As cyberattacks continue to increase and criminals find new methods for breaching networks, regular security audits are crucial to securing company, client, and user data.
Companies can conduct a security audit themselves, but it's usually best to hire a professional cybersecurity firm. Outsourcing a security audit will expose vulnerabilities your IT department might not consider while testing systems against the latest hacking techniques.
Part of a security audit is testing an organization's password management. Using an encrypted password manager like TeamPassword can mitigate password vulnerabilities. Sign up for a 14-day free trial to test TeamPassword with your team today!
What is a Security Audit?
A security audit (also referred to as an information security audit or IT audit) assesses an organization's data security by looking for physical, technical, and administrative vulnerabilities.
Cybersecurity auditors conduct scans and penetration tests to expose security loopholes or where attackers might breach the organization's systems.
A professional security audit will conduct more than a thousand tests (sometimes thousands of tests) to thoroughly inspect the organization.
Auditors produce a security audit report on completion with recommendations for security upgrades, training, and other cybersecurity considerations.
Why Are Security Audits Important?
Like any technology, cybersecurity is constantly evolving to prevent attacks. Cybercriminals and advanced persistent threats are continually working to develop new tools and techniques to find vulnerabilities.
A system or tool that prevented a cyberattack five years ago might not be effective today.
A security audit effectively looks at an organization from a criminal's point of view—examining flaws and weaknesses where one might launch an attack.
Organizations also have to ensure they comply with ever-changing regulations to stay compliant. In some cases, a security audit might be a regulatory requirement to protect consumer data.
How Often Should an Organization Conduct a Security Audit?
The frequency of security audits depends on many factors, including the organization's size, industry, data sensitivity, state/federal regulations, and corporate structure, to name a few examples.
For example, financial services and healthcare providers might have to conduct security audits several times a year, with lots of smaller vulnerability sweeps in between.
Most small to medium-sized companies that don't handle sensitive data will conduct security audits at least once or twice a year. While bigger corporations and multinationals will carry out more frequent security audits—monthly or quarterly.
Some national and multinationals might have separate security audits at different tiers of the organization:
- Organization-wide security audits
- Regional security audits
- Location/site security audits
In some cases, departments within an organization will conduct security audits separately from the rest of the company. For example, the accounts department will have completely different systems, data storage, and communication channels than the logistics department.
While security audits are essential to protect an organization against attacks, they also require valuable time and resources. So, monthly or quarterly audits might be all a company can realistically afford.
When an Organization MUST Conduct a Security Audit
There are instances where an organization must conduct a security audit or seriously consider the risk of not performing an audit!
- After a data breach—or if a significant supplier/contractor/client experienced a data breach
- Network or system upgrade
- Data migration
- Implementation of new legislation
- New system/software implementation (CMS, ERP, CRM, etc.)
- Significant workforce or department expansions
These are just a few examples where companies might introduce new vulnerabilities. Organizations should always consider a security audit after significant changes or rapid growth cycles.
Security Audit Process
Security audits follow a structured process to ensure auditors fully understand the organization and how it operates.
A typical audit process happens in four steps:
- Security audit plan & preparation
- Security Audit objectives
- Conducting the security audit
- Compiling a security audit report
Audit Plan & Preparation
During audit planning and preparation, auditors will meet with the relevant stakeholders to educate themselves about the business and its audit objectives.
During the audit preparation, audits might consider a few key points:
- The company's organizational chart
- Departmental management
- Review job descriptions
- Credential management and access
- Review & research systems, software, equipment, etc.
- Review company policies—IT, cybersecurity, data processing
- Evaluate cybersecurity & IT budgets
- Review IT & cybersecurity disaster recovery plans
- Consider industry and geographic standards (HIPAA, CCPA, GDPR, etc.)
As you can imagine, audit planning and preparation can take auditors considerable time to complete for a large organization!
Auditors will also assess previous security audits to identify areas for review.
With research complete, auditors outline the security audit's objectives to align with the organization and its audit goals. The auditors will define each test including tools required, the methodology, KPIs, and other factors.
The audits’ objectives will also include the security baseline auditors must test against to measure a pass or fail.
The organization or its IT/cybersecurity head will review the objectives and sign off for the auditors to continue.
Conducting the Security Audit
Auditors take great care to document every action and result during a security audit. This documentation will help prepare the security audit report and allow auditors to double-check and review their work.
While conducting a security audit, auditors will assess many critical vulnerabilities:
- Team members: training, ability to spot suspicious activity, do they follow security policies, possible insider threats, password management
- Premises vulnerabilities: gate security, physical access points, restricted areas, natural disaster response, fire safety, etc.
- Devices: what devices employees use, antivirus, spam filters, external hard drives, WiFi routers, servers, etc.
- Data security: physical data center access, employee access levels, data backups, firewalls, antivirus
- Software: test known manufacturer vulnerabilities
- Cyberattack simulations: social engineering, DDoS attacks, phishing, brute force attacks, malware, trojans, ransomware, etc.
Compiling a Security Audit Report
The final step in the security audit process is compiling and delivering the final report. The security audit report details test results along with the auditor's findings and recommended actions.
Types of Security Audits
There are three types of security audits:
- Black Box Security Audit
- White Box Security Audit
- Grey Box Security Audit
Black Box Security Audit
For a black box security audit, auditors simulate real-world external attacks. Auditors will assess an organization from an outsider's perspective using publicly available information—similar to a typical hacker's approach.
White Box Security Audit
White box security audits provide auditors with in-depth knowledge of the organization—similar to an employee's access.
The purpose of a white box security audit is to simulate an insider threat scenario where a contractor or employee supports or carries out an attack.
White box security audits are more thorough than black-box audits because auditors have access to more systems and data.
Grey Box Security Audit
A grey box security audit gives auditors enough information to complete specific tests against systems, departments, or employees.
Grey box security audits are excellent for exposing social engineering vulnerabilities—where attackers might steal enough company data to target a specific employee or department.
Team Members - A Organization's First Line of Defense
An organization's first line of defense is its employees. Even with the most expensive and sophisticated cybersecurity tools and protocols, inadequate training will expose cyber security vulnerabilities.
For example, the CAM4 leak in 2020 exposed 11 billion records with emails and hashed passwords because an employee misconfigured an internal database!
Even at large organizations, employees fall for phishing attacks, exposing their credentials to attackers. A perfect example is the 2020 Twitter spear-phishing attack where a 17-year-old managed to trick low-level employees into sharing their credentials over the phone.
Educating employees about cybersecurity vulnerabilities is crucial to preventing attacks. Security audits help to determine if that training is effective!
Improving Password Management
Your company's passwords provide the keys to your systems and networks. Protecting credentials must be your employee's top cybersecurity priority.
TeamPassword is a robust password manager designed to store your company's credentials while providing a safe way for employees to share passwords.
TeamPassword is an accredited secure hosting provider using state-of-the-art encryption technology to store your company's passwords. Not even TeamPassword employees can view passwords, making it impossible for attackers to steal your credentials.
Two-factor authentication (2FA) adds a second layer of security to your TeamPassword account. Even if someone steals an employee's TeamPassword credentials, 2FA will prevent access.
Track logins, credential sharing, password changes, and more using TeamPassword's activity tracker. You can also set up email notifications for instant alerts to any TeamPassword action.
Weak passwords and reusing credentials pose a severe security risk. TeamPassword's built-in secure password generator ensures you create strong, unique passwords for every account.
Getting Started With TeamPassword
Sign up for a free 14-day TeamPassword trial to secure your company's credentials from attackers.
- Sign up for a TeamPassword account
- Add your team to TeamPassword
- Create groups to share access only to those who need it
- Ensure employees set up 2FA—TeamPassword uses Google Authenticator, available on iOS and Android devices
- Employees install their preferred TeamPassword browser extension—we support Chrome, Firefox, and Safari
- Employees log in using the browser extensions, so you never share or expose passwords
With an effective password management solution, your company won't fail credential tests during a security audit. Let TeamPassword protect your company's credentials, so you can focus on growing your business!