Cybersecurity has become a constant source of anxiety. Ransomware and malware threats continue to proliferate, doing greater damage every year than the year prior. Exacerbating this problem, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed many workers outside the office, injecting the risk of data breaches and remote access concerns into workflows that were once processed in secure, on-premise systems.
A network security audit is a critical element to confronting those network security challenges.
In short, it’s when a team of seasoned IT engineers and security specialists carefully examine every detail of your IT and technology systems, including hardware, software, existing security policies, workflows, and user behavior to uncover any gaps or shortcomings in your cybersecurity defenses.
There are many reasons why a business should regularly test their network security controls with a network security audit. Some of the most compelling include:
Improve Security Processes and Procedures
Strong network security is a moving target. What was secure six months ago may no longer work as cyber criminals change their tactics and your network evolves. A security audit is the only way to gauge the effectiveness of your defenses in the present moment.
Strengthen Regulatory Compliance
Businesses in all industries struggle to achieve and maintain compliance. The network security audit is a critical component of the compliance process for HIPAA, FINRA, NYC-DFS, Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), and virtually all other compliance standards.
Better Allocate Security Budget
Cybersecurity spending can quickly spiral out of control unless you target your budget toward the areas of greatest risk and make highly strategic purchases, and over 30% of cybersecurity budgets are wasted on ineffective tools. Audits help you focus your spending and eliminate waste.
Most modern network environments are complex. Your employees access a variety of cloud and on-premise systems every day to collaborate, innovate, and better serve your customers. Over time, security gaps and vulnerabilities will emerge as your systems and users interact.
This article on audit reports should give you a good audit of what’s involved in a typical network security audit. However, the exact content of your audit report will vary based on the goals of the audit and the particular security threats your organization faces.
Define the Scope of the Audit
The audit team should start by defining what systems they wish to audit and if they’re looking to uncover a particular network security problem. The scope of the audit is often comprehensive, but sometimes it can be tied to an event or change in your network environment, such as a recent security breach, an operating system upgrade, or a server migration.
Gather Device Information
To achieve visibility and accountability, the audit team should identify and catalog all the devices that are connected it, including their operating systems, PII-containing apps, management software, and more. Establishing this baseline provides several benefits. First, it helps you uncover inconsistencies or issues that may violate your security protections. It also helps establish security standards that you can track and enforce through subsequent network security audits.
Review Existing Security Policies
Human beings are very often the weak link in a company’s cyber defenses, contributing to 43% of all cybersecurity breaches according to MacAfee. Cybersecurity policies govern what responsibilities your staff have for protecting data and outline what exactly they should do to fulfill those responsibilities, which makes them an important feature of the network audit.
The audit team should review each of your key policies, including email encryption, social media usage, handling of personally identifiable information (PII), and password creation and management. This ensures that those policies align with your security goals and are being enforced uniformly throughout your organization.
Test Firewalls and Network Perimeter Defenses
Network firewalls are a key component of a company’s network perimeter defenses, helping to stop external threats such as hackers and malware from infiltrating and violating sensitive data. Many businesses, especially those without dedicated security staff, fail to do the regular maintenance it takes to keep those firewalls effective, though.
Firewalls audits are a time- and skill-intensive process that includes checking port restrictions, ensuring whitelists and blacklists on hardware firewalls are properly configured, investigating application-based firewalls, ensuring that patches and updates have been applied, properly routing remote access, FTP, and mail server access, and much more.
Audit Network Servers and Workstations
Servers are the centerpiece of your technology (and your business), storing, processing, and allocating resources across your network, while workstations process your company’s most important workloads. These critical systems require a specialized audit process to stabilize your network
The audit team should start identifying and testing the physical components of those key systems, checking that filesystem permissions are properly configured, ensuring that operating systems and other mission-critical software systems are updated and healthy, and examining physical conditions around the server room, for a start.
Test Identity and Access Management Controls
Enforcing proper identity and access management ensures least privilege access so that only authorized personnel are allowed to access sensitive data. The audit will ensure that your administrators are taking the appropriate IAM maintenance steps, like deleting and disabling idle accounts, deploying two-factor authentication (2FA) systems, properly securing administrator accounts, and more.
Here are some other areas you may wish to include in a network security audit
Most small and midsized businesses don’t have the resources to run regular, comprehensive network security audits using just in-house resources. For 20 years, companies in Albany, New York, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Bluffton, South Carolina have relied on the Complete Network team to provide the expertise and tools they need to conduct revealing network audits.
Want to speak with our experts about your next network security audit? Contact us any time at 877 877 1840 or [email protected].
In an ideal world, technology would be a consistent source of competitive advantage and benefit for small and midsized businesses. The reality is that many fail to realize that confidence.
Without the right resources and support, even a highly skilled technology team can become overwhelmed by the growing list of technology management duties. When important tasks get neglected, it creates ripple effects throughout an organization that damage productivity and efficiency.
The co-managed IT services model solves these problems by providing your existing IT team with all the support and resources they need to successfully plan, manage, and defend your network technology.
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