Tips for Effective Cybersecurity Audits

September 6, 2023 by
Mark Nash

Strong or even adequate cybersecurity requires more than just the latest antivirus software to keep your company's network secure. Cybercrime is one of the biggest threats of modern times. If you don't prioritize cybersecurity, you place yourself and your company at high risk of attack. While it's likely that you already have some strategies in place to combat hackers and other malicious cyber forces, only having some security is nowhere near good enough. That's where cybersecurity audits become important.

What is a Cybersecurity Audit?

A cybersecurity audit is a comprehensive examination of all the cybersecurity strategies you've implemented. There are two main goals of a cybersecurity audit:

  • Identify any gaps in your cybersecurity setup so you can fill 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:

  1. Assessment
  2. Assignment
  3. Audit

In the assessment phase, you identify and review the existing cybersecurity, which involves checking your company's computers, servers, software, databases, how you assign access rights, and any hardware or software you currently have in place to defend against attacks. The goal of the assessment phase is to highlight any security gaps that you need to act upon. Once the assessment is complete, you move into the assignment phase, where you assign appropriate solutions to the issues identified in the assessment phase. It is likely you will want to assign 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, especially if the solutions needed require skills or knowledge no one within the company possesses. The final phase is when you perform an audit after you've implemented your proposed solutions as a final check of your new system before you release it back into the company. This audit will focus on ensuring that all installations, upgrades, and patches operate as expected.

The Three Tips for a Successful Cybersecurity Audit

Of course, simply knowing the phases of a cybersecurity audit is only helpful if you are able to run an effective audit and learn your network's cybersecurity needs. A poorly conducted audit could miss critical security vulnerabilities, leaving your network unpatched and unprotected from cyberattacks. The following tips should be used to help you conduct an effective cybersecurity audit.

Tip #1 – Always Check for the Age of Existing Security Systems

As with all technology, cyber threats are constantly evolving, with hackers always looking for ways to breach existing security protocols. Any cybersecurity system you implement comes with an unknown expiration date when it will become ineffective against the new wave of cyber threats. So when performing a cybersecurity audit, you should check the age of your company's existing cybersecurity solutions and make sure they are still effective. A good judge of whether hardware or software is still viable for security is if the manufacturer is still releasing updates. If the manufacturer no longer supports the hardware/software you're using, then you shouldn't either.

Tip #2 – Identify Your Threats

The most important question to ask during a cybersecurity audit is where you're likely to experience the most significant threats. For example, when auditing a system containing sensitive or private information, data privacy is a crucial concern. Following that example, primary threat concerns would include weak passwords, phishing attacks, malware, and even internal threats such as malicious employees, the mistaken provision of access rights to employees who shouldn't be able to see specific data, or even employees accidentally leaking data unknowingly. Accidental data leaks often happen due to insufficient security; employees' personal devices connected to your company network are a point of risk because you have no control over the security of those devices. The point is that you need to identify the potential threats you face before you can implement any solutions.

Tip #3 – Consider How You Will Educate Employees

After you've identified the threats and created plans to respond, you need to ensure everyone knows how to implement them. All the planning in the world is only helpful if you can implement them; otherwise, the cybersecurity audit is essentially useless. It is vital to educate your employees on what to look out for and how to respond to cybersecurity threats. They should have a thorough understanding of:

  • The different threats you've identified and how to identify them
  • Where to go to access additional information about a threat
  • Whom to contact if they identify a threat
  • How long it should take to rectify the threat
  • Any rules about using external devices or accessing data stored on secure servers.

Remember, cybersecurity is not the exclusive responsibility of the IT department. Cybersecurity vulnerabilities can be created by anyone, often by accident, so everyone within an organization must remain vigilant. Educating employees about cyber threats and how to respond to them is essential for a robust defense against attacks.

Audits Improve Security

Cybersecurity audits offer you a chance to evaluate your security protocols, identify issues, and ensure you're up-to-date with the latest cybersecurity threats. A business running on outdated cybersecurity will quickly find itself overwhelmed by ever-evolving cyberattacks, hence the importance of cybersecurity audits. Of course, your security solutions are not one-and-done; they require regular updating and re-examination to ensure they're still providing adequate protection. That is why regularly scheduled cybersecurity audits are recommended. Audits improve cybersecurity, which means you and your customers can feel more confident.