What Is a Cybersecurity Audit, and Why Is It Important?

Cyberattacks have only increased both in severity and number since the beginning of 2021. Well-organized, orchestrated hacker groups continue to keep large organizations on their heels as newer, more sophisticated methods of employing cybersecurity measures are rolled out every quarter.

Even the federal government is having to continuously update its cybersecurity protocols. The recent SolarWinds Hack exposed numerous vulnerabilities that extend well beyond the initial attack vector, which originated somewhere in Russia.

The ongoing threat to sensitive data and critical business operations means companies large and small need to maintain a constant vigil against potential breaches and hacks. A critical aspect of this involves the strategic execution of what are known as Cybersecurity Audits—or comprehensive compliance assessments that reveal where weaknesses and vulnerabilities may exist within an organization.

If you haven’t had a professional cybersecurity audit conducted, chances are your enterprise could be at risk, and you don’t even know it.

How Cybersecurity Audits Are Performed

First and foremost, it’s important to rely on the dedicated expertise of an independent, third-party IT company that specializes in performing cybersecurity audits.

While it’s possible to rely on an internal staff member or team to conduct a cybersecurity audit, if it’s not their sole responsibility, key findings could be missed or omitted.

At Mission Critical Systems, we incorporate several best practices when performing any cybersecurity audit. These include:

Development of a Security Scorecard

Every organization has (or, at least should have) existing cybersecurity policies in place. The first order of business is to make a list of the existing security controls so they can each be isolated and their effectiveness can be verified.

Information Gathering

It will be important to get answers to key cybersecurity-related questions, like “Who manages your IT environment?”, “Who has access to your computer hardware?”, “Where and how is your data currently stored?”, “How are employees’ identities and permissions managed?”, among others.

5-Layer Security System Evaluation

cyber security auditEvery business relies on some level of security at each of five categorical levels.

These are, from bottom to top:

  • Physical Level (disk encryption, biometric data controls, gated security, etc.)
  • Network Level
  • System Level (patching processes, role-based access, privileged account management, etc.)
  • Data Level (enterprise-wide data encryption, network access control, data transmission and storage)
  • Operational Level (stated policies, procedures, and related security controls)

Final Report and Recommendations

For each layer analyzed and tested, a report is provided that shows where vulnerabilities may exist and what steps may need to be taken to bring the overall cybersecurity status into good standing.

It’s important to note the difference between a cybersecurity assessment and a cybersecurity audit. A cybersecurity assessment is merely an accounting of what systems or controls are in place at a given point in time. A cybersecurity audit also includes an assessment, but goes the extra step by actually testing existing systems to ensure they are functioning as they should be.

Why Cybersecurity Audits Are So Important

Of all the things you can do to protect your business from cyberattacks, a cybersecurity audit offers the highest level of assurance that the right policies, procedures, and countermeasures are in place and working as they should.

A well-conducted cybersecurity audit doesn’t just help business owners. They also provide the confidence needed by investors, partners, and regulatory organizations when they evaluate your business for credentials and overall worthiness.

The list of benefits afforded by a cybersecurity audit is extensive, and it includes:

  • Security gap identification
  • Attack preemption
  • Enhanced performance
  • Assurance for vendors, clients, and employees
  • Improved security posture
  • Documentation for insurance purposes

Another important reason to have regular cybersecurity audits performed is the constantly evolving state of information technology. Sometimes, all it takes is a few weeks before a proven cybersecurity measure is made outdated due to advancements in tactics or tools used by hackers.

How Often Should Your Business Get a Cybersecurity Audit?

The answer to the question of cybersecurity audit frequency depends on a few factors, but generally speaking, a cybersecurity audit should be performed at least once a year or, at minimum, once every two years.

You might need a higher frequency if your company deals with especially sensitive data or if you are required to maintain compliance with certain regulatory bodies.

For example, most federal agencies are required to have cybersecurity audits performed twice a year in order to maintain compliance with the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA).

If you’re not sure how often your organization should be audited, or if you are interested in starting the process of having a comprehensive cybersecurity audit performed by the IT experts at Mission Critical Systems, contact us today.

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