2021 brought relentless news of new cybersecurity threats somewhere in the world. The Colonial Pipeline attack By Russian hacker group, DarkSide, disrupted fuel distribution and disabled a supply chain that was already hobbled by COVID.

The IT company Kaseya was hit by a ransomware attack that locked customers in 17 countries out of its online platforms. Cybercriminals seemed always two steps ahead, exploring IT vulnerabilities before host companies even understood the level of cybersecurity risk they had.

Getting ahead of cybercriminals is why you need to implement regular cybersecurity audits: if you don’t know what your IT vulnerabilities are, it’s nearly impossible to maintain tight cybersecurity and protect your sensitive data from falling into the wrong hands.

How is a cybersecurity audit different from other audits?

A cybersecurity audit is typically performed by a contractor in close collaboration with an internal audit team. Using a contractor for the audit assures an objective audit process, free of internal biases and attempted workarounds. A cybersecurity audit also seeks to understand how well your company is meeting current compliance standards and industry-wide cybersecurity policies.

What is the difference between a security audit and a penetration test?

A cybersecurity audit is undertaken from the inside of your company’s IT systems. The audit looks at your risk management plans and policies, as well as at your security policies and IT infrastructure, with the ultimate goal of making your internal structures as strong and sustainable as possible.

In contrast, a penetration test is conducted from outside the company’s firewalls. During a penetration test, a contractor fakes a cyberattack on your business to test how strong your network security really is. Penetration tests will fling fictional cyber threats at your IT team and try to complete a data breach by using malware or phishing scams to work around network access controls.

What is the main purpose of a cybersecurity audit?

A strong cybersecurity audit is comprehensive and thorough. It should work its way through all your IT systems and connections, to expose any weakness in your existing security practices and to identify potential vulnerabilities. The audits should also offer action items to fix those weaknesses.

What does a cybersecurity audit include?

The cybersecurity audit closely examines your information systems and looks for areas that may need cybersecurity remediation — firewalls that are out of date, for example, or program patches that have not been installed. It also suggests new security controls you may want to apply.

The audit examines your preparedness and existing security measures by asking questions such as:

  • What is the status of your cybersecurity program?
  • Do you have an incident response team ready to go?
  • Do you have a plan for business continuity in case you fall victim to a cybersecurity incident?
  • Have you established a disaster recovery plan?

These are all important questions to answer on a routine basis to make sure that your IT security is strong and continues to develop as cyber criminals get better and better.

What are the steps for a cybersecurity audit?

A cybersecurity audit is part of your risk assessment program, and it’s completely focused on IT security. It’s important to get support from all stakeholders in your company before you begin.

Here are five steps to get your cybersecurity audit on its way to success:

  1. Review what you are already doing. Inspect and update your information security policy, along with any company-wide security standards and policies.
  2. Consolidate cybersecurity policies and apply them company-wide. This makes it easier both for your employees and for your audit team.
  3. Make sure you are in compliance with any industry standards that apply to your area of business. Part of this exercise is also a review of applicable standards and potential updates you may have missed.
  4. Structure your internal incident response team and security personnel in a transparent, easy-to-understand manner that clearly defines who is responsible for which areas of your IT security program.
  5. Evaluate your efforts and determine where there is room for improvement.

Cybersecurity and Compliance Management Tools

ZenGRC’s compliance, cybersecurity audit, and workflow management software is an intuitive platform that not only keeps track of your systems, but also lets you identify areas of high cyber risk before that risk has turned into a data security incident.

Worry-free compliance management is the Zen way. For more information on how ZenGRC can enable your CMS, contact us for a demo.