With the evolution in technology and constant development, there have been discoveries, advanced technologies being used regularly. This has also led to a rise in cyberattacks. The perpetrator has adopted various methods to infiltrate the new and updated applications, databases, etc., which raises significant concerns for the application’s security to maintain confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity. Organizations store the data on the system, which undergoes regular updates. At times, few vulnerabilities may be present with the new version of an application after an update, giving the attacker infiltrate the system. Therefore, a system to monitor and verify these aspects is required. Security audits are the systematic evaluation or analysis of the security aspects of the organization’s data/information based on various sets of conditions and criteria.
What Is A Security Audit and How Is It Performed?
A cybersecurity audit is the systematic evaluation of the organization’s security policies and determining the accuracy and how well it matches the established standards and guidelines. Security audits have become an integral part of the organization’s assessments. They are performed on the information security level of the organization. The audit is performed on three broadly classified aspects which are technical, physical, and administrative.
Security audits are very crucial to the organization as they expose all the vulnerabilities and security strategies. They help identify and recognize insider threats, vulnerabilities, and help in being ahead of security breaches, cyber threats, and cyberattacks, which affect the organization’s security, reputation, and financial conditions.
The security audit follows a particular pattern/workflow:
1. Defining the assessment criteria
It is essential to determine the objectives which need to be addressed. This gives a clear outlook on the problems which need to be addressed quickly and provides insight into the current situation. Identify the prevailing threats and outline the possible risks caused by the threat and other vulnerabilities. Define the audit procedure and methods and methods to track the audit procedure.
2. Evaluating current security policies and methods
Reflect on the current security situation and narrow down the security perimeter and the current threats, vulnerabilities, and risks that affect the overall security. Analyze and conclude what is lacking and how to fix it to strengthen the security policies and procedures.
3. Preparing the security audit
The next step is to prepare the security audit plan. Prioritize the area which needs at most importance to be resolved or upgraded. Organize and select the tools which are required to perform the audit. Imply methodologies to collect and preserve accurate and correct data to proceed with the audit based on the acquired data.
4. Conducting the security audit
Once the required tools are finalized, the audit can be performed. While performing the audit, it is essential to provide the appropriate documents and constantly perform due diligence. Monitor the audit accurately and document it for future use. Use the data collected and previous audit records to understand and check for the various factors that affect the organization’s IT security, resulting in differences and multiple factors.
5. Completion and the final result of the audit
Once the auditing procedure is completed, document it, prepare a list of the actions that need to be taken based on the audit, and resolve the changes to remediate the organization’s security. On completion, share the detailed results with the respective authorities.
Why Is a Security Audit Important and Necessary?
A security audit helps evaluate the security status, and regular audits help recognize new threats and vulnerabilities, which allows the organization to understand its security policies and guidelines. Some organizations make it mandatory to imply security audits, as it complies with legal aspects as well. Security audits are done regularly to identify and resolve security issues.
With the constant development and updating of the applications, new hardware and software are added, creating new security endpoints – potentially leading to new vulnerabilities and threats. It is crucial to perform audits regularly to prevent any risks from happening. A security audit is essential and beneficial to an organization. It helps in:
- Analyzing the current security practices of the organization and verifying if they are apt or not.
- Monitoring the training procedure ensuring that the audit is conducted.
- Vulnerabilities and possible threats are discovered which were caused by new technology, application, or a process.
- It helps assure that the organization is compliant with the security regulations (HIPPA, SHIELD, CCPA, etc.).
- Protects the resources of the organization.
- Identifies security vulnerabilities.
- Prepares the organization for a potential security breach or cyberattack.
- Up-to-date about the latest security measures required for the organization.
- Responsible for framing new security policies based on the auditing results.
Types of Security Audits
Security audits can be classified under three categories:
Security audits that are performed for ad-hoc applications or exceptional situations, resulting in a change of the current operational flow. For example, an addition of new software or hardware needs to be tested and audited for potential risks and threats to ensure the security of the resources related to it.
2. Tollgate Assessment:
Security audits resulting in binary outputs are known as tollgate assessments. It’s a yes or no audit that helps in determining if a new process can be incorporated or not. The audit ensures that it can be included if the process is secure; else, it discards, giving no room for risks and threats.
3. Portfolio Assessment:
Security audits which are bi-annual or annual, are known as Portfolio Assessments. They are done at regular intervals depending upon the organization’s security practices. This helps to ensure that the security standards are maintained, and security procedures are being followed and maintained appropriately.
Tips on Good Security Audit Analysis
Assessing and preparing security audits can be confusing, and sometimes, certain things can be overlooked. It is essential to know what a security audit consists of. Preparing a checklist can help to form a security audit strategy based on crucial factors which should be considered. The following is an essential checklist that you can follow:
- Record and document the entire audit procedure, including who will be performing the audit and what is being audited.
- Document the current security policy, which can be used as a reference to understand where the problem was and to compare the before and after statistics.
- Evaluate the existing security measures that have been taken and if they are being followed to maintain security.
- Update security patches regularly to avoid risks that can take place due to vulnerabilities and bugs in the older versions.
- Ensure that there are no gaps in the firewalls, which can lead to potential risk.
- Ensure that data access is done according to segregation of duties and least privilege and need-to-know principles.
- Incorporate the best encryption practices to ensure integrity, confidentiality, and authenticity of the data and resources.
- Verify the wireless security policies and incorporate standard security policies for wireless networks.
- Scan network and access points/ports at regular intervals to ensure the authenticity of every connection and data transmitted.
- Record and review the event logs to identify any unauthorized activity.
Learn How to Perform a Security Audit the Right Way
Security audits are very crucial to determine the security standards and practices of an organization. Many tools are used to test and achieve the desired results. The tools commonly used are Burp Suite, Qualys web app scanners, Rapid 7, Nessus, Solarwind access rights manager, Manage engine event log manager, etc. It can be achieved with the supervision of a CISO officer responsible for the organization’s information and data security. A CISO officer is a senior-level executive within the organization responsible for handling security risks, information security strategies to overcome the risks, etc.
All the security measures are evaluated by the CISO and are implemented once they approve the strategies. A CISO must have the ability to manage security planning strategies, project requirements, risk assessments, security auditing, etc. CISO is responsible for identifying the possibilities of any potential data breaches and avoiding and mitigating all the risk factors of an incident. One must be a trained CISO officer to understand the concepts and deploy the apt security measures to prevent data breaches. Many certified courses can be opted to become a professional CISO officer. One such course is EC-Council’s Certified Chief Information Security Officer (CCISO), which offers an extensive in-depth course about the roles and responsibilities of a CISO.