What is a Network Security Audit and Why Do You Need One?

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Kayla MatthewsOwner of Productivity Bytes

Thursday, July 16, 2020

How do you know if your cybersecurity measures are working? Without running a network security audit, you may not know for sure.

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A network security audit is an evaluation of your IT security, especially in how it meets your standards. It shows you what's working and what may be a security risk within your network. If you want to maintain an effective cybersecurity system, you should run these audits regularly.

Taking the time to test your network security may seem like an unnecessary use of time and money. To help understand what's at stake and what you can gain, here's a deeper dive into network security audits.

What a network security audit involves

Network security audits vary depending on the kind of company and the IT systems in question. Since different businesses have varying security requirements, evaluating your cybersecurity can take various forms. Generally speaking, though, security audits look at:

  • Physical infrastructure like hardware
  • Software
  • How users access the network
  • Cybersecurity policies
  • Current security measures

How the audit addresses these points of consideration also carries. One of the most popular methods is penetration testing, which involves simulating a cyberattack to test your security. Other approaches can scan for faults instead of trying to break through them.

There are also multiple approaches to who performs the audits, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. You could use an internal auditor, who would either be a senior IT employee or a dedicated auditor. Alternatively, you could turn to an external auditor from a cybersecurity company or even automated testing software.

The importance of security audits

As you can see, network security audits aren't always simple, involving multiple layers of analysis. The more comprehensive the evaluation, the more you can benefit from it. These audits are essential because, without them, you could have weak points and not know it.

Your network likely contains some vulnerabilities, especially when it comes to user permissions. More than 60% of all data breaches come from unauthorized access from either an employee or third-party supplier. Without reevaluating your network permissions, you may not be aware that some people have access they shouldn't have.

Internal threats aren't the only concern that security audits help protect against, either. Cybercriminals are an evolving bunch, using new techniques as targets learn to defend against old ones. Since cybersecurity has to adapt to remain useful, it requires periodic review.

Depending on the nature of your work, you may have to perform evaluations to stay competitive. Many partners and clients, especially government agencies, require security standards compliance for you to work with them.

How to perform an audit

If you want to stay both competitive and safe, you should consider network security audits. If you decide it's time to conduct a review, you have a few choices in front of you. First, determine whether you should use an internal auditor, external auditor or automated software.

After you decide who will perform the audit, determine what to include in it. For this, consider both what threats you face and what your budget looks like. You want to cover the most relevant risks to your company but don't want to spend too much going overboard.

If you're conducting the audit yourself, follow these steps once you've determined the scope of your evaluation:

  1. Establish a scoring system for risks and protections, reviewing your standards.
  2. Make sure all software is up-to-date and note how quickly updates are installed.
  3. Test software for vulnerabilities.
  4. Check permissions and see who has access to what.
  5. Make sure you've put data backups and segmentation into place.
  6. Patch anything that needs to be fixed.
  7. Check the security settings on all networks.
  8. Check if IT staff have been following company procedures.
  9. Look to see if any employees haven't had cybersecurity training yet.
  10. Record everything and score yourself.

If you notice you fall short in any category, take the opportunity to fix it. Then you can rest knowing that you're safer than you were.

Cybersecurity is a process

Like many things in the business world, cybersecurity isn't a one-and-done action. Cyber threats are always changing, so your cybersecurity needs to be similarly fluid. Performing regular network security audits can help you in that endeavor. It's easy to miss some vulnerabilities, but security audits can help you correct them.

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Kayla Matthews

Owner of Productivity Bytes

https://productivitybytes.com/

Kayla Matthews is a Pittsburgh-based journalist who writes about technology and professional productivity. She is also a Senior writer for MakeUseOf, and the owner of the tech productivity blog Productivity Bytes. You can find her work on publications such as Digital Trends, Data Center Journal, Mobile Marketer and more.

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