Discover LinuxSecurity Features
All You Need To Know About IT Security Audits and Its Importance
With the modern ways of storing and sharing information, businesses face multiple challenges in protecting their online assets. An institution's sensitive information is at risk; thus it becomes important for them to conduct a thorough IT security audit.
An IT security audit shows an organization’s safety practices for protecting its Internet-facing assets from internal and external cyber threats. It observes and discovers loopholes in how data gets collected, handled, and distributed.
Every industry has some common cyber risks which can be identified via an audit. However, each business also faces unique security issues due to its size and the nature of the products and services it offers. This article will reveal what you need to know about IT security audits and their importance in establishing and maintaining a strong security posture.
Types Of Risks You Can Discover Through an IT Security Audit
Organizations should protect their customer's data from theft, loss, and misuse. Penetration testing is one of the key tests used to ensure this.
Network & Communications Risk
An organization should make sure that data can be transmitted securely through its network infrastructure. Either an outside or inside intruder should not have a chance to capture traffic or access sensitive information.
Mobile Device & Data Loss Risk
Organizations must take precautions to secure any user-owned device connected with the company's network, as these devices store crucial information on them. The ownership pattern also makes a difference here; if your company offers BYOD service then these devices will be treated as personal ones whereas in a B2B scenario they are business assets only.
An IT security audit involves penetration testing to examine different components of a business's IT system to check if they are really secure or not. It shows an organization’s level of preparedness in dealing with various cyber threats and provides a clear picture of how safe an institution really is from these problems.
Benefits of conducting IT security audit
By conducting an IT security audit, you can easily identify weak points within your organization that can be improved for enhanced protection against cybercrime.
Key benefits include:
- Provides detailed reporting about prevailing risks
- Helps to understand organizational policies & procedures
- Advises on technologies to be used for effective security
- Identifies gaps between the current state and the desired state of IT security
- Offers knowledge about the best possible ways to address identified security gaps
IT Security Audit Vs Other Frameworks
IT security audits are way more effective than other frameworks. Other frameworks generally show an organization's state of controls without actually testing them, rely on previous audit reports and only make changes if required.
The list of control objectives for IT systems is almost static. On the other hand, every individual audit focuses on the latest risks that an organization may face; thus it becomes easier to put extra efforts into these areas based on the recent threat landscape.
Who conducts an IT security audit?
Various people conduct IT security audits including internal staff members, third-party cybersecurity companies with certified ethical hackers or outside consultants using various standard methodologies and tools. However, depending upon the size of your business you can choose anyone to do this for you (make sure to check their eligibility criteria e.g. CISA, CISSP).
Why is an IT security audit important for your business?
Being an online business that deals with sensitive information, you must definitely take part in regular audits; whether it's quarterly or yearly. An effective IT security audit can help organizations understand the level of risk they face and take steps accordingly to protect themselves against data loss, theft and other threats.
Which IT assets are involved in an IT security audit?
There are various components of a business being audited during this process which include:
- Endpoints: Any device that enables access to your network or stores important information is considered an endpoint. This includes laptops, notebooks, smartphones, tablets, etc.
- Internet-connected devices: This category contains any piece of hardware with internet connection e.g. webcams, routers, printers, etc.
- Communication channels: Some important communication channels used in your business include FTP servers, SSH services, etc.
- Networks: Your organization's entire local area network (LAN) is also included in its scope.
- Data: The data stored on your company's infrastructure is what makes this asset really crucial for an audit; whether it be physical files, virtual databases, etc.
- Applications: A couple of the most important applications in your organization's IT system include databases, accounting software, CRMs, email services etc. You can check this guide for web application security testing.
An organization's most crucial assets are targeted by attackers to get hold of sensitive information. Here is the list of examples you need to know about:
- Malware Penetration & Exploitation
- Data Loss
- DDoS Attacks
- Network infrastructure vulnerabilities
How to conduct an IT security audit?
If you are searching for some guidelines on how to perform an IT security audit, then the below steps that can be followed easily should help:
Step 1: You must start with defining your objectives which include goals, time frame, etc.
Step 2: Get a better understanding of the existing policies and procedures of your organization so that new changes can be suggested accordingly.
Step 3: Now, go ahead with selecting tools & technologies used in your business so that they can be evaluated and provide greater security.
Step 4: Also, you need to set up a proper change management structure that will keep your system safe from any unauthorized changes.
Step 5: The next step is to identify & prioritize risks followed by mitigation plans so they can be eliminated as quickly as possible.
Step 6: Then proceed with a risk assessment process in order to find out everything about the existing threats and vulnerabilities in your business.
Step 7: Finally, check how efficient your company's security is compared to other organizations in your industry or the organization's benchmarking tests.
What are the techniquesused to conduct an IT security audit?
There are three main types of audits you can conduct which includes:
- Internal Audits
- Management System Audits
- External Audits
1. Internal Audits: As per some studies, it is found that 60-80% of staff members have access to the company's sensitive information, thus making the company's internal environment very vulnerable if not properly managed & secured. So, these kinds of audits are extremely important for any organization whether small or large scale one because they help identify various security issues within your business and offer solutions to resolve them quickly at lower costs.
2. Management system audits are generally conducted for management purposes so that managers can compare their organization's performance to other similar organizations. These audits can be performed manually or with the help of automated tools & technologies.
3. External audits are often conducted by third-party firms, like BFSI (banking, financial services, and insurance) companies hire Cybersecurity firms to conduct an IT security audit because they need auditors having sound knowledge about their industry; you must be thinking why? Because it helps these external auditors identify security issues within their organization that might harm them if not taken care of in time.
These are three major types of audits that an organization can take part in; however there are internal audits that are conducted by owners or executives who have strong technical expertise but have less managerial skills, so conducting one is recommended for any business.
What are the benefits of IT security audits?
An organization can take part in many types of audits, however, if they are properly conducted then surely there are some benefits that an organization can reap from them.
Here are some key benefits of conducting an IT security audit:
- Saves time & money
- Promotes awareness
- Help identify weak areas
- Provides better protection against threats
- Reduces unauthorized access
- Prevents data loss
How does an IT Security audit help in securing a business?
IT security audits not only help identify loopholes, but also help organizations in their day-to-day work.
For example, take an online retail company that has hired an external cybersecurity firm for conducting an IT security audit, upon the completion of which they found some issues that were hampering the proper functionality of their system. So, the owner decided to fix these issues without wasting any time so that it doesn't affect his business and compromised customer's data!
The previous example highlights how important it is to conduct an IT security audit, because if the retail company owner had decided to skip this step then surely he would have taken a massive hit on his business because the company's reputation is what keeps them alive.
So, if you want to protect your business from any unwanted circumstance, then it is always better to invest in audits rather than being sorry afterward.
Thus, you can notice how effective such audits are! Not only they help companies & industries save money & effort but also provide them with better protection against threats which not only saves their money but also makes it easier for them to conduct their business smoothly without any distractions.
IT security audit methodology
An IT security audit is an assessment of the IT environment for any organization so that they can identify various issues or vulnerabilities within them, helping organizations in maintaining data and network security.
1) Planning & preparation: Before starting with the actual process of auditing, there are many things that are taken into consideration like what type of audit will be best suitable for your organization's needs, etc. For example, if you are planning to do penetration testing then it is quite different from when you want to conduct a vulnerability assessment. So these types of audits need well-planned preparations because, without them, success cannot be achieved thus making it highly important before starting with this process.
2) Scope determination: This phase is very important as it defines the boundaries of the audit, without which you cannot proceed further. In this phase, auditors try to find out all areas that need to be checked for conducting an effective IT security audit so that they can cover everything within a given time frame.
3) Collection & analysis of evidence: While collecting evidence or carrying out a vulnerability assessment one needs to make sure that they collect enough evidence because only then it will be possible for them to ensure whether a particular issue is real or not and how severe it is. So the process of collection & analysis is highly important in this step as it makes things much easier before reporting them to management about detected issues/vulnerabilities.
4) Reporting: After completing the previous steps successfully it becomes easier for auditors to report the identified loopholes/issues because by this time they will have enough evidence so that reporting can be done in a proper manner. Reporting is also done to management of an organization, it includes all the necessary information like which areas are affected, what type of loopholes or issues were detected & severity level, etc.
5) Remediation: This phase is again very important as it helps organizations to fix discovered vulnerabilities before anyone takes advantage of them and damages their data network.
Tools you can use to conduct an IT security audit
- Vulnerability scanner: After identifying the scope of an audit, vulnerability assessment can be started. A vulnerability scanner is used for this purpose where it will start performing different types of scans to detect vulnerabilities that exist within your network or system manually.
- Port scanner: This tool is used to check which ports are opened & active on a system so that it becomes easier for hackers to compromise them once they know what type of open ports are there on a particular machine.
- Password cracker: One needs to make sure that all passwords set by them are strong enough so that no one can decipher it and use it against you because these days hackers have become smart enough to break passwords easily if they find out yours! So, before they break your password, you should do it yourself by using a password cracker which is nothing but software that can test passwords to find out if they are strong or not.
- Malware scanner: A malware scanner helps in detecting malicious codes within the system and then remove them from there to make sure that they cannot affect other files present on your PC/Laptop/Server. Here are some great open-source malware scanners we love.
- Social engineering toolkit: It is basically used for carrying out different types of social engineering techniques because this tool has become quite popular among hackers these days as they know people's nature very well & use it to their own benefit! This toolkit contains several tools like SMBTrap which can be used for sending spoofed emails and phishing, SE Toolkit which can be used for carrying out different types of social engineering attacks, SETunnel which is again used for carrying out phishing attacks by creating a reverse connection back to the hacker's machine & Send-email tool that is basically used to send emails.
- Network mapping tools: These are network discovery tools such as nmap that can be used to find all your internal resources like files, servers, printers, etc., within your system without having any prior knowledge of their IPs or names. This information is then indexed by these tools so that auditors know about all the resources available on your system.
The need for IT security audits is greater now than it has ever been before. With the increase in cyberattacks, privacy breaches and data leaks, companies are increasingly at risk of being hacked or losing sensitive information to malicious actors. If you want to keep your company safe from these threats, conduct a comprehensive audit that will identify vulnerabilities within your organization's systems so they can be addressed before an attack occurs. Did this blog post help you learn anything new about conducting IT security audits? Let us know :)