You need more than the latest anti-virus software to ensure your company’s network is secure. A cybersecurity audit helps to create a complete picture of your security strategy and determine where your business needs improvement.
Cybercrime has grown into one of the epidemics of modern times.
In 2018 alone, we saw 812.67 million instances of malware infection. Meanwhile, 2020 brought with it a 600% increase in cybercrime. And estimates state that ransomware attacks will cost companies over $6 trillion per year by 2021.
If you don’t prioritize cybersecurity, you place yourself and your company at risk of attack.
Now, it’s likely that you already have some strategies in place to combat hackers and other malicious cyber forces. However, you also need to feel sure that the measures you have in place are sufficient.
That’s where conducting a cybersecurity risk audit becomes important.
In this article, we examine what a cybersecurity risk audit is and share a few critical tips for running one in your company.
What Is a Cybersecurity Audit?
Think of the cybersecurity risk audit as a comprehensive examination of every cybersecurity strategy you’ve put in place. You have two goals with this audit:
- Identify any gaps in your system so you can crreate an action plan to resolve them.
- Create an in-depth report that you can use to demonstrate your readiness to defend against cyber threats.
A typical audit contains three phases:
- Performing a threat assessment
- Creating an action plan
- Audit to validate successful implementation
In the threat assessment phase, you examine the existing system to determine how secure your network is against cybercriminals. Here’s a short checklist you can use. There are many more detailed items you can include but this is a great starting point.
- Verifying anti-virus and/or malware defense software is installed on all devices and updating properly.
- Ensuring that all operating systems and applications are being patched.
- Checking that critical device firmware is being updated.
- The network is protected by a business-grade firewall with active subscriptions.
- Verifying backups are set up to properly protect against ransomware and work as they should.
- Encryption is enabled to protect confidential information on business desktops, laptops, and servers. Including all mobile devices and transportable mediums like USB drives.
- Check that multi-factor authentication has been enabled.
- Verify that email is properly set up to protect against spam and phishing
- Review policies and procedures to ensure they have a good protection framework for your business.
- Review user permissions to business resources to verify they are appropriate for each person’s role.
The assessment phase will likely highlight some security gaps that you need to act upon. And once that’s done, you move into creating an action plan.
In the action plan phase, you assign appropriate solutions for each issue identified. This may also involve assigning internal professionals to the task of implementing those solutions. However, you may also find that you need to bring external contractors on board to help with implementation.
Finally, you conclude with an audit.
The audit takes place after you’ve implemented your proposed solution and is intended as a final check of your new system before you release it back into the company. This audit will primarily focus on ensuring that all installations, upgrades, and patches operate as expected.
3 Tips for a Successful Cybersecurity Risk Audit
Now that you understand the phases of a cybersecurity risk audit, you need to know how to run an audit effectively such that it provides the information you need. After all, a poorly conducted audit may miss crucial security gaps, leaving your systems vulnerable to attack.
These three tips will help you conduct an effective cybersecurity audit in your company.
Verify the Age of Existing Security Solutions and Systems
There is no such thing as an evergreen security solution.
Cyber threats evolve constantly, with hackers and the like continually coming up with new ways to breach existing security protocols. Any system you’ve already implemented has an expiration date. Eventually, it will become ineffective against the new wave of cyber threats.
This means you always need to check the age of your company’s existing cybersecurity solutions.
Make sure to update your company’s systems whenever the manufacturer releases an update. But if the manufacturer no longer supports the software you’re using, this is a sign that you need to make a change.
Identify Your Threats
As you conduct your company’s cybersecurity audit, continuously ask yourself where you’re likely to experience the most significant threat.
For example, when auditing a system that contains a lot of customer information, data privacy is a crucial concern. In this situation, threats arise from weak passwords, phishing attacks, and malware.
More threats can come internally, be they from malicious employees or through the mistaken provision of access rights to employees who shouldn’t be able to see specific data.
And sometimes, employees can leak data unknowingly.
For example, allowing employees to connect their own devices to your company network creates risk because you have no control over the security of those external devices.
The point is that you need to understand the potential threats you face before you can focus on implementing any solutions.
Educate Your Employees
You’ve identified the threats and have created plans to respond.
However, those plans mean little if employees do not know how to implement them.
If you face an emergency, such as a data breach, and your employees don’t know how to respond, the cybersecurity audit is essentially useless.
To avoid this situation, you need to educate your employees on what to look out for and how to respond to cybersecurity threats. This often involves the creation of a plan that incorporates the following details:
- The various threat types you’ve identified and how to look out for them
- Where the employee can go to access additional information about a threat
- Who the employee should contact if they identify a threat
- How long it should take to rectify the threat
- Any rules you have in place about using external devices or accessing data stored on secure servers.
It’s highly recommended to perform regular tabletop exercises with your team to walk through threats to your business and how each person should respond. Remember, cybersecurity is not the IT department’s domain alone. It’s an ongoing concern that everybody within an organization must remain vigilant of.
By educating employees about the threats present, and how to respond to them, you create a more robust defense against future attacks.
How Cybersecurity Audits Improve Security
Cybersecurity risk audits offer you a chance to evaluate your security protocols.
They help you to identify issues and ensure that you’re up-to-date in regards to the latest cybersecurity threats. And without them, a business runs the risk of using outdated software to protect itself against ever-evolving attacks.
The need to stay up-to-date highlights the importance of cybersecurity audits.
However, your security solutions are not one-and-done. They require regular updating and re-examination to ensure they’re still fit for the purposes you’re using them for. As soon as they’re not, there will be vulnerabilities to your business that others can exploit.
Audits improve cybersecurity. And improved cybersecurity means you and your customers can feel more confident.
If you’d like to conduct a cybersecurity audit but you’re unsure about whether you have the skills required to do so correctly, we can help. We’d love to have a quick 15-minute no-obligation chat to discuss your existing systems and how we may be able to help you to improve them.