Like all security audits, an IT security audit aims to: analyze the IT of an organization infrastructure in detail. It enables an organization to identify security loopholes and vulnerabilities in their IT system. It also helps organizations meet certain national and international compliance requirements.
Ideally, an IT security audit is performed periodically for an overall assessment of the organization’s on-premise or cloud-based infrastructure. The infrastructure can be an entire IT network and the integrations including network devices such as firewalls, routers, etc.
Why are security audits recommended periodically?
IT security audit involves verifying common security barriers and vulnerabilities that may be present in the hardware, software, networks, data centers or servers. Simply put, IT security audits help organizations answer some important questions about the security of their current IT framework. Run it periodically and answer the following questions:
- What are the current security risks and vulnerabilities your system faces?
- Are your existing measures strong enough to protect the system against all kinds of cyber attacks? Are you able to quickly restore your business in the event of a data breach or service unavailability?
- Does your security system contain steps or tools that do not contribute to the process in a useful way?
- What steps have been taken to address the issues found during the security audit? And what are the implications of such steps for business operations?
- Do you comply with necessary cybersecurity standards such as: GDPR, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, ISO, etc.? Have you met all requirements for security audits and penetration testing as part of getting their certification?
- Does your IT framework meet the standards set for the collection, processing and retention of sensitive data?
Note: Certified security auditors usually conduct a compliance audit to obtain certification from a regulatory body or reputable third-party vendor. There are always provisions for the corporate team responsible for the security of the system to conduct internal audits and get a picture of the company’s security standards and compliance levels.
What are the steps to conduct an IT security audit?
The person in charge of the IT security audit can still confirm that the process has been completed successfully and met the required objectives by verifying that the following steps have been taken and the required information has been derived:
1. Statement of the business objective from the security audit
This is an important step, because it states what the organization wants profit from the security audit. It involves desired goals, business logic, the implication of short-term goals for the larger mission of the company, and so on.
When setting an IT security audit objective, it is important to keep a few things in mind. Things like the scope of the audit, assets included in the scope of testing, the timeline, compliance requirements, and ultimately an easy-to-understand final test report.
2. Planning the required steps and test protocol
Going into the testing process and working it out may not always work. By making a planning in advance, the process always runs smoothly. You can define the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders and testing personnel, the steps within the testing process itself, the tools chosen for testing, the evaluation of the data obtained, possible logistical issues, etc.
It is always best to document these decisions, which should then be shared with the participants and decision makers of the organization.
3. Checking the work done
Steps for the audit process should be decided in the planning step, including the checklist, methodologies and required standards.
Mandatory steps can include scanning various IT resources, file sharing services, databases, all SaaS applications in use, and even physical inspection of the data center to test its security during a disaster.
Employees outside the testing team should also be interviewed to assess their understanding of security standards and compliance with company policies so that these potential entry points can also be covered.
4. Finalize results
Collect all information in a document accessible to business stakeholders and IT team for future reference. Make sure the document is easy to understand for anyone reading it, regardless of their technical knowledge. This allows internal development or security teams to resolve similar issues in the future if they arise.
Document the test results obtained as a report will also enable stakeholders to make important business decisions regarding the security of their customers’ information.
5. Remedial Actions for Discovered Issues
This step involves continuing the solutions to issues identified in the final report. Also any recommended security solutions for the issues. Remediation measures include,
- Resolving issues found during the IT security testing process.
- Use better methods to handle sensitive data and prevent malware and phishing attacks by instantly recognizing them.
- Train employees in best practices to ensure overall security and other compliance measures.
- Addition of new technology to increase security and for regular monitoring of suspicious activity.
Remember, it’s important to know the difference between performing an IT security audit as mentioned above and performing a risk assessment for your internal and external assets. An IT security audit immediately follows a risk assessment of the potential vulnerabilities and security risks that can be exploited, ideally performed by the trained security experts or professionals to ensure the overall cybersecurity posture of an organization’s Internet-facing assets.