An IT security audit is a comprehensive review of an organization’s security posture, which includes performing an analysis of its infrastructure, processes, configurations, and more. You need to carry out security audits in order to verify whether your existing safeguards are robust enough to meet the challenges of today’s threat landscape.
Carrying out security audits will help you identify vulnerabilities, comply with the relevant compliance laws (HIPAA, GDPR, CCPA, etc.), and catch adverse consequences associated with any organizational changes you make. Security audits will also help you assess the effectiveness of your cybersecurity training program.
IT Security Audits: What to Avoid
Companies tend to focus more of their attention on complying with the relevant data protection regulations, than actually assessing the risk to their organization, which, to be fair, is understandable. However, the downside of this approach is that data protection regulations are not a catch-all solution, and so simply ticking boxes to stay out of trouble with the authorities could create holes in your security posture.
Another problem that tends to arise is that security audits are often carried out by the security team, who often forget to communicate with the relevant stakeholders about the methods and purpose of the audit. Try not to make any rash decisions about the state of your security posture until you have collected and carefully analyzed the results of the audit, and delivered a comprehensive report which accurately illustrates your findings.
How to Carry Out an IT Security Audit
Below are some of the main points you’ll need to address before conducting a security audit.
Define the assessment criteria
To start with, you’ll need to detail the objectives of the security audit and list the objectives in terms of their priority. However, you must also ensure that these objectives don’t influence the outcomes of the audit. You will also need to agree on how the audit is performed, how the results are recorded, and how the results are assessed. If you identify a threat, either before, during, or after the audit, you must ensure that it is well researched and clearly documented. All relevant stakeholders should be included when defining your assessment criteria.
Prepare the security audit
Once you have defined your assessment criteria, you will need to decide which technologies to use to conduct your audit. You will also need to develop questionnaires in order to collect data from all relevant stakeholders. Your security audit needs to be repeatable and updatable so that you can monitor your successes and failures over time.
Conduct the security audit
When carrying out a security audit, you must ensure that you closely adhere to your objectives, refer to the documentation along the way, and continuously monitor the progress of the audit. This also includes reviewing previous audits for a comparison. The results of the audit, including any steps needed to address security issues as they arise, should be communicated to all relevant parties.
Types of IT Security Audits
There are three types of security audits, which are as follows:
1. One-time assessment
This includes an assessment that is carried out on an ad-hoc basis, or under special circumstances, such as the introduction of new infrastructure.
2. Tollgate assessment
This type of audit is designed to determine whether new technologies or processes can be successfully introduced into your environment, and normally produces a binary outcome, such as “Yes”, or “No”.
3. Portfolio assessment
This is a regularly scheduled audit, which is used to verify that your security processes and procedures are being closely adhered to and that they are still relevant to the current threat landscape.
Signs to Look Out for in Your IT Security Audit Results
There are certain important things to watch out for when analyzing the results of your security audit, which include:
- Insufficient password complexity
- Overly permissive or inconsistent access controls
- Insufficient permissions monitoring
- Insufficient file activity monitoring
- Security misconfigurations
- The installation of unauthorized software
- Unencrypted sensitive data being stored in an unsecured location.
In addition to the above, your audit should also reveal whether your data retention policies, incident response and disaster recovery plans are being tested and updated and that your change management procedures are being followed.