Step by Step Guide for Cybersecurity Auditing

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Most businesses are custodians of sensitive data about their clients and employees as well as critical financial details. The risk of disclosure of data to malicious attacks could do untold damage to the business’s health.

A tight security system is essential because cybercriminals lurk in the shadows hunting for and creating opportunities to access this valuable data. While your business may have cybersecurity measures in place, it is vital to perform cybersecurity auditing to ensure no gaps within your security strategy. 

A cybersecurity auditing is a wholesome assessment of the security systems in an organization. It involves technical analysis of the business’s entire IT infrastructure from applications, the operating systems, and everything. The only way to ensure that your security systems are foolproof is by conducting regular in-depth assessments of the current security strategies. 

Who Should Conduct the Audit?

A cybersecurity audit can be done in-house using the company resources or with the help of external auditors. Internal audits are cheaper, more efficient, and easier to manage. It is way easier for an employee to gather data and understand the company processes without interrupting the business workflow.  

Hiring external auditors does not come cheap. You could consider hiring external auditors once in a while. However, these auditors have a wide range of software selection and have worlds of knowledge for identifying gaps and flaws within your security system. Also, they may not have a bias when auditing employees who may be the weakest link in your data security efforts.

Steps For Conducting a Cybersecurity Audit

Follow the steps required for a successful Cybersecurity auditing.

Define the Assets

The very first thing an auditor needs to do is to list all the assets to determine how far the audit needs to stretch. Assets are anything from sensitive company data or client information to computer equipment. Even internal documentation and communication systems that aid the smooth operation of the business.

After narrowing down the assets, the next thing to do is identifying which of the assets are most valuable. It may be hard to take care of all possible assets in the audit. You, therefore, need to know the most valuable assets to put all the focus on during the audit.  

Identify Threats

After defining the assets, the next thing is analyzing potential threats to the said assets. Threats could take the form of substandard employee password protection, denial of service attacks, or even physical breaches from fire and natural disasters. Any potential threats that could potentially cost the business should be considered. 

Some of the most common threats are

  • Weak passwords
  • Phishing Attacks
  • Malware
  • DDoS attacks
  • Theft

Assess the Existing Security Processes

After determining the possible threats you could encounter, the next course of action is to analyze how equipped your current infrastructure is in dealing with the threats. This step involves only assessing how effective your security measures are. You are simply evaluating every link in the chain for weakness. 

Prioritize Possible Threats

One of the most significant steps is prioritizing the possible threats. Assign risk scores to rank the threats. The main factors to consider when determining the risk score are potential damage from an occurrence, the likelihood of that occurrence, and how equipped the existing strategies are in dealing with the occurrence. An average of these factors gives the risk score. 

  • It is also crucial to research other factors such as:
  • Any historical cyber-breaches within the organization
  • The current cyber trends. You need to research the existing methods that cybercriminals are using to attack. It helps to know the current technological advancements that are emerging to deal with the prevalent threats.
  • Industry trends. For instance, if you are in the financial industry, you hold a lot of customer data. It makes the chances of attacks higher than they would be in other sectors. 

All these factors will help you get a more accurate risk score.

Create a Plan of Action

The final step is finalizing the security protocols. Have your list of threats and the best security practices to neutralize or do away with the risks. Some of the best solutions to consider for eliminating threats are:

Employee Awareness

Most employees do not have cybersecurity training. Without the relevant education, they could pose a threat to system security. Conducting training for new employees and refresher classes now and then will ensure that your staff is more aware. And it becomes easier to avoid accidental errors. 

Email Protection

Phishing attacks are becoming more common. Mainly because they are getting more sophisticated and hence harder to identify, spam filters could help. Still, it is also vital to distinguish between external and internal emails in your network.

Backup

The most significant blow for any organization after a cyber-attack is the loss of data. Prioritizing regular backup is necessary for ensuring easier recovery in the event of an attack.  

Updated Software:

Ensuring that all the computers in your network have the latest software helps extensively secure any potential access points. One way of doing this is using software that locks out users with outdated software from accessing any sensitive information. 

SSL Certificate

Secure Socket Layer (SSL) ensures that all sensitive information being sent across the internet is secure. With an SSL certificate, any valuable information between your server and the end-user is encrypted.

It makes it harder for attackers to intercept and decipher the data. There are many types and vendors of SSL. You can go for a Comodo SSL Wildcard certificate, for example. It will help you secure your domain and its first-level subdomains.

A wildcard option is much cheaper because you use one certificate for the root domain and its first-level subdomains. Your clients will be more confident with your services with an SSL installed.

Monitoring Software

Malicious cybercriminals are always trying to gain access to your systems. Network monitoring software is excellent for notifying you of any suspicious activities or attempted attacks. 

How Often Should You Conduct Cybersecurity Audits?

First, there are two types of audits- routine audits and special audits. The frequency for routine audits is dependent on what the IT officers in the organizations deem fit. It could be biannually, quarterly, or even monthly.

It all depends on the organization’s size, the complexity of the systems, and the kind of information held by the organization.

Special audits, on the other hand, are conducted when need be. Certain circumstances necessitate special audits, such as a data breach or a system upgrade.

Other events that could call for special audits are unexpected growth of the organization, incorporation of new systems, digital transformation, mergers, or changes in the compliance laws. These events require audits to be done outside of the routine schedule.

Finally

To identify problems within your systems, you must know the nature of ‘normal behavior.’ It is hard to identify suspicious behavior when you do not know what to look out for in cybersecurity auditing. Therefore, it is necessary to have a security baseline. You can create it using monitoring or reporting software or hire an external auditor to help you with that. 

Also, for any organization to reap the full benefits of its cybersecurity efforts, the entire organization should appreciate the importance of cybersecurity. The responsibility for protecting these highly classified data cannot lie solely on the shoulders of the IT team. Everyone in the organization should take a personal initiative to prioritize security. Everyone needs to be on board. 

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