From cleverly disguised phishing attacks to sophisticated malware to hard-to-detect insider attacks, there are many cybersecurity risks your organization faces on a daily basis. Any weakness in your defenses can potentially have disastrous consequences, jeopardizing your operations and irreparably damaging your reputation.
Cybersecurity audits are a great way to keep these threats at bay and reassure your customers and business partners that their personal information is safe with you. They can, however, also be a source of a lot of stress and confusion, which is why it’s a good idea to prepare ahead of time. That way, you’ll be able to ace your first cybersecurity audit without a hitch
What Is a Cybersecurity Audit?
A cybersecurity audit is basically an in-depth review and analysis of your organization’s cybersecurity architecture and general readiness. The goal of a cybersecurity audit is to verify whether your policies and procedures actually protect you against the threats you face.
Organizations are often required to complete a cybersecurity audit in order to demonstrate compliance with standards and regulations such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), or the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC).
Even if your organization isn’t required to complete a cybersecurity audit, it’s still a good idea to do a self-audit or voluntarily hire a professional auditor because regulations such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) impose steep penalties for breaches that result in exposed data.
5 Steps to Ace Your First Cybersecurity Audit
There are several essential steps that you can take to ensure that your first cybersecurity audit goes well.
1. Review Your Current Policies and Procedures
Every auditor will want to examine your current policies and procedures, so the most basic thing you can do to make their life easier is to review them ahead of time and document them properly. Even if you’ve done a review of your policies and procedures in the past, it’s likely that organizational and regulatory changes have impacted at least some of them, so doing it again is hardly a waste of time.
If you notice a gap in your cybersecurity policies, now is a good time to fill it in. For example, many organizations have been forced to transition to remote work during the last year, and some have yet to create a remote work policy detailing rules of engagement for employees outside of the traditional office setting.
2. Create an Accurate IT Inventory
It’s impossible to reliably protect IT assets that you are not even aware of, and the same can be said about passing cybersecurity audits. That’s why you need to inventory your IT assets, including networking equipment such as servers, routers, and switches, hardware devices used by your employees, and the software applications running on them.
Creating an accurate IT inventory can be a difficult task, especially if you allow employees to bring their own devices to work without asking for permission first. Fortunately, there are excellent network asset management and network inventory software tools available that can make the task much easier.
3. Perform a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment
As we said at the beginning of this article, organizations today face more cybersecurity risks than ever before. The purpose of a cybersecurity risk assessment is to identify, analyze, and evaluate these risks to determine whether the controls you have in place can keep you safe.
Common risks include careless employees using weak passwords or storing them in an unsafe manner, insiders maliciously abusing their privileges, physical theft, malware, and targeted phishing attacks. To adequately address the identified risks, you need to first determine their potential impact to your organization and the likelihood of you encountering them and then adjust your controls accordingly.
4. Have an Incident Response Plan
Comprehensive cybersecurity audits are interested not just in your defenses but also in your ability to respond to an incident. An incident response plan helps you recover as quickly as possible by specifying the roles and responsibilities of those involved in the response, providing important contact information, and specifying actions required to handle common incidents, among other things.
Besides minimizing the impact of cybersecurity incidents, an incident response plan is also required by many data privacy regulations, such as the California Consumer Protection Act (CCPA), which was signed into law by Jerry Brown, Governor of California, on June 28, 2018.
5. Hire Outside Help
While there’s a lot that you can do to ace your first cybersecurity audit, you shouldn’t spread yourself too thin and risk losing focus on your core business. Instead, consider partnering with a trusted managed IT services provider, preferably one that’s familiar with your local area and knows how to protect your most valuable assets and information with best-in-class cybersecurity tools.
At Aligned Technology Solutions, we provide all-encompassing managed IT services to small and medium-sized organizations. We understand the cybersecurity risks organizations are exposed to and are familiar with the regulatory landscape in which they operate. If you would like us to provide guidance before your first audit, don’t hesitate to schedule a free consultation.