Updated: Nov 6, 2020
Standalone standard risk assessments are not enough to formulate and maintain a robust security strategy to protect your company’s digital assets. Cyber self-audits are critical for your business as they allow you to set parameters and goals. They also enable you to:
Establish your set of security standards that you can roll out across the business.
Enforce regulations and industry best practices.
Determine the state of your cybersecurity and how to improve your processes.
Overall, self-auditing is an excellent tool when you want to understand your cybersecurity readiness or when preparing for an external audit. Data loss and security breaches are detrimental to your company and can make or break an organization. They can also cause customers and other businesses to lose confidence in your cybersecurity ability.
Today’s data and network security environments are diverse and complex. There are numerous security system pieces that you need to examine individually and as a whole to ensure they work properly, are safe, and do not pose a threat to your company, its data, and your customers’ data.
For these reasons above, it is critical to perform audits of your environment as often as you can.
How to Run a Cybersecurity Audit
You need an efficient method for collecting the data you require to conduct an audit, such as user activity monitoring, employee tracking software, or access management that allows you to access the data in a centralised place.
The next thing is to determine whether you will do an internal audit or conduct an external one using a consummate professional.
External auditors use various cybersecurity software like vulnerability detectors. They can bring a significant amount of information and knowledge to the table to help you identify security flaws and fill the gaps in your systems. Of course, these professional auditing services do not come cheap.
On the other hand, conducting an internal audit is a lot easier. It allows you to gather unbiased data and set your benchmarks. However, it often lacks the experience of a professional, unless you hire one as part of your team. Although internal audits may sound complicated, in essence, all you need is to establish proper KPIs and deliverables while ensuring that the company adheres to best practices.
1. Define Your Priorities
A nominated Data Protection Officer, as specified by the GDPR process, usually handles the audit. The first thing to do is to write a thorough cybersecurity audit checklist and a separate assets list. Here, assets can include computer equipment, sensitive customer and company data, and anything else that requires time and resources to repair for the business to run correctly (i.e., internal documentation or communication systems).
After narrowing down your assets, you need to identify your security parameters to decide what to audit and what does not meet the threshold.
2. Assess All Threats
The next step is assessing all potential threats to the identified assets. These can include the following:
Employee ignorance and carelessness.
Phishing attacks that seek to gain access to sensitive information.
Weak and stolen passwords.
DDoS (Distributed denial-of-service) attacks that aim to overload target systems and render them useless.
Malware attacks (Trojans, worms, spyware, or ransomware) from malicious actors.
Physical theft and destruction.
Include all conceivable threats – as long as they could potentially cost your company a significant outlay.
3. Evaluate Present Security Processes
After pinpointing potential threats to your systems, you next need to examine whether your existing infrastructure can defend against them. Assess the effectiveness of your present security measures and evaluate the links in the chain for weakness, whether it’s your staff, security procedures, business as a whole, or you. Avoid emotional bias towards your employees and in your self-evaluation.
Since you cannot avoid or stop all potential security threats, your best bet is to prioritise. You can do this by comparing the potential damage of a threat versus its probability of occurrence to come up with a risk score. Here, it’s essential to research past cyber-breaches affecting your company, current cyber developments, industry-wide trends, as well as regulations and compliance issues.
5. Finalise Your Security Protocols
The last stage requires that you take action to prevent identified threats or mitigate their effects. Among the things to consider include:
Conduct employee training, including creating content and schedules for new employees and ongoing refresher training for existing ones.
Enforce email protection to reduce incidents of phishing and other malicious attacks.
Backup your data regularly and separate it from your primary network.
Update your software regularly to ensure your systems use the latest releases only.
Improve password management to prevent theft and access. Invest in password managers, discourage the reuse of passwords, amplify sophistication, and find safer ways of sharing them.
Employ network monitoring software to alert you of suspicious activities.
Over to You
There you have it, a blow by blow account of how to run your cybersecurity audit. Just remember that an internal security review is not a finality but an ongoing process. Use it as a benchmark for future ones and always work to improve your systems and technology to create a robust culture across your organization where cybersecurity is an ongoing concern.