A rule of thumb in cybersecurity is that nobody is entirely safe. In other words, even the most sophisticated data security technologies are susceptible to breaches. The sooner you can spot and avert potential threats in your organization's network, the safer you become. And that's where cybersecurity audits come in—they help you identify your posture and areas that need adjustments. This article delves into what cybersecurity audits are and why they are crucial for modern-day businesses.
What Is a Cybersecurity Audit?
As the name suggests, a cybersecurity audit is a comprehensive review of your organization's IT infrastructure to identify vulnerabilities, high-risk practices, or threats hiding in your systems. It checks whether you have all the necessary policies, procedures, and protocols in place and if they are working effectively. An audit enhances your cybersecurity posture by exposing any systemic or procedural vulnerabilities that a bad actor may use to compromise your network.
An audit is more than just a surface-level assessment to get a snapshot of your company's security posture. No, it is a comprehensive, all-around examination of your entire IT infrastructure. Some of the critical areas cybersecurity audits focus on include:
- Data security: Do you encrypt crucial files? Which access control measures do you have in place? How do you safeguard your data during transit and storage?
- Network security: Which measures have you implemented to safeguard your work environment from unauthorized access, and how effective are they? Here, the focus is on antivirus configurations, security controls, network visibility, and your ability to spot threats.
- Operational Security: Which cybersecurity procedures, policies, and security controls do you have, and how responsive are they? You can also assess how well your staff is with these protocols and their cyber awareness levels.
- System Security: How do you manage privileged accounts? How efficient are your patching and hardening processes? How do you control and monitor system access and restrict what specific users can see?
- Physical security: Here, you look at disk encryption, biometric data, and role-based access controls. You can also assess the effectiveness of your multifactor authentication and threat detection and prevention protocols.
Why Are Cybersecurity Audits Important?
The Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) mandates all U.S. businesses to conduct cybersecurity audits on their systems at least twice per year. For a long time, organizations have been performing assessments merely for compliance with this and other related data security regulations. Fast-forward to today—cybersecurity audits are no longer a luxury or compliance tactic; they are essential. Here's why:
Cyber Attacks Are Continually Increasing
According to Identify Theft Resource Center (ITRC), by October this year alone, U.S. organizations had publicly reported more data breaches than those recorded in the entire 2020. While the increment in cyber incidents may not be news, the fact that the attackers are becoming more severe should be a concern. The bad guys are now going all out—disrupting business operations, stealing data, exposing stolen files, and demanding huge ransoms. You have more to lose than you did a few years ago. Therefore, it's more crucial today to audit your systems and eliminate any vulnerabilities and threats than ever before.
More Cyber Attackers Are Camping in Targets' Systems
We are seeing an increase in the number of cyber-attackers lying dormant in victims' systems before launching onslaughts. During this dormancy period, they learn your communication patterns, response protocols, and siphon any information that can help them plan the deadliest of attacks.
A perfect example is the infamous SolarWinds hack. Several reports have alluded that the hackers were in SolarWinds systems more than nine months before the attack. Regularly auditing your systems can help you identify and eliminate any dormant threats before they get more severe. It reduces your exposure to cyberattacks.
The Work-From-Home Exposes Your Network to More Threats
There's no denying the fact that more people are working more from home than ever before. A recent study by Stanford News estimates that up to 42% of American workers have switched to working remotely. The challenge with working from home is that the remote work environments are not as secure as in-office settings. With corporate gadgets scattered several miles apart, it's almost impossible to ensure they are always in the right hands. Therefore, you need to regularly conduct audits to confirm that these remote devices are not introducing threats into your systems.
Benefits of Regular Cybersecurity Audits
Now that you understand why cybersecurity audits are crucial, here are some benefits of conducting regular assessments:
- Audits help you comply with cybersecurity regulations: Data security laws and standards like FISMA and HIPAA require businesses to audit their systems regularly. Failure can attract hefty fines and taint your reputation gravely.
- Audits can identify threats in early stages: As we said, it's pretty standard for bad cyber actors to lie dormant in your network for months. Assessment helps you identify and eliminate them before they aggravate.
- Audits expose backdoors and vulnerabilities: One of the critical aspects of a cybersecurity audit is analyzing your existing data security measures and their effectiveness. In the process, you will spot weak points and correct them before the bad guys use them.
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