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When it comes to IT security, you need to be extra vigilant in order to prevent a data breach. Hackers are always on the lookout for new ways to gain access and so it is critical for any organization that handles confidential information to conduct regular network security assessments. In this post, we discuss what an IT network security audit is and why performing one can help you avoid major data breaches. We also include a checklist of steps you should take when performing your own network security audit as well as guidelines for how your report should look.
What is an IT Network Security Audit?
IT network security audits are designed to check the level of protection your business has in place for its IT and data systems. These types of audits often happen on a yearly basis and help businesses determine if they’re following best practices or whether there is an area that needs improvement. Although most companies handle sensitive information, not all take the necessary precautions when it comes to preventing cyber attacks. An audit can highlight any vulnerabilities before hackers exploit them. It also allows you to improve your defences so that future breaches don’t occur.
Why is it Important to Perform IT Security Audits?
A data breach has the potential to be very costly both financially and reputationally for a company. In fact, according to IBM in their latest Cost of a Data Breach Report for 2021, data breaches have hit a peak of $4.24 million per incident. Therefore, it has become crucial for businesses to perform regular network security audits in order to reduce their risk of a data breach. Some of the main reasons to consider performing an IT security audit are:
- To identify any vulnerabilities in your system
- To know if your company follows the best network security practices
- To assess your risk of a data breach
- To improve your defences against cyber attacks
- To stay competitive
IT Security Audit Tools
When it comes to security tools, the list could go on. Each possesses its own set of unique features and pricing. To categorise and name a few:
- Network scanning tools: These can be used to identify devices on your network by various means such as their respective IP addresses, hostname, and MAC addresses. They can also assist you in detecting weak spots in your network such as open ports. Some popular network scanning tools include Nmap, Netcat, Nessus, Wireshark, etc.
- Vulnerability scanners such as DAST: DAST scanners identify vulnerabilities in software and systems. They can be used to scan for known vulnerabilities as well as zero-day exploits. They can also help you identify which systems need patching and what security patches are required. Some great vulnerability scanners are Astra Vulnerability Scanner, OWASP ZAP, Burp Suite Pro, Acunetix, etc.
- Penetration testing tools: These tools allow you to simulate a cyber attack in order to test the defences of your network. Popular network penetration testing tools include Astra Pentest, Metasploit, SQLMap, John the Ripper, etc.
IT Network Security Audit Checklist
Don’t know where to start? The following checklist should help you get a better idea of how to go about your IT network security audi. Remember to be creative and tailor these for your company’s needs.
- Review security policies and industry regulations: Make sure that you are aware of the latest security policies and regulations put in place by your industry or organisation.
- Train employees: Reduce room for human error by training employees.
- Identify devices: Identify the devices and operating systems connected to the internet
- Review the network infrastructure: Review the network infrastructure to identify any vulnerabilities.
- Assess what’s at risk: Assess what’s at risk and the impact that a data breach could have.
- Limit access to sensitive data: Limit access to sensitive data and make sure that your employees know how to handle it.
- Update security software: Use an up-to-date firewall and install antivirus software on all networked devices.
- Scan for vulnerabilities and malware: Scan for vulnerabilities and malware on all devices. Various tools are available for this that can help make the task easier for you.
- Conduct penetration tests: Penetration tests help you simulate cyber-attacks and identify any vulnerabilities in your system.
- Monitor your traffic: Monitor your traffic for any suspicious activity.
IT Network Security Audit Process
When performing an IT security audit, there are a number of steps that you should take in order to do it properly. We recommend the following order:
- Set up a scope and plan for your audit. This includes deciding on the date range as well as the systems, devices and other assets that will be included. You also need to decide who is conducting the audit and whether or not outside help may be needed throughout this process.
- Perform manual scans of all IT infrastructure including wired networks, wireless access points (WAPs), switches etc. Also perform scanning using automated pentesting tools. If possible, use both external and internal scanning tools in order to get more accurate results.
- Identify any security vulnerabilities present within each system or device based on its risk score from step two above. Once identified, prioritize those areas with the highest risk scores first.
- Develop a remediation plan for each vulnerability and/or security issue identified. This should include the steps required to fix the problem as well as who will be responsible for carrying out these tasks.
- Perform follow up scans after implementing the remediation plans to ensure that vulnerabilities have been properly addressed and that no new ones have appeared.
What to Include in Your IT Network Security Audit Report?
An IT network security audit report should contain:
- Detailed information on all aspects of your audit from the date range it was conducted to the systems included in it.
- List all vulnerabilities found along with their respective risk scores.
- Additionally, it should identify any areas where policy compliance may be lacking and provide suggestions on how to address these.
- Finally, the report should include a conclusion section with overall findings and recommendations for improvement.
With cyber threats on the rise, regular IT network security audits are now a critical step towards ensuring that your business isn’t vulnerable to data breaches or cyberattacks. Not only does a network security audit allow you to identify potential risks before they turn into issues, but it also helps managers improve upon existing policies and procedures for network management. Therefore, network audits are essential for every business, big or small. By performing regular network audits as well as including steps in your network policy manual for employees on how best to protect company resources, you can help ensure that your network is as secure as possible.