the growing severity of cyber risks to businesses. For example, according to a report by Cybersecurity Ventures, it is estimated that cybercrime will cost the global economy a staggering $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. This projection showcases the massive financial impact that businesses could face if they fail to address cyber risks effectively.
It is not enough to simply have security plans; they require consistent auditing. When was the last revision made to your cyber risk management plans? Are your security documents regularly reviewed and adjusted to align with the specific requirements of each department?
If you are unsure, then it is high time to do a cybersecurity audit.
Top Indicators that you’re falling behind in your risk management:
- Out-of-date technology– Being dependent on older technologies like old software, old hardware, outdated policies & practices, and outdated services can leave you vulnerable to emerging threats.
- Risks flowing widely over opportunities – You should experiment and innovate with new technologies. If you’re afraid of adopting new technologies with the concern that new tech will expose you to new threats, then it’s time to strengthen your security framework.
- Thinking your Business is “Too small” for cybersecurity Audit – Do you believe that only large-scale companies require cybersecurity Audits? Think Again! Regardless of size, most companies are increasingly outsourcing services, enabling third parties to closely examine your critical systems and practices. Organizations of all sizes can benefit from a cybersecurity assessment.
Cybersecurity is not just about technical resilience or IT security but about Information and Data Security. Misguided assurances from the internal team or a cybersecurity company and a false sense of security are the primary reasons hackers succeed in their attempts. They target your processes, people, procedures, and weakest links.
The Scope of a Cybersecurity Audit
Cybersecurity audits ensure a 360-degree in-depth audit of your organization’s security posture. They aim to identify vulnerabilities, risks, and threats that may affect the organization. These audits cover various areas, including:
- Data Security – involves reviewing network access control, encryption use, data security at rest, and transmissions.
- Operational Security – involves a review of security policies, procedures, and controls.
- Network Security – a review of network & security controls, anti-virus configurations, security monitoring capabilities, etc.
- System Security – This review covers hardening processes, patching processes, privileged account management, role-based access, etc.
- Physical Security – a review that covers disk encryption, role-based access controls, biometric data, multifactor authentication, etc.
Beyond these, a cybersecurity audit can also cover cybersecurity risk management, cyber risk governance, training & awareness, legal, regulatory & contractual requirements, technical security controls, business continuity & incident management, and third-party management.
Internal vs. External Cybersecurity Audit
Cybersecurity audits can be conducted by either external cybersecurity services companies or internal teams.
External cybersecurity audits are performed by experienced professionals from specialized companies. These professionals possess in-depth knowledge of security protocols and utilize advanced software and tools to conduct a comprehensive audit. Their expertise allows them to identify vulnerabilities and flaws in an organization’s cybersecurity risk management effectively.
On the other hand, internal security audits are conducted by an organization’s in-house team. These audits can be performed more frequently and provide the advantage of having direct access to internal systems and processes. Internal auditors are familiar with the organization’s specific security requirements and can tailor the audit to address its unique challenges.
Both external and internal security audits offer distinct advantages and serve different purposes. Key points to consider include:
External Security Audit:
- Independence: External auditors offer an unbiased assessment as they are not directly involved in the company’s day-to-day operations.
- Expertise and Experience: External auditors often have specialized knowledge and experience in conducting security audits across various industries.
- Compliance and Regulations: External audits help ensure compliance with industry regulations, standards, and legal requirements.
- Objectivity: External auditors objectively evaluate the company’s security controls without any internal bias or conflicts of interest.
To get better value from the external security audit, you must find the right and affordable auditing company, set expectations for auditors, submit relevant and accurate information, and implement suggested changes.
Despite the benefits of external audits, many organizations opt for internal cybersecurity audits due to their cost, efficiency, speed, and consistency.
Internal Security Audit:
- In-depth Knowledge: Internal auditors have a better understanding of the company’s internal systems, processes, and culture, which allows for a more comprehensive assessment.
- Cost-effectiveness: Conducting internal audits can be more cost-effective since there is no need to engage external resources.
- Continuous Monitoring: Internal audits can be performed regularly, providing ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the organization’s security measures.
- Company-specific Focus: Internal audits can specifically address the company’s unique security challenges and requirements.
How Often Should I Perform Audits to Ensure Cybersecurity?
The frequency of conducting a cybersecurity audit depends on various factors, including the size of your organization, the nature of your business, the level of risk involved, and any applicable legal or industry regulations. Generally, it is recommended to perform cybersecurity audits regularly to ensure the ongoing security of your systems and data.
Here are a few guidelines to consider when determining the frequency of your cybersecurity audits:
Annual Audits: Conducting a comprehensive cybersecurity audit at least once a year is a good starting point for most organizations. This allows you to assess your security posture, identify vulnerabilities, and make necessary improvements.
Regular Vulnerability Assessments: In addition to annual audits, it is essential to conduct regular vulnerability assessments to identify and address any security weaknesses. Depending on the size and complexity of your organization, these assessments can be performed quarterly, biannually, or more frequently.
You can refer our vulnerability assessment checklist blog to construct a detailed vulnerability assessment plan
Significant Changes: Any significant changes in your IT infrastructure or systems should trigger a cybersecurity audit. This includes major upgrades, network expansions, mergers or acquisitions, or the implementation of new technologies. Conducting an audit after such changes will help ensure that security measures are in place and adequately address the new environment.
Regulatory Requirements: If your organization operates in an industry with specific cybersecurity regulations, you may be required to perform audits at a specified frequency. Examples include the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) for businesses handling credit card information, SOC 2 (System and Organizational Compliance) for businesses handling customer data, or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for healthcare organizations.
Incident Response: If your organization experiences a security breach or an incident, it is crucial to conduct a thorough audit as part of the incident response process. This will help identify the root cause, assess the impact, and strengthen your security measures to prevent similar incidents in the future.
Recommended Best Practices to Perform Cyber Security Audits
To conduct a comprehensive and effective cybersecurity audit, it is essential to follow best practices. Here are some recommended steps to consider:
Establish Clear Objectives
Define the specific goals and objectives of the cybersecurity audit. This will help focus the audit efforts and thoroughly examine all relevant areas.
For example, objectives may include:
- Evaluating network security controls.
- Assessing the effectiveness of access management processes.
- Identifying potential weaknesses in the incident response plan.
Conduct Risk Assessment
Perform a comprehensive risk assessment to identify potential threats, vulnerabilities, and risks specific to your organization. This involves analyzing factors such as the value and sensitivity of data, the impact of potential breaches, and the likelihood of different types of cyberattacks. By understanding the risks, you can prioritize areas for audit focus and allocate resources accordingly.
- Identify critical data assets, such as customer information or intellectual property, and assess the potential impact of a data breach or unauthorized access to these assets.
- Consider the likelihood of phishing attacks or insider threats that could compromise these assets.
Review Security Policies and Procedures
Evaluate the organization’s existing security policies, procedures, and controls to ensure they align with industry best practices and regulatory requirements. This includes examining access control mechanisms, data classification, and handling procedures, incident response protocols, and employee awareness programs. Identify any gaps or deficiencies and recommend improvements.
- Assess the effectiveness of password policies, user account provisioning and de-provisioning processes, and data encryption practices.
- Verify if employees receive regular security awareness training and if the organization has documented incident response procedures.
Perform Technical Assessments
Conduct technical assessments to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the organization’s IT infrastructure. This may involve vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, and configuration reviews. Analyze the results to find areas for improvements and potential entry points for attackers.
- Perform a vulnerability scan on network devices, servers, and applications to identify any known vulnerabilities.
- Conduct penetration testing to simulate real-world attack scenarios and test the effectiveness of security controls.
- Review firewall configurations and access control lists for security misconfigurations.
Review Security Incident Logs
Analyze security incident logs, such as intrusion detection system (IDS) or firewall logs, to identify any suspicious activities or indicators of compromise. This helps detect ongoing attacks, unauthorized access attempts, or policy violations. Review log management processes to ensure logs are collected, monitored, and retained effectively.
- Analyze IDS logs for any patterns of malicious activities, such as repeated failed login attempts or unusual network traffic.
- Review firewall logs to identify any unauthorized access attempts or policy violations.
- Assess the organization’s log management system to verify that logs are collected, analyzed, and retained as per industry best practices.
Document Findings and Recommendations
Document the audit findings, including identified vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and areas of improvement. Provide clear and actionable recommendations to address these issues, prioritizing them based on risk and potential impact. Present the findings and recommendations in a comprehensive report for management and stakeholders.
- Create a detailed report highlighting vulnerabilities discovered during the audit, such as outdated software or weak access controls.
- Provide specific recommendations, such as patching systems regularly, implementing multifactor authentication, or conducting regular security awareness training for employees.
Monitor and Follow-Up
Cybersecurity is an ongoing effort, so monitoring the implementation of recommended improvements and regularly reassessing security measures is essential. Develop a plan to track progress, address identified issues, and perform future audits periodically to ensure continuous Security.
- Establish a process to track the implementation of recommended improvements, such as patch management activities or the deployment of enhanced access controls.
After Audit – Strengthen Your Cyber Defense
After conducting a cybersecurity audit, taking appropriate actions based on the findings and recommendations is crucial to improve your organization’s security posture.
Promptly address the vulnerabilities and weaknesses identified during the audit. Prioritize the remediation efforts based on the level of risk and potential impact. This may involve applying security patches, updating software and firmware, reconfiguring systems, or implementing additional security controls.
After conducting a thorough cybersecurity audit, it is common to identify vulnerabilities or weaknesses in systems and applications that require immediate attention. However, sometimes official patches or updates may not be readily available to address these vulnerabilities. In such cases, virtual patching can serve as a valuable solution.
By implementing virtual patches, you can instantly protect vulnerable systems from potential exploits and attacks, significantly reducing the associated risks.
Our Indusface WAS simplifies your auditing process and bolsters ongoing cybersecurity with:
- Streamlined vulnerability identification through automated scanning with zero false positives.
- Detection of common vulnerabilities like XSS, SQL injection, and insecure authentication, among others.
- Comprehensive coverage of various security aspects within the application.
- A proactive approach to emerging threats through continuous monitoring capabilities.
- Detailed reports to prioritize and guide remediation efforts in the cybersecurity audit.