What is a Cybersecurity Audit?
…And the Four Tips for Running One
Antivirus software alone won’t make sure your business’ network is secure. To get a complete picture of your security strategy, you need a cybersecurity audit.
Earlier this year, we launched our Cybersecurity resilience audit. A traffic-light report for businesses in Australia to quickly identify how well they are protected against a Cybersecurity incident. However, we thought we’d take the time to explain what goes into an audit and what you need to know if you want to run one for your business.
The pandemic of modern times, other than Covid-19, is Cybercrime.
There were 813 million instances of malware infection detected in 2018. In 2020 there was a 600% increase in Cybercrime. And this year? Well, this year, the estimated cost of ransomware attacks is expected to cost businesses $6 trillion per year. That’s trillion with a “T”.
To reduce your attack surface and reduce your company’s cybersecurity risk, you must prioritise your cybersecurity resilience.
So you have more than antivirus? That’s excellent news. The more layers and strategies you have to combat hackers and nefarious forces, the better. But how do you know the measures you have in place are sufficient?
And here lies the importance of cybersecurity audits.
In this blog post, we examine what cybersecurity audits are and share with you crucial tips for running one in your company—something every Australian company should be doing.
WHAT IS A CYBERSECURITY AUDIT?
Think of an audit as an in-depth look at your crucial cybersecurity strategies.
The two primary goals of such an audit are:
- Identify any significant gaps in your system and then proceed with covering them.
- Develop an in-depth report that you can use to demonstrate your cybersecurity resilience to management or external parties at how strong your defences are against cyber threats. (Insurance companies like this deliverable!)
A general cybersecurity audit has three main phases:
- Assessment of threats
- Assignment of tasks
- Audit the remediation and solution
During the assessment phase, you need to examine the existing system.
You need to check all your company’s computers, servers, databases, systems, and software. Permissions to each method are also necessary, so a review of how you set access rights, what the current permissions are, and then also examine any and all software and hardware you use to defend against external threats.
This phase will likely highlight security issues that you need to remediate. If you haven’t located any, you might need to look broader and deeper at your security. Once complete, it’s time to move into the assignment of tasks phase.
In this second phase, it’s time to assign solutions to the issues discovered in phase 1. This will involve giving relevant people in your team the task of implementing those solutions. In some cases, you might need outside help if you are time-poor or the skill set of your internal team needs assistance.
In the last phase, you will finalise the audit.
This can only be done with you’ve implemented the solution defined in the above phases. A final check before it comes standard within your business. It should answer the question, “Has everything we’ve implemented function as expected?” If the answer is yes, congratulations! This audit is complete. If not, well, hopefully, with a bit of tweaking, you can answer in the positive.
FOUR TIPS FOR A SUCCESSFUL CYBERSECURITY AUDIT
So now that you know what it takes to run a cybersecurity audit, how do you make sure to run it effectively so that you get all the information you need? In the end, if the audit isn’t up to scratch, you will leave your business exposed to an attack.
These four tips will help you conduct an effective cybersecurity audit for your business.
TIP #1 – ALWAYS CHECK FOR THE AGE OF EXISTING SECURITY SYSTEMS
There is no such thing as a “set and forget” security solution.
Cybersecurity threats are constantly changing, with hackers and their tools continually coming up with new ways to break through your security measures. As a result, every system and protection you’ve put in place will become obsolete. It’s just a matter of when. When that date arrives, it will be useless against the latest methods the hackers use.
This means you need a process in place to check the effectiveness of your business’ cybersecurity defences regularly.
You’ll need to make sure to update your systems when the manufacturer releases an update. For example, if the manufacturer no longer supports the software you’re using, it’s time to make a change. Just don’t wait until that date arrives. Instead, ensure you’re aware ahead of time, so you’re not left vulnerable.
TIP #2 – IDENTIFY YOUR THREATS
When conducting your cybersecurity audit, always focus on the areas that pose the biggest threats to your business.
On such area is Personal Identifiable Information (PII). Data breach legislation is now in place in Australia, and it’s your responsibility to ensure this data is well protected. Threats can arise from poor password policies, phishing attacks, and malware installed on your systems.
Most business owners are surprised that most threats are internal. I’m not talking about malicious employees, although you need to protect against them too. No, I’m talking about the well-intentioned staff that are naive into doing the wrong thing by a well-crafted phishing email or, in some cases, clicking the wrong button. That’s why user training is crucial to increase vigilance but more on that in tip #3.
Something that has become more of an issue since the advent of remote working is that allowing staff to connect their non-work devices to your business network is a risk because you have no control or visibility over the security of those devices.
The key takeaway here is that you cannot implement any solutions until you understand the potential threats.
TIP #3 – EDUCATE YOUR STAFF TO PROTECT YOUR BUSINESS
So you’ve identified the threats and have created plans to respond. Brilliant work! Most Aussie businesses don’t get this far before giving up.
So does your staff know how to implement these plans when the time comes?
In an emergency, such as a data breach, your team needs to know how to respond. Otherwise, all that time and effort planning and implementing could be wasted, and we don’t want that.
To avoid such a situation, you need to educate your staff on what to lb e wary of and the appropriate response to cybersecurity threats. A plan that involves the following will ensure your team is ready and able to respond:
- How to identify different threat types
- Where staff can go to access information about a particular threat
- What the escalation procedure is when a threat is identified
- The time required to remediate a threat
- All rules around setting permissions for internal and external devices and how this data should be accessed
Solid cybersecurity is a whole of business responsibility. Not just the techies in the IT department. It’s an ongoing task where everyone in the business must remain vigilant.
With employee education around the threats and how to respond to them, you give your business the best chance of protecting itself.
TIP #4 – SCHEDULE IN REGULAR AUDITS
A regular cybersecurity audit should be scheduled yearly. You can work it in and around the time of your Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity planning. Take a look at your systems to see if any new threats have emerged, or any new weaknesses have been discovered. You will get much better results if you have this book into all your key teams’ calendars rather than addressing things in an ad-hoc manner.
Audits Improve Security
If you can’t measure it, how can you improve it? A Cybersecurity audit gives you the chance to measure your protection so you can improve them.
An audit can help you to identify issues and make sure that you’re up-to-date with the newest cybersecurity threats. Without them, your company runs the risk of using obsolete software to protect itself against a relentless, ever-evolving, never sleeping system.
The vigilance required, this need to stay up-to-date highlights how import of cybersecurity audits are.
Remember, your security solutions are not set-and-forget. Instead, your protection requires regular updating and re-examination to ensure they’re still fit for the purpose. And the second they are not, these vulnerabilities can be exploited.
Audits will improve your cybersecurity.
And with improved cybersecurity, your customers can feel more confident that their data is well protected.
If you’ve read this far, you are serious about your security. That’s excellent news. However, if you want a cybersecurity audit but are not sure you have the time and skill to carry one out correctly, Intuitive IT is here to help. We can provide a quick traffic light report covering the key areas most businesses are exposed to or a more in-depth review. Either way, we’d be more than happy to have a quick 15-minute no-obligation chat to discuss your IT systems and how we may be able to help you to improve your defences around them.
About the author
Yener is the founder and Managing Director of Intuitive IT. Prior to running his own business Yener worked for a number of corporate organisations where he gained invaluable experience and skills, as well as an understanding of how IT can complement and improve business outcomes.