Best Practices for Cybersecurity Auditing [a Step-by-Step Checklist]

By Jeff Aldorisio

Posted on Aug 17, 2020

As organizations adopt new digital technologies, their risk of being targeted in cyberattacks grows. The increased network complexity that comes as a result of digital innovation often creates new network gaps for cyber adversaries to exploit. If left unchecked, these risks can undermine organizational objectives which is why it is critical that businesses have effective cybersecurity programs in place.

A key component to the success of these programs is the administration of cybersecurity audits. Administering regular cybersecurity audits helps organizations identify gaps in their cybersecurity infrastructure. Organizations can also use audits to evaluate their compliance with various regulations and laws.

With an established cybersecurity auditing program, businesses can effectively monitor their security posture as their networks grow and become more complex.

What is a cybersecurity audit?

Cybersecurity audits act as a checklist that organizations can use to validate their security policies and procedures. Organizations that conduct an audit will be able to assess whether or not they have the proper security mechanisms in place while also making sure they are in compliance with relevant regulations. This helps businesses take a proactive approach when designing cybersecurity policies, resulting in more dynamic threat management. Cybersecurity audits are performed by third-party vendors in order to eliminate any conflicts of interest. They can also be administered by an in-house team as long as they act independently of their parent organization.

How does a cybersecurity audit differ from a cybersecurity assessment?

Cybersecurity assessments are concerned with the effectiveness of an organization’s security controls. While an auditor will check to see whether or not you have certain controls in place, a cybersecurity assessment will evaluate how well each control is managing risk. Cybersecurity assessments are useful when evaluating your organization’s cyberhealth and overall risk levels. Additionally, cybersecurity assessments do not need to be administered by third-parties.

Best practices when preparing for a cybersecurity audit

There are several steps you can take to ensure you are prepared for when auditors begin their assessment of your organization’s security infrastructure. The more prepared you are, the better, as it will help streamline the evaluation and improve the accuracy of the results.

Below are five best practices you can follow to prepare for a cybersecurity audit:

1. Review your data security policy

All organizations should have an information security policy that establishes rules for handling sensitive customer and employee information. Before the audit begins, make sure that you review this policy with regard to data confidentiality, integrity, and availability.

Data confidentiality is concerned with which employees have access to what data and who they can disclose data to. Data integrity details how well your controls maintain data accuracy. This also outlines the steps you take to make sure the IT systems that handle data remain operational in the event of an attack. Finally, data availability outlines the conditions under which data can be accessed by authorized users.

Solidified information security policies help auditors classify data and determine which levels of security are needed to protect it. Auditors can also quiz employees on data security protocols to make sure that everyone at your organization is aware of your policies and can detail their data security responsibilities. Data security is essential to regulatory compliance so the more information you can provide to auditors, the better they can evaluate your compliance efforts.

2. Centralize your cybersecurity policies

Consolidating your cybersecurity policies helps increase the efficiency of the audit process. Providing auditors with a list of your security and compliance policies helps them gain a more complete understanding of your security practices, making it easier for them to identify potential gaps.

Some important policies to include are as follows:

  • Network access control (NAC): Do you have NAC solutions in place? If so, are they segmented, and who has access to what?
  • Disaster recovery and business continuity plans: In the event of a breach, what policies will come into play to ensure that your business can remain operational?
  • Remote work policies: How does your organization maintain security for its remote workforce?
  • Acceptable use policy: What terms must employees agree to before they are allowed to access IT assets?

3. Detail your network structure

One of the goals of cybersecurity audits is to help identify potential gaps in security on enterprise networks. Providing a network diagram to your auditor helps them gain a comprehensive view of your IT infrastructure, expediting the assessment process. To create a network diagram, layout your network assets, and detail how each of them work together. With a top-down view of your network, auditors can more easily identify potential weaknesses and edges.

4. Review relevant compliance standards

Before the audit begins, it is important to review the requirements of the compliance standards that apply to your business. Once you have done so, be sure to share this information with your cybersecurity audit team. Knowing which compliance regulations apply to your business allows audit teams to align their assessments with the needs of your organization. By reviewing your organization’s compliance requirements you can take an active role in the audit by providing clarification on any questions the auditors may have.

5. Create a list of security personnel and their responsibilities

Employee interviews are an important part of cybersecurity audits. Auditors will often interview various security personnel in order to gain a better understanding of an organization’s security architecture. You can help optimize this process by providing your auditing team with a document that lists out the individual responsibilities of different members of your security staff. This will help save time and ensure that the auditors have access to all information they need.

How SecurityScorecard can help you prepare for a cybersecurity audit

Without consistent visibility into their network infrastructure, it can be difficult for organizations to properly prepare for a cybersecurity audit. With SecurityScorecard’s Security Ratings, organizations gain increased visibility into security controls across their network ecosystem. This allows you to build informed audit reports that provide insight into the strength of day-to-day cybersecurity practices. With Security Ratings, you can ensure that your auditors are seeing up-to-date, accurate information when they are assessing your security posture.

Security Ratings also highlight critical and common risks on your network, enabling you to drill down and prioritize remediation efforts. This continuous monitoring helps you stay protected between audits and assessments.

Threats are growing in sophistication, and having regular cybersecurity audits has become a necessity. With SecurityScorecard, you have access to the tools you need to make sure your audits are efficient and effective.

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