How Network Security Audits Can Protect Toronto Businesses
Key Points in This Article:
- Network security audits are an excellent cybersecurity tool for all businesses and organizations.
- These audits typically involve a comprehensive review of a network’s security and related policies by an independent third party.
- Network security audits can ensure businesses comply with applicable regulations, identify vulnerabilities, and control spending.
With cyberattacks and scams more prevalent, businesses and organizations must implement the most current best practices in IT security. One measure that too few companies practice is network security auditing. These audits are required for certain industries but are helpful for every organization that handles financial transactions or stores financial data online. Regular network security auditing can help you identify holes in your cyber defenses and remediate them before hackers can exploit them.
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What Is Network Security Auditing?
Network security auditing involves the independent review of your IT infrastructure, including its controls, security, and governance plans. A completed audit will include an evaluation of your cybersecurity, as well as an identification of your business’s vulnerabilities.
An audit is typically completed by private sector cybersecurity professionals with a background and experience in security auditing who also have no other financial interest in the business being audited. Various tools exist that in-house IT employees can use to examine the network and conduct an audit themselves. However, outside professionals usually conduct the most effective audits with the time, skills, and objectivity necessary to complete a thorough analysis.
Businesses in industries considered critical infrastructure routinely must conduct network security audits for compliance purposes. However, even those not classified as such can benefit by engaging in the auditing process. Many business leaders may be unaware of this practice or balk at the resources involved. But network security auditing can ensure the next cyberattack does not result in catastrophe.
What Do Network Security Audits Cover?
A reputable auditor will perform network inventory, conduct vulnerability scans to identify potential areas of weakness, and assess your network’s performance. Auditors will determine whether each network component has up-to-date security patches and whether appropriate data collection measures are in place to capture usage and activity data from network components. The audit will also include reviewing all devices running on a corporate network, with attention to device details ranging from hostnames to configuration settings. Auditors also examine which devices are either obsolete or running software needing updating.
All relevant internal policies and practices will also be examined. A network security audit will evaluate incident handling, identity and access management, encryption practices, physical access management, BYOD policies, data backup and recovery plans, business continuity plans, and IT governance documents. Auditors will determine whether the policies are sufficient to provide maximum protection and what gaps exist between employee practices and those policies.
An audit’s results will be contained in a written report describing how the audit was performed, a summary of the data collected, a list of areas of concern, and recommendations for remediating those weaknesses. The final audit document is a roadmap to strengthening a business’s security practices.
How Businesses Benefit From Network Security Audits
Conducting network security audits at regular intervals is a cybersecurity best practice. In some industries, it’s a compliance matter; businesses in those industries can face hefty fines and other punitive measures from regulators if they don’t comply. And industries on the cusp of being regulated may avoid burdensome compliance mandates if business leaders can demonstrate widespread adherence to cybersecurity best practices.
But the benefits of network security audits transcend the regulatory sphere. Many small businesses don’t have trained cybersecurity professionals on staff. Small businesses typically employ IT generalists who don’t have the background or expertise to contend with the various cyber threats facing businesses today. Network security audits can help businesses identify the gaps they face and offer them the solutions they need to fix them.
Some businesses employ managed service providers (MSPs) to help them manage specific aspects of their IT. However, it’s too common for businesses to believe they have no further cybersecurity needs because they’ve outsourced network management and security. But they may lack a BYOD policy or VPN for remote workers. Or they don’t employ multi-factor authentication, backup remote employee data, or vet open-source software before downloading it. A quality network security audit will package these vulnerabilities in one clear report and help IT staff press for the necessary policies and resources to safeguard the business.
Network security suits can also keep vendors honest. If a business leader, not knowing much about IT, has outsourced it to an MSP, an outside audit can help ensure the business gets what it’s paid for. MSPs and other similar vendors should be engaged in their own network security audits. Business leaders and IT managers considering any cloud provider should ask who conducts their audits, how often they occur, and whether they make audit data available to clients, among other questions.
Network security audits can also help identify waste and excessive spending. Some vulnerabilities result from shadow IT – systems operated outside the direct oversight of the IT department. Often, IT managers only learn that these separate programs and resources have been purchased when a system error occurs that they are called on to fix. But these systems cannot only interfere with the smooth operation of existing enterprise-wide systems but also cost large sums. Network security audits can uncover programs creating dangerous vulnerabilities and draining budgets.
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Why Businesses Can No Longer Delay Network Security Audits
The shift to remote and hybrid working environments has created a host of new vulnerabilities for businesses. AI-powered applications are helping hackers target individuals and organizations at scale in increasingly sophisticated ways. And many companies still scramble to balance the daily demands of their business with the resources involved to secure it.
But cyberattacks are on the rise and are often catastrophic. Last year, more than 8o percent of businesses faced ransomware attempts, according to a recent study. The same study noted that 67 percent of businesses had faced one, with an average estimated cost of $1 million. This damage can be devastating and often irreparable for a small business.
Despite these figures, too many businesses remain vulnerable. And even those with up-to-date plans will find that the market changes quickly. In any given year, a business may change its products or processes multiple times and aspects of its IT infrastructure. And with those changes come new vulnerabilities and threats.
That’s why it’s essential businesses establish regular network security audits now. Doing so is one of the best ways to keep a business secure.