Like all security audits, an IT security audit serves to analyze an organization’s IT infrastructure in a detailed manner. It allows an organization to identify security loopholes and vulnerabilities present in their IT system. It also helps organizations to meet certain national and international compliance requirements.
Ideally, an IT security audit is conducted periodically for an overall assessment of the organization’s on-premise or cloud-based infrastructure. The infrastructure can be a whole IT network, and the integrations including network devices such as firewalls, routers, etc.
Why security audits are recommended periodically?
IT security audit involves verifying general security barricades 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. Performing it periodic basis, answer the following questions:
- What are the current security risks and vulnerabilities that your system faces?
- Are your existing measures strong enough to protect the system from all kinds of cyberattacks? Are you able to quickly recover your business operations in case you face a data breach or service unavailability?
- Does your security system contain any steps or tools that don’t contribute to the process in a useful manner?
- What are the steps taken to address the issues found during the security audit? And what are the implications of such steps in terms of conducting the business?
- Are you in compliance with the necessary cybersecurity standards such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI-DSS, ISO, etc.? Have you met all the security audit and penetration testing requirements as part of gaining their certification?
- Is your IT framework compliant with the set standards that follow the collection of sensitive data, it’s processing and retention?
Note: Certified security auditors usually conduct a compliance audit to gain certification from a regulatory agency or a reputed third-party vendor. There are always provisions for the company team in charge of the system’s security to conduct internal audits and gain a picture of the company’s security standards and compliance levels.
What are the steps to perform an IT security audit?
Whoever is in charge of the IT security audit can still confirm the process is done successfully and meets the required objectives by verifying if the following steps are taken, and the required information is derived:
1. Stating the company’s objective from the security audit
This is an important step, as it states what the organization wishes to gain from the security audit. It involves desired goals, business logic, the implication of short-term goals on the company’s larger mission, and so on.
It is important to keep few things in mind when setting up an objective for the IT security audit. Things such as 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 testing protocol
Going into the testing process and winging it may not always work out. Doing a pre-planning always makes the process smooth. You can decide the roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders and testing personnel, the steps within the testing process itself, chosen tools for testing, evaluation of acquired data, possible logistics issues, etc.
It’s always best to document these decisions, which should then be shared with the participants and decision-makers of the organization.
3. Auditing the work done
Steps for the auditing process should be decided in the planning step, including the checklist, methodologies, and standards required.
Mandatory steps could involve scanning various IT resources, file-sharing services, databases, any SaaS applications being used, and even physical inspection of the data center to test its safety during a disaster.
Employees outside the testing team should also be interviewed to judge their understanding of the security standards and adherence to company policy so that these potential entry points could be covered as well.
4. Finalizing results
Compile all the information into a document accessible by the company stakeholders and the IT team for future reference. Make sure that the document is easy to understand to anyone reading it regardless of their technical knowledge. This will allow internal development or security teams to fix similar issues in the future if they occur.
Documenting the obtained test results as a report will also allow stakeholders to take important business decisions regarding the security of their customers’ information.
5. Remediation measures for discovered issues
This step involves following through with the solutions for issues mentioned in the final report document. Also, any recommended security fixes for the issues. Remediation measures include,
- Resolving issues found during the IT security testing process.
- Taking up better methods to handle sensitive data & avoid malware and phishing attacks by recognizing them immediately.
- Train employees in optimal practices to ensure overall security and other compliance measures.
- Addition of new technology to increase security and for regular supervision of any suspicious activity.
Remember, it is important that you know the difference between conducting an IT security audit as mentioned above and performing a risk assessment for your internal & external assets. An IT security audit immediately follows a risk assessment of the potential vulnerability and security risks that may be exploited, to be ideally conducted by the trained security experts or professionals to improve the overall cybersecurity posture of an organization’s internet-facing assets.