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Why should you conduct a cybersecurity audit?

Security audits of companies’ IT cyber-physical infrastructure has been a hot topic for decades. However, according to many industry pundits, including Security Magazine, businesses should expect 2022 to be the year of cybersecurity.

Cybersecurity is not just for the big business behemoths. Did you know that 43% of all cyberattacks target SMEs? Even more concerning: according to research firm McKinsey & Company, only 16% of executives say their companies are well-prepared to deal with cyberthreats—and up to 77% of organizations don’t have a cybersecurity incident response plan in place.

While cybersecurity as well as the importance for IT security audits is building, many businesses are overwhelmed by the challenge, especially in sectors that rely on new technologies that are just as prone to damage caused by cybercriminals; IoT, cloud computing, inter-connected supply chains, and integrated third-party application ecosystems all expose companies and their customers to new cyber-risks.

Consider this compelling figure: companies are investing up to $500 million in cybersecurity due to the fact that many are reporting thousands of attacks every month. As McKinsey & Company purport, now more than ever before, organizations are facing more threats—at disturbing frequency and intensity levels.

Security audits for IT: Why the hesitancy?

Reasons abound as to why companies of all sizes don’t conduct security audits for IT—also known as IT risk assessments, even though they are mandated by national regulations. In a nutshell, there are three main mindsets that prevent businesses from taking IT security audits seriously.

Oftentimes executives adopt a “it can’t happen to me” attitude, falsely believing that their organizations are off cybercriminals’ radars, either because of their size or industry. Still other conventionally minded management teams believe that cybersecurity assessments are not worth the investment. However, as many companies that have suffered from malicious attacks will tell you: IT security audits are worth their weight in gold; cyberattacks can cost a SME hundreds of thousands of dollars and put many out of business.

Top warning signs you need an IT security audit and cybersecurity strategy

Wondering what the telltale signs that you need a cybersecurity audit? It is important to remember that no company and no industry is immune from cyberattacks. Even if your company has implemented cybersecurity best practices and techniques, an IT security assessment can pinpoint holes in strategy that can threaten business continuity.

The following are some dead giveaways that you need to carry out a cybersecurity risk assessment:

Your company deals with customer data or extremely sensitive/specialized data (including personally identifiable and financial information)—all of which are goldmines for cybercriminals to steal information for a profit. Cybersecurity dangers particularly lurk if you operate in a sector that has rigorous compliance standards.

Your staff is not experienced enough or too busy to manage cybersecurity risks; many businesses feel overwhelmed with day-to-day obligations to monitor the effectiveness of existing security controls or make the required process and system changes to elevate cybersecurity defenses.

You rely on out-of-date technology that doesn’t address modern-day cybersecurity challenges. Using the same ol’, same ol’ hardware, software and policies just doesn’t cut it anymore when it comes to protection against emerging cyberthreats. The older the tech, the more likely you will experience a data breach or disruption to your business operations.

Your business is currently overhauling its technology stack: adding new IT systems and infrastructure can introduce new vulnerabilities to cybercriminals, especially if IT security controls have not kept up with your digital transformation.

You or your customers/partners have been the target of an attack, or you detect unusual activity on your network or systems. If anything, cybercriminals are very patient. They can hide within your IT infrastructure for weeks and months at a time. If customers or partners have endured the impacts of a cyberthreat, they may not even be aware of it or, unfortunately, take time to inform stakeholders (aka: you) of the incidents that have occurred.

What is a cybersecurity risk assessment?

IT security audits are not just about cyberthreat resilience or IT security per se. Cybersecurity assessments hone in on your organization’s complete security postures, whether they be your procedures, processes, infrastructure, and people. It is a 360-degree and in-depth evaluation of all your vulnerabilities; it covers security aspects down to the data, operational, network, system and physical level.

Cybersecurity and IT audits help teams understand where the vulnerabilities are, where security measures are lacking, and how to better protect information assets. In addition, these audits provide a game plan should an incident occur in order to substantially mitigate risks.

In-house IT security audits can only go so far, based on your team’s expertise, latest knowledge, and preparedness in the event of an attack. That is why more and more businesses are considering investing in cybersecurity assessments conducted by third-party providers, thanks to their ahead-of-the-curve skills and know-how, objective evaluations, cost-effective and efficient audits, and optimized resource allocation.

Benefits of IT and cybersecurity risk assessments

Companies—no matter how big or small—are entering into a new era of cyberthreats. As per the Harvard Business Review, cybercrime is the world’s third-largest economy after the US and China. While the cybersecurity challenges faced by SMEs are multi-faceted, due in part to a lack of understanding, internal resources, and limited resources, there are multiple benefits of regularly taking part in IT security audits. Here is an overview:

  • Access to experts, with different skill sets, who are always on top of the latest cyberthreats and how to address them
  • Development of a strategy to ensure 24/7 monitoring and response to any suspicious incidents
  • In-depth analyses of internal and external security measures
  • Identification gaps in your company’s cybersecurity defense
  • Technology recommendations
  • Identification of direct, indirect, and hidden costs of cyberthreats
  • Comprehensive security documentation and tracking methodologies to gauge long-term progress and update your security program as cyberthreats evolve

How should a company start an IT security audit?

IT and cybersecurity audits are the foundation to thwart cyberattacks. And they are here to stay as an integral part of a long-term business strategy. Gartner indicates that by 2025, 60% of organizations will use cybersecurity risk as a primary determinant in conducting third-party transactions and business engagements.

Most experts agree: companies should always expect a cybersecurity breach and instill a zero-trust security model. However, they should never go it alone; relying on third-party experts and security practitioners will help them to develop cybersecurity frameworks, workflows and blueprints that are attuned to their unique contexts.

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