Security audits in a Small / Medium Business (SMB) are essential for ensuring the protection of systems and data.
They involve a thorough examination of the systems, networks, and controls in place to identify potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses.
The audit process typically includes several steps, including
- identifying critical assets,
- assessing vulnerabilities,
- evaluating security controls,
- reviewing logs,
- testing incident response,
- compliance check and
- reporting and remediating any issues.
This guide provides a detailed overview of each step in the security audit process. It includes objectives, methods, and key considerations for each step. It also includes the major pros and cons of a security audit and an essential list of the 5 tasks to do now to prepare for an audit.
The guide is designed to help organizations understand the security audit process and ensure that their systems and networks are properly protected.
Identifying critical assets in Security Audits:
In a security audit, It is essential to understand which systems and data are critical to the business.
This step helps to prioritize the areas that need to be audited.
Identifying critical assets involves analyzing the business operations and processes. It also determines which systems and data are essential for the smooth functioning of the business.
This includes identifying systems and data critical for maintaining the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of information.
Once critical assets are identified, they are prioritized for auditing to ensure that they receive the necessary attention and resources.
Vulnerability assessments are carried out to identify potential weaknesses in systems and networks.
This step is crucial for identifying security risks and determining the level of protection required for critical assets.
Vulnerability assessments can be done using automated tools or manual testing.
Automated tools scan the systems and networks for known vulnerabilities. Manual testing involves testing the systems and networks manually to identify any potential weaknesses.
Both methods have their advantages and disadvantages, and organizations can choose the method that best suits their needs.
Evaluating security controls in a Security Audit:
Evaluating the effectiveness of existing security controls is an important step in ensuring that the systems and networks are properly protected.
This step involves assessing the effectiveness of firewalls, cryptography controls, intrusion detection systems, and access controls.
The evaluation process can involve testing the controls to ensure that they are properly configured and working as intended.
It also involves reviewing the controls to ensure they comply with relevant regulations or industry standards.
Reviewing logs during a Security Audit:
Reviewing security logs is an essential step in identifying any suspicious activity. Security logs are generated by systems, applications, and network devices. The logs provide valuable information about the activity on the systems and networks.
Reviewing the logs can help to identify any potential security breaches or unauthorized access to systems and data.
Logs can also be used to identify any potential vulnerabilities or weaknesses in the systems and networks.
Testing incident response:
Incident response testing is an essential step in ensuring that the incident response plan and procedures are effective.
This step involves simulating an incident and testing the response of the staff and the incident response procedures.
The testing process can help to identify any gaps or weaknesses in the incident response plan and procedures, and it can also help to ensure that staff is properly trained to respond to incidents.
Checking for compliance with any relevant regulations or industry standards is an important step in ensuring that the systems and networks are properly protected.
This step involves reviewing the systems and networks to ensure that they are in compliance with any relevant regulations or industry standards, such as HIPAA, PCI-DSS, or SOC2.
Compliance checks are critical for ensuring that the systems and networks are in compliance with any legal or regulatory requirements.
Report and remediate:
Reporting any findings and recommendations to management is an important step in ensuring that any identified vulnerabilities or weaknesses are addressed.
This step involves compiling a report of the findings and recommendations and presenting it to management.
Management can then use the report to develop a plan to remediate any identified vulnerabilities or weaknesses.
It is important to develop a plan to address any identified issues as soon as possible to minimize the risk of a security breach.
Pros and Cons of Security Audits:
Pros of security audits:
- Identifies vulnerabilities:
Security audits help to identify potential vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the systems and networks. They can then be addressed to minimize the risk of a security breach.
- Improves security controls:
Security audits help to evaluate the effectiveness of existing security controls, which can help to identify any issues and improve the overall security of the systems and networks.
- Facilitates compliance:
Security audits help to ensure compliance with any relevant regulations or industry standards, which can help to avoid penalties or fines for non-compliance.
- Provides an independent assessment:
Security audits are typically performed by an independent third-party, which can provide an unbiased assessment of the systems and networks.
- Increases awareness:
Security audits can help to increase awareness about security risks and the importance of security controls among staff, management, and other stakeholders.
Cons of security audits:
- Can be time-consuming:
Security audits can be a time-consuming process, especially if the systems and networks are complex.
- Can be costly:
Security audits can be costly, especially if they are performed by an independent third party.
- May cause disruption:
Security audits can cause disruption to the normal operations of the systems and networks. This can be an inconvenience for staff and other stakeholders.
- Limited scope:
Security audits typically focus on specific areas of the systems and networks, which means that vulnerabilities or weaknesses in other areas may go undetected.
- Limited effectiveness:
Security audits can only identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses that are known at the time of the audit. New vulnerabilities or weaknesses may emerge after the audit is completed.
Security audit: 5 essential tasks to do now!
- Identify critical assets:
Before the security audit, it is important to identify which systems and data are critical to the business.
This will help to prioritize the areas that need to be audited and ensure that the critical assets receive the necessary attention and resources.
- Review and update policies and procedures:
Review and update any existing security policies and procedures to ensure that they are current and effective.
This includes incident response plans, access controls, and data retention policies.
- Conduct a self-assessment:
Conduct a self-assessment of the systems and networks to identify any potential vulnerabilities or weaknesses.
This can be done using automated tools or manual testing, and it can help to identify any issues that need to be addressed before the security audit.
- Train staff:
Ensure that staff is properly trained to respond to security incidents and that they understand the importance of security controls.
This can help to minimize the risk of a security breach and ensure that staff is prepared for the security audit.
- Schedule the security audit:
Schedule the security audit with an independent third-party auditor or internal audit team to ensure that the systems and networks are audited regularly.
It is important to schedule the audit in advance, so that the necessary resources and personnel can be allocated, and to ensure that any issues identified can be addressed in a timely manner.
Information Security Management System Mappings covered with the Information Systems Audit Control Standard Operating Procedure:
- A12.7 Information systems audit considerations
- A12.7.1 Information systems audit controls
AICPA TSC 2017:
- CC4.1 COSO Principle 16: The entity selects, develops, and performs ongoing and/or separate evaluations to ascertain whether the components of internal control are present and functioning.
- CC4.2 COSO Principle 17: The entity evaluates and communicates internal control deficiencies in a timely manner to those parties responsible for taking corrective action, including senior management and the board of directors, as appropriate.
NIST SP 800-53, Revision 5:
- AU-1 Audit and Accountability Policy and Procedures
- AU-2 Event Logging
- AU-3 Content of Audit Records
- AU-5 Response to Audit Logging Process Failures
- AU-6 Audit Record Review, Analysis, and Reporting