Maintaining cyber essentials means doing more than a standard risk assessment. The requirements of information security far exceed anything covered in a general audit. The only viable solution is a dedicated cybersecurity audit.
What is a Cybersecurity Audit?
An audit aims to determine when, how, and why your business utilises certain technologies. By following the correct procedures you become capable of setting security standards, following rules ad regulations, and plug gaps in your existing security protocols.
Bringing in a professional to perform an audit grants your business access to experts who bring plenty of knowledge and experience to the table. Working successfully with your auditor is a matter of communication. You must supply your auditor with all of the requested data, answers, and questions as completely as possible. Otherwise, you run the risk of wasting time and achieving a flawed result.
What is Covered by the Audit?
The cybersecurity audit looks for risks in your company’s everyday operations. Relevant risks are anything that can pose a threat to your company’s assets which includes your computer equipment, anything that could result in the loss of sensitive data or anything that would cost your company time or money to fix if it goes wrong.
Once it is clear which of your company’s assets are at risk, the audit identifies what can threaten these assets. This is a vital part of the audit as a threat can be anything from an external attack to weak employee passwords or even the threat from fire or flooding.
While it is impossible to eliminate every single threat, the audit will identify which ones matter and must be dealt with.
Some of the potential threats that will be examined include:
- Employees: An audit will determine whether your employees are doing enough to keep your company safe.
- Phishing: Phishing attacks are one of the most common causes of data breaches. When your company is not defending itself against phishing scams, they will bypass your other security measures.
- Distributed Denial of Service: A DDoS attack functions by overloading a webserver and preventing it from operating normally. If your company has an eCommerce website, it is particularly vulnerable to this type of attack.
- Weak Passwords: Most data breaches are the result of weak passwords. Your cybersecurity audit will teach you how to ensure your employees are not leaving unintentional backdoors to your systems.
- Malware: Malware comes in a variety of forms including trojan horses, worms, spyware, and ransomware.
- Third-Party Devices: Whenever someone connects their device to your company’s WiFi or uses an external USB with a company machine, this can weaken your cybersecurity.
Examine Existing Security Measures
After an auditor examines the threats your company faces, they will look at the cyber essentials and cybersecurity systems you have in place and determine how well they are working. The auditor will begin to pinpoint weaknesses and make recommendations for improvements. Your company may have to start looking for ways to update old security processes, increase general cybersecurity knowledge among its employees, or simply make everyone more aware of the role they play in keeping the company safe.
Once existing risks and weaknesses have been catalogued, they must be prioritised. The list of potential threats created earlier will be compared to the potential damage those threats can cause.
Each threat gets an associated risk score according to the following factors:
- Recent Trends: Cybersecurity is a constant battle as new threats emerge to try and overcome exiting defenses. Some threats may become more or less dangerous as advancements are made.
- Industry Related Threats: Different industries are more likely to face certain types of threats. The audit will show you which threats are more likely to occur, and each of their risk scores is increased accordingly.
- Historical Incidents: If your business has been breached in the past it can provide information about which type of threats your company is vulnerable to.
- Legislation and Compliance: Whether you are a public organisation or a private company, how much sensitive data your company handles and who has access to this data makes a big difference to the risk score of certain threats.
Each threat’s risk score is adjusted and the final list will inform your company of how it needs to prioritise its information security measures.
Using the Results of the Audit
Once the audit has provided your company with a prioritised list of cybersecurity threats, you will be advised on how best to eliminate these risks. While each list of threats and the requirements to eliminate them are different, some common security solutions will be recommended:
Security Workshops: Small investments in general security awareness and training can make a large impact in reducing the likelihood of a successful cyberattack. Employees will inevitably make mistakes but these can be minimised with proper training and regular reminders.
- Backups: As businesses move away from physical data storage, the importance of online storage and backups continually increases. It is worth maintaining at least one complete backup of your company’s data that is isolated from your main network. This way, there is always something to fall back on in the event of a catastrophe.
- Email Protection: Phishing attacks are one of the most effective ways to bypass cybersecurity measures. Spam filters can only do so much and employees must be trained to recognise suspicious-looking emails and never click on any links contained inside.
- Software Updates: Software updates can be a source of irritation but they are also more important now than ever before. As threats adapt to overcome your company’s cyber defenses, software updates are the best way you can keep up and respond in kind. Patches almost always contain security updates alongside any other new data and any piece of outdated software in your company is a potential weak point.
- Password Managers: People are simply incapable of remembering numerous passwords that are complex enough to meet security requirements. Instead of creating unique passwords, most people simply use the same password with a few variations so that it suits the needs of their systems. Password managers do the work of creating and saving complex, hard-to-break passwords on your employees’ behalf. When a dedicated system looks after your company’s passwords, those passwords are much harder to guess and harder still to steal.
- Network Monitoring Software: When trying to steal information from your company, criminals may try and gain access to your company’s network. Network monitoring software will alert you to any suspicious activity such as sign-in attempts from unusual locations or strange requests for data from unauthorised users.
A cybersecurity audit is a long, potentially complex process. However, the benefits to your company’s security are more than worth the cost and effort. Remember, cybersecurity is a constant ongoing battle and the best thing you can do for your business is to keep all of your information security measures up to date. An audit is not a one-and-done process either, it is worth revisiting periodically to ensure that all of your cybersecurity measures remain strong enough.