Best Practices for a Cybersecurity Audit

Josh Van Cott by    Published On - 10.14.2020   Data Security

Cybersecurity audits help organizations establish whether their current cybersecurity practices, policies and tools are up to the task of keeping their data and systems secure. However, cybersecurity audits can be tricky to do on a regular basis when you aren’t sure exactly what to look for.

In this blog, I will go through some best practices for your cybersecurity and internal audit to give you some guidance in how best to proceed.

What is a Cybersecurity Audit?

A cybersecurity audit is essentially a checklist which organizations can use to determine the effectiveness of their security policies and procedures. While a cybersecurity audit can be carried out by an organization’s internal security team, many prefer to outsource the audit to a specialized third-party, to eliminate any conflicts of interest.

The auditor will review all areas of the organization’s security posture in an attempt to find vulnerabilities, in addition to assessing their ability to comply with the relevant data privacy regulations.

The Difference between Cybersecurity Assessments and Cybersecurity Audits

Essentially, a cybersecurity assessment is carried out prior to an audit, to give organizations a deeper understanding of any security vulnerabilities they have. It is used to compare how things should be, with how things actually are, and is typically carried out internally.

I suppose you could say that a cybersecurity audit provides an official confirmation of the results delivered by the cybersecurity assessment. However, simply conducting a cybersecurity assessment isn’t enough to prepare your organization for an audit.

Cybersecurity Audit Checklist

Below are some of the additional steps that need to be taken, to ensure that you are ready.

1. Review your information security policy

An information security policy provides a set of rules that determine how sensitive data belonging to both customers and employees should be handled. It helps auditors make an assessment as to how sensitive certain assets are, and whether the controls in place to protect them are sufficient.

The assessment should take into consideration the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the assets in question. Naturally, if the data is confidential, it must be protected from unauthorized access and misuse.

To ensure “integrity”, there should be measures in place to protect the data from unauthorized alteration. Availability of data means that data should be accessible to authorized personnel easily and without undue delay.

2. Consolidate your cybersecurity policies

You will need to ensure that all security policies are centralized and easily searchable. This will give auditors a better understanding of your overall security posture without making them dig around for relevant information.

In addition to the information security policy mentioned above, below are some of the most common cybersecurity policies that you should provide to the auditors.

Acceptable Use Policy (AUP): a general set of rules, typically defined by the system administrator, that specify what users are allowed to do on the network. Users are typically required to accept the terms of use before access to the network is granted.

Access Control Policy (ACP): a policy which documents the protocols for granting and revoking access privileges to resources on the network.

Change Management Policy: a formal process for making changes to IT systems. The main purpose of a Change Management Policy is to ensure that all changes are carried out without disrupting business operations, and to ensure that all relevant stakeholders have been informed of the changes.

Incident Response (IR) Policy: also referred to as an Incident Response Plan (IRP), documents the formal procedures for dealing with security incidents. An IRP typically consists of 6 phases, which include; preparation, identification, containment, eradication, recovery and lessons learned. An IRP is closely related to two other policies, namely a Disaster Recovery Policy and a Business Continuity Plan (BCP).

Remote Access Policy: a set of rules which determine how remote users can access the company network. A Remote Access Policy shares many similarities with a BYOD policy.

Email/Communication Policy: a document that specifies how employees can use electronic communication protocols, such as email accounts, social media, and chat and blogging platforms.

3. Detail your network structure

Providing auditors with a network diagram can help them gain a better understanding of your infrastructure. There two types of network diagram that you can provide, which include logical, and physical.

A logical network diagram shows how information flows through the network, and typically includes elements such as subnets, domains, devices, network segments, routers and any other relevant network objects.

A physical network diagram will include the physical parts of your network, such as the servers, ports, cables, racks and any other relevant hardware.

There are free software applications which can help to create network diagrams, such as Lucidchart and Dia.

4. Review relevant compliance standards

Even if all you are doing is collecting names and email addresses for your newsletter, or using browser cookies to track user activity, there are laws which you will need to comply with, which will inform you as how this should be done.

You will need to inform the auditors about all data privacy laws that are relevant to your organization. You should also go a step further and detail the specific requirements for each regulation and explain what measures you have taken to satisfy them.

5. Create a list of security personnel and their responsibilities

Auditors may need to interview members of your security team and data owners in order to establish a deeper understanding of your infrastructure and the controls you have in place to protect your sensitive data.

You should provide a detailed list of all relevant personnel and document their roles and responsibilities.

Use the Right Tools to Prepare for Your Cybersecurity Audit

Although not technically a requirement for conducting a cybersecurity audit, using the right tools and technologies will make the process a lot easier.

For example, using a data discovery and classification solution will give you a better understanding of what data you have, where it is located, and how sensitive the data is. With this understanding, you can develop an information security policy that is more relevant to your data.

Using an automated, real-time Data Security Platform will allow you to generate customized reports, which can be presented to the auditors to give them an insight into the controls you have in place, and how effective they are.

For example, you can generate a report which lists all user accounts (including inactive user accounts) and their associated privileges. A real-time auditing solution will provide a comprehensive breakdown of exactly who is accessing what data, when, from where and from what device.

If you would like to see how the Lepide Data Security Platform can be leveraged to improve your data security posture and detect active threats to your security, schedule a demo with one of our engineers today.

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