Are you completing all the critical tasks that fall under the umbrella of an IT security audit?
At Teamwork.com, we're all about helping professional services organize their important projects via the most capable and user-friendly project management software available today.
That includes creating an IT audit checklist.
Of course, creating an IT audit workflow with or without using Teamwork.com starts with understanding what an IT audit should accomplish.
What is an IT audit?
An IT audit is a comprehensive dive into an organization's IT infrastructure and policies. While enhancing cybersecurity for greater data protection tends to be the main goal of IT audits, there are plenty of other things they can accomplish, including (but not limited to):
Ensuring regulatory compliance
Improving network performance
Evaluating disaster recovery plans
1) System security
Damage due to cyberattacks is expected to reach a cost of $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.
This staggering figure highlights the importance of data security, as well as performing regular system security audits as one key factor of strong cybersecurity.
The different system security elements that an IT audit should evaluate include:
The first line of defense against cyberattacks, antivirus software is designed to detect and remove software viruses and other types of malicious code.
The latest third-party testing is a great place to start when auditing an organization's antivirus software.
Additionally, you should:
Ensure the software's virus definition file is regularly updated.
Verify the software is configured to scan all downloads, email attachments, and file types.
Verify the software is configured to perform a full system scan at least once a week.
A firewall is a system designed to filter incoming and outgoing traffic, using a predefined set of rules to block unauthorized network access.
When auditing a network firewall, you’ll want to:
Assess the change management process and verify that all changes to the network firewall are reviewed and tested before they are approved.
Optimize the network firewall rule base by prioritizing rules based on performance and effectiveness and removing redundant rules.
Perform a detailed risk assessment to ensure that firewall rules comply with internal policies and relevant regulations and standards.
Security policies and employee training
Effective cybersecurity isn't all bits and bytes; if you want to keep an organization as safe as possible from cyber threats, effective security policies and employee training are equally important.
In fact, 82% of data breaches involve some form of human error and misuse.
During an IT audit, you should carefully review security policies and employee training procedures for possible vulnerabilities. This will help you make sure that employees are taught everything they need to know to minimize security threats — from choosing strong passwords to staying away from risky websites.
Network intrusion detection systems (NIDS) can monitor network traffic and alert your IT service in the event of an attack. You can audit these systems with penetration testing to ensure that they are functioning properly.
2) Access controls
Ensuring that only authorized users are able to access an organization's systems and accounts is another vital pillar of strong cybersecurity. To verify the effectiveness of your client’s access controls, your IT audit plan should consider:
User account management
Every employee account that provides access to an organization's systems and sensitive data is a potential access point for hackers, making it important to evaluate and manage these accounts during your IT audit.
Delete dormant user accounts.
Remove account access from employees who have changed roles.
Review the organization's account management policies.
Passwords are the simplest and most straightforward internal control for preventing unauthorized access. However, it's still important to follow a few best practices when creating and managing passwords.
During your IT audit, review your client’s employee passwords to make sure that they are strong, unique (as in, not used for multiple accounts), and changed on a regular basis.
Role-based access controls
Role-based access controls restrict user access based on their role within the organization. You can think of these controls as putting employees on a need-to-know basis, providing access to the internal systems they need to do their job without giving every employee the admin “keys to the kingdom.”
During an IT audit, you will want to evaluate any changes to employee roles and access rights to ensure that the role-based access controls are configured properly. It's also crucial to extend this scrutiny beyond digital realms and consider conducting a thorough physical security audit to guarantee comprehensive protection against potential vulnerabilities.
3) Data backup and disaster recovery
Did you know that 93% of organizations that suffer a data center outage lasting longer than 10 days go bankrupt within a year of the event?
Data is critical to your client’s daily operations, and losing access to it even temporarily can be crippling. To test the data backup and disaster recovery procedures, your IT audit should include:
Routine testing of backups
All mission-critical data should be backed up on the cloud or on offsite servers. But you also need to make sure that these data backups are functional and accessible.
This can be accomplished by routinely testing data backups:
Run tests to recover deleted or corrupted files.
Test the backups for applications.
Test the database recovery process.
Deleting files that are no longer needed may very well be the easiest task your IT service performs. However, it’s still important to review your client’s document disposal policies.
For one, you need to make sure that the documents you tag for disposal are truly, permanently deleted.
It's also important to have procedures in place for verifying documents that are disposed of, so that nothing important is accidentally deleted.
Disaster recovery plan
When disaster strikes, how quickly an organization can react is a huge part of limiting the damage.
This starts with having a thorough disaster recovery plan in place. The data backups we just discussed are one key part of this disaster recovery plan.
But it's also important to plan for:
How they will be implemented
Who is in charge of overseeing this process
How (and what) information is communicated to customers, employees, and stakeholders
During an IT audit, you should evaluate every step of the disaster recovery plan and ideally run scenarios and drills to test your plan in action.
Recovery time objective (RTO) for key IT assets
If the organization has key IT assets that are especially critical to its operations, recovering these as quickly as possible should be a top priority of its disaster recovery plan.
During your IT audit, you should define the recovery time objective (RTO) for each of these assets. From there, you should evaluate the measures that need to be in place for these RTOs to be achievable.
4) Performance monitoring
So far, reducing security risks within your IT systems has been the main focus of our IT audit checklist.
However, an IT audit can also be used to optimize IT asset performance. The performance monitoring considerations that you will evaluate include:
For a single user, a slow laptop might be little more than a minor annoyance. For an entire organization, though, poor network performance can lead to a lot of wasted time and lost opportunities.
You can evaluate network performance in your IT audit by tracking performance metrics such as CPU and RAM usage, bandwidth usage, and storage space.
You can also survey employees to see if they are experiencing any network performance issues.
Downtime in an organization's IT infrastructure can be incredibly costly. It's also incredibly common, as 1 in 5 organizations report experiencing a significant outage in the past three years that negatively impacted their reputation, revenue, and compliance.
Along with creating a disaster recovery plan to mitigate the impact of these outages, your IT audit should also evaluate the frequency and duration of network outages, why they happen, and the measures that can be put in place to prevent them.
Systems development (also known as software development) is the process of designing and creating new software applications and systems. If an organization develops its own in-house software, it's important to evaluate the systems development process to ensure the security and quality of the final product.
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Testing and implementation
Thorough testing is a key part of the software development process and is also vital anytime you are making changes to an organization's IT infrastructure. The organization should have procedures and policies in place for testing and implementing new products and systems, and your IT audit should evaluate these testing procedures.
5) Documentation and reporting
Proper documentation and reporting is a vital part of maintaining an IT infrastructure. Here are the documentation and reporting objectives that your IT audit should cover:
An organization should have thorough security protocols in place covering every possible scenario employees might encounter.
During your IT audit, be sure to review these security protocols to make sure that they are up-to-date and aligned with the organization's security objectives. You should also verify that employees are aware of relevant security protocols and their responsibilities.
IT logs are important for tracking changes to IT infrastructure. There is a wide range of scenarios where an IT team might need to consult these logs, from identifying the source of performance issues to predicting security threats.
To make sure employees have this information easily available, you should regularly evaluate IT logs and the process by which they are created.
Any cybersecurity incident that an organization incurs should be documented in an incident report. Along with reviewing these reports for insights into security risks, your IT audit should also evaluate the incident reporting process itself.
Make sure your team is gathering and documenting the right data following cybersecurity incidents and that this process is being completed as quickly as possible.
6) Regulatory compliance
Following proper protocols isn't just a matter of security. In some cases, it's also essential for avoiding fees and lawsuits.
To ensure an organization's regulatory compliance, here are the factors you will want to consider during your next IT audit:
Verify you have proper licenses for all the software that the organization uses. Using software without the required licensing could end with the organization getting sued for large sums of money.
To avoid this, you can use an RMM tool or network discovery software to verify that the licensing for all the software you use is valid and up-to-date.
Standards and regulations
Depending on factors such as industry type and location, you may be required by law to adhere to a range of standards and regulations.
Cybersecurity standards such as HIPAA, SOX, CCPA, and GDPR are just a few examples of the regulatory standards your client may be required to comply with. In these cases, you will need to verify compliance as part of your IT audit.
Evaluate your client’s IT assets, policies, and procedures against the regulatory standards you are required to follow to make sure there are no issues of non-compliance.
7) Physical and environmental controls
Given the wide range of cyber threats that organizations face today, physical security of IT assets is often an afterthought. However, physical threats to IT infrastructure can still come in many forms — from physical theft of those assets to outages and data loss due to natural disasters.
Testing data backups, along with physical security controls such as good ole’ locks and security cameras, will make sure you’re prepared for these potential issues.
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