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Cyber Security Audit Checklist: What To Look For When Auditing Your Systems

In cybersecurity, as in healthcare, prevention is always a better option than a cure. While the team here at GuardYoo specializes in finding and tracing compromises, we’d much rather that our clients and partners never had to experience any breach-related upheaval in the first place. For most organizations, conducting regular cyber security audits should be a key component of your plan for protecting your most valuable data and assets.

What is a cyber security audit?

A cyber security audit helps companies and other organizations to identify potential threats to their business within their IT infrastructure. Typically conducted by an independent third party, these audits are an integral tool for mitigating risk and helping to prevent security breaches from occurring. In the event of a hack or other catastrophic breach, audits can also help to minimize loss of critical data, and aid with business continuity and recovery.

Should I conduct my own company’s cyber security audit?

While it is possible to conduct audits using internal teams, it is typically considered best practice to engage an independent third party to do this work. In addition to helping to avoid conflicts among colleagues, a reputable auditor also provides a fresh perspective on your organization’s setup while bringing specialized, up-to-date knowledge of current threats and vulnerabilities.

How often should you conduct a cyber security audit?

While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, a general rule of thumb for businesses is as follows: the more valuable your data and the more complex your systems, the more often you should conduct audits.

For smaller organizations with budget constraints and/or relatively simple systems, twice a year may be sufficient for your needs. However, if your organization is larger in scale and complexity, consider quarterly or even monthly audits to help stay ahead of changes such as software patches, technology upgrades, and the ever-evolving threats of hacking and malware attacks.

Checklist: What to look for when auditing your systems

As mentioned above, while it is technically possible for an organization to conduct its own audits, there are significant difficulties in doing so--with many of them boiling down to the same reasons that it would not be recommended for a company to audit its own financial accounts.

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With this in mind, the following checklist is intended to guide conversations with potential auditors, and to provide a roadmap to ensure that any provider you engage knows the full scope of your organization and expectations before they begin the audit process.

1. What are your company’s assets?

From a cyber security perspective, your company’s assets are anything that has value that you want to protect. As such, this can include everything from critical company and customer data to devices, endpoints and even network equipment. Keep in mind that protecting data is about more than passwords and encryption: anything that can be used to gain access to your systems should be considered an asset at this stage, and therefore be included in the audit.

2. What are your company’s threats?

No employee wants to hear it, but when it comes to cyber security, they represent the biggest liability for many companies. For example, according to the Ponemon Institute’s 2020 Encryption Trends Report, employee mistakes account for more than half of all encryption-related security failures. As such, employee training and compliance should be a key concern, along with examining protocols around critical data access and password management.

Additional threats that need to be addressed by any auditor include those represented by out of date or end-of-lifed systems, software and security patches, all of which can allow hackers to take advantage of known vulnerabilities to gain access.

3. How are these threats currently being mitigated?

Once you have identified the biggest threats to your organization’s technology security, it is also important to consider how they are being dealt with at present. Even threats that seem to be under control can become an issue if the solutions being implemented become outdated. As such, compiling a comprehensive list of solutions and providers is a critical step in ensuring that an auditor can correctly identify issues and provide recommendations for solving or mitigating them.

4. What has changed since your last audit?

For organizations that conduct audits on a less frequent basis--quarterly or bi-annually --the first three steps outlined above are likely to be part of the process each time you prepare for an audit, due to the number of variables that can change over these time periods. Even so, asking this question can be a way to identify assets, threats or other changes that may otherwise have been overlooked. For organizations that conduct audits more regularly, meanwhile, it may be worth starting with this question to ensure that a process that can become tedious remains focused on the real goal: securing your company’s most valuable assets. 

When choosing a cybersecurity partner, it is important to consider not just the preventative measures they are able to take, but also their ability to react quickly and effectively in the event of a breach. As has been noted, regular auditing can help to identify threats to your business so you can take steps to mitigate against them, making a reputable cybersecurity auditor a key partner for any technology-centric company. However, one area where auditors cannot help most companies is in identifying and dealing with existing breaches. If a network has already been breached, a typical audit is unlikely to find it, as it is only scanning for future threats.

GuardYoo provides cybersecurity partners with a platform to find those existing breaches through a Remote Compromise Assessment that uncovers Indicators of Compromise such as suspicious user behaviour, weak password strength policies, and unauthorised software. Our Remote Compromise Assessment platform will provide a forensic analysis of your infrastructure within 1 week. The results of our Compromise Assessment will help you understand where your network is vulnerable, allowing you to make more informed decisions on how to direct your existing security solutions (SIEM, Vulnerability Assessment, Pen-Testing). Our blog "Remote Compromise Assessment - Step 1 in a logical cybersecurity strategy, covers this in more detail. 

If you would like to learn more about GuardYoo's Remote Compromise Assessment platform please reach out to us - info@guardyoo.com or fill in the contact us form at the bottom of this page.