4 minute read

October 18, 2022

The importance of cyber security audits: pre and post-Zero Trust

Auditing a business' cyber security measures is a crucial requirement to protect its sensitive information from being leaked or misused. This is true for organisations with a traditional security architecture - and it's even more true for companies with a Zero Trust Architecture. 

By testing and probing your business systems and services, an auditor can find vulnerabilities and ensure that you follow all relevant regulations, such as the Payment Card Industry standards (PCI DSS) or the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 

In this blog, we will discuss the value of cyber security audits and show you how to conduct one yourself.

What is a cyber security audit?  

The IT systems of an organisation are thoroughly examined during an audit by cyber security consulting services. Audits ensure effective policies and procedures have been implemented. 

The goal is to identify security holes that allow unauthorised access to sensitive information. This includes external threats, such as vulnerabilities that would enable threat actors to gain unauthorised access to sensitive information, and internal threats, such as inadequate internal practices that may result in employees inadvertently or negligently breaching sensitive information.   

During an audit, an organisation's level of compliance with security standards is assessed. Businesses of different types face different requirements for protecting customer information and preserving employee confidentiality.   

The audit needs to be performed by an outside party that is both objective and knowledgeable. The results of their audits show management, suppliers and other interested parties that the organisation's safeguards are sufficient.   

Advantages of a cyber security audit   

A cyber security audit is conducted to identify and repair any overlooked compliance and security flaws. 

The organisation can gain a better understanding of its systems and learn how to address vulnerabilities more efficiently by conducting a thorough assessment.   

This lowers both the possibility of a data breach and the potential fallout from one. For instance, the financial fallout from a security breach can have far-reaching consequences.      

However, businesses have more to worry about than just the potential for disruption to their operations or regulatory fines.   

Customers and vendors may lose faith in your business if it suffers a security breach, especially if the lapse was preventable. If the disaster was severe enough, those parties might decide to relocate their operations.   

Inadequacies in regulatory oversight are in the same boat. For example, if your business provides evidence that it has taken measures to ensure the security of customer data, the government is less likely to impose severe penalties.    

However, if it turns out that the incident was brought on by carelessness, the repercussions could be much worse. A relatively light fine can still be disastrous for your business, even if it does not come close to the maximum that is allowable under the GDPR (£20 million or 4% of the organisation's annual global turnover). 

An audit of an organisation's cyber defences will reveal any operations that are not in line with regulations. Depending on the circumstances, this may involve the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the UK's Data Protection Act, or both. 

When conducting an audit, what areas of cyber security are looked at?  

A cyber security audit examines the safety of an organisation's IT infrastructure.  This includes all the hardware, software and employee devices.    

This examination is one part of the process. The following will also be taken into account for the assessment: 

  • Data encryption, network access controls, and the routing of sensitive data   
  • Policies, procedures, and controls for the protection of sensitive information
  • Protection from viruses   
  • Controls for access, privileged account management and patching   

The audit checks that the relevant controls are in place, optimised and implemented by regulations.      

How often should you check your network for vulnerabilities?   

As a rule of thumb, businesses should conduct full cyber security audits at least once a year. However, audits may need to be performed more frequently depending on several factors.   

The organisation's size and available resources are factors. Smaller businesses are less likely to conduct regular audits due to the high costs and time commitments involved.   

However, larger corporations often have both the resources and the need to conduct audits on a more regular basis. The cyber security risk rises in proportion to the number of systems and the complexity of the procedures involved.   

How does Zero Trust help?  

At Zero Trust Solutions, we believe that implementing Zero Trust Architectures year-round will go a long way to protecting your IT security and ensuring that you remain compliant with regulations.

A key benefit to deploying a Zero Trust Architecture is to make the security more explainable and relatable to the business and board. Equally, ZTAs need to collect signals and log trust decisions. Therefore, metrics will be easier to collect and translate for the business. And this should make the Zero Trust Architecture easier to audit at a high level as well as a low level. 

As an example, this was also supported in the strategic vision of the US Department of Defense’s (US DoD) Zero Trust Strategy published in November 2022. The US DoD noted the following on their Zero Trust implementation: 

Employing specific, qualitative, and quantitative metrics to measure Department progress toward achieving the strategic goals is necessary to measure the progress of ZT adoption across DoD, ensure compliance with governance and other standards, align funding and programming, and to provide senior leadership with periodic assessments of the security of the DoD IE.”  

For more information on cyber security and to implement disruptive cyber technologies into your network, get in touch with us today. 

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