What are cyber security assessments, and why are they important?

Cyber Security Assessments

When was the last time you conducted a cyber security assessment in your organisation? If you can’t remember or are not sure what a cyber security assessment is, then your organisation is probably at a greater risk of falling victim to cyber attacks. Rampant cyber crime is a growing concern among businesses in Australia and the world over. The ACSC received an average of 164 cyber incident reports daily between June 2019 and June 2020; that’s one case every 10 minutes!  Thinking about these figures allows us to put the current state of cyber insecurity into perspective.

Antivirus, firewalls, encryption tools, VPNs, and the like don’t exactly fight cybercrime; they are important mechanisms in our cyber security defences.  Strategic security planning, implementing a sound security architecture, targeted resource allocation, and policy enforcement is arguably just as important, if not more important than the technical controls themselves. A cyber security assessment is vital for structuring a digital security defence framework and provides you with accurate information that is vital to refine your organisation’s overall security posture.  We may feel think that we have our bases covered but how do we know for sure?

What is a cyber security assessment?

A cyber security assessment is commonly performed in preparation for an audit.  The assessment will provide details that will allow you to better target your audit, reducing the scope and cost of the audit by identifying areas of risk that require additional focus, areas where necessary security controls may not be adequate include a comprehensive review of an organisation’s Cyber Security controls.  Internal assessments are typically performed as part of your IT governance regime however an external cyber security assessment will examine your security posture with fresh and more experienced eyes. A mature organization will recognize the value of engaging external consultants, as this provides an opportunity to enable movement towards improved cyber security protections without taking on more permanent resources. 

Cyber security assessments reduce costs

A cyber security assessment is structured and cost-effective, may be of a limited scope, may target specific resources or workflows. An audit is a more formal, comprehensively documented process and is typically done by a certified information security auditor, provides you with a snapshot of your compliance alignment and a higher-level view, with a summary of the maturity of your overall cyber security.

A subsequent audit is undertaken by a certified information security auditor and their team, providing you a detailed and formal compliance snapshot. The results of an audit must be presented to your Board and may need to be declared in your annual results. There is a potential downside with audits however as negative or failing audit results force pressure to improve your compliance in quick time.  Where budgets cannot readily grow, this will strip funds from planned work and possibly delay implementing significant planned changes. A failed audit will magnify your costs in the short term and may invoke a full review of your policies, processes and procedures.  Achieving a positive audit result will allow you to proceed with your budgeted activities and deliver the benefits that secure and stable IT systems provide. Engaging external cyber security consultants to perform an assessment well ahead of an audit will give you direction to avoid failing the compliance audit.

Why do you need a cyber security assessment?

Think of a cyber security assessment as a confidential probe into your organisation’s risk management infrastructure. It gives you valuable insight into the risks and threats surrounding your digital process, the loopholes that are already covered by the existing security measures, and what’s missing from your security efforts. Here is a list of the main benefits of conducting regular cyber security audits:

  • Highlights weak points and addresses gaps in your cyber security controls.
  • Provides you with an overview of emerging cyber threats and current solutions.
  • Tests your data protection mechanisms.
  • Maps out your IT’s security topology.
  • Compares your current security posture against applicable standards for data security and customer data privacy.
  • Facilitates you to modify and update your information security policies and procedures.

Tips and considerations for conducting a cyber security audit

A cyber security audit requires some preliminary preparations. First, determine the scope of the audit – how much of your IT infrastructure or business processes do you want to be examined? You can go for a comprehensive audit covering the entire organisation or focus on specific facets of the IT infrastructure. Second, assign the job to a Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA). CISA is a certification awarded by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) here in Australia and other parts of the world.  Credentials and experience alone may not be enough. Reputation, track record, and quality of service are all important considerations when selecting an auditor.

An experienced auditor will likely have developed a somewhat unique way of carrying out a cyber security audit.  Generally, the auditor will interview key staff from different areas, request samples of documentation around process and policy, examine work practices and request reports that allow them to ascertain the IT hardware and software in place. After all this, they will produce a comprehensive report which will provide you with a clear indication of your security posture based on the current industry metrics.

Cyber security auditing should not be considered as a one-off activity. Be sure to conduct a cyber security audit at least annually and consider bringing this forward after making major changes to the business’s IT processes or topology, such as modernising equipment, launching new digital services, adopting cloud services or opening a new business outlet.

Build information security assurance with cyber security auditing

A cyber security audit assures you of data security and provides a tight handle on the alignment of your security controls. This information is helpful with setting effective cyber security goals and correctly targeted objectives, improving your cyber security maturity with each audit.  This provides management an un-biased view of security progress

Get in touch with Intrix Cyber Security to learn more about cyber security assessments and digital risk management. We are leading experts in guiding businesses to build and reinforce their digital resilience in the highly dynamic cyber security environment.

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