How to Avoid Fail Your Next Security Audit

Ah yes…the stress-inducing,often-feared security audit. Failing to pass an audit can be a “career-limiting experience.” Some organizations hire consultants, additional staff, and even focused leadership in order to pass an audit. Most audits are scored using a linear scale. If there aren’t too many findings that trigger a failure, the organization has the chance to be more secure.
What is the difference between a Security Audit & a Security Assessment?

There is often confusion between security assessment, security audit, and security risk assessment. Before we dive into the secrets behind not failing your next security inspection, let’s clarify the difference between security assessment/security assessment. These terms are often used interchangeably(wrongfully), so let’s set the record straight.

Security Audit
There are many types of security audits. These audits can be classified as “Security” (SOC, SOC type II), or something else (SOC, SOC Type II, HIPAA). These are all common regardless of industry. A certification body/firm assesses you in certain areas and you will either passor fail.

Security Assessment/ Security Risk Assessment
This isapreventativemeasure that you should perform yearly as a best practice.While the frequency of your assessments may vary depending on theperceivedcapability of your organization, or on the prescribed need (some may not have as strict regulatory compliance standardsas others). This should be the most important part of your overall risk management strategy.

How to pass your next security audit

Adopt aRisk Management Strategy
A yearly risk assessment should be part a continuous risk management strategy. Consider vulnerability management as an example. If your team fails to address common vulnerabilities and exposures that arise month after month, you are leaving your company open to risk.

1. Establish a culture of risk management
Establishing a culture of risk management is the best way to ensure your organization’s success and minimize the chance of security breaches.

Concentrate on the RISK.
Compliance requirements are often risk-driven. The goal is to identify the risk and reduce that risk. Auditors will insist on repeatability in the risk identification and mitigation process. This repeatable process is called “risk management”. These are questions you should be able answer.

What is the risk in doing or not doing XYZ.
You need to ensure that your security controls are appropriate for the cyber risk.

This is how it would look if you had four children and could only afford one car. Would you buy a minivan or a Corvette for your family? The Corvette is fast and looks great, but where are the groceries and kids? Auditors are trained to look for such situations, also known as “program effectiveness”

Pre-audit testing is a good practice.
How do you validate and test the effectiveness of cyber control? It is a good idea to do pre-audit testing. This will not only help you prepare for the audit but also your IT staff.

This can be used as a pre-audit test: Create a service ticket or ask IT directly and send a screen capture of a failed login attempt from three months ago, on a Wednesday between 13:00 and 17:00. This example can be from directory services, a SEIM or a logging repository.

We can provide more test scripts for you to practice with your team.

Management of vulnerability:
Neglecting to complete audits is the fastest way to fail and expose your organization to risk.
Patch critical vulnerabilities and high-risk areas monthly. Scanning for vulnerabilities should be done at least quarterly. Weekly is the best option and the cost difference between weekly and monthly scanning is minimal.
Penetration Testing
You should note that thisisa prescriptive measure.It should only validatethatanysubstantialrisk areashavebeen properly mitigated with available security controls, or in a controlled environment (PCI-DSS Cardholder Data Network/Environment), where a Pen test is required annually or upon significant change to the environment.

Compliance Testing/Security Audit
It is essential to build your security architecture to meet compliance requirements. It is the best way to ensure your success in future audits. Security audits and compliance testing are just two pieces of the tech pod. If you want your business to succeed, it is important to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

2. Technology, Processes, People: Focus on the People
We often come across the following situations:

1. A company may have all the technology they need, including every gadget and security measure, but they lack the staff or training to maintain it and take full advantage of it.
2. A company may have a lot of staff but not enough technology and processes to cover all their needs.
3. A company may have a lot of security technology and well-trained staff to manage it. This is often the result of a breach.

Find the sweet spot, and work with a consultant such as IEthat can help you.