Blog  Cybersecurity Compliance Audit Best Practices

Cybersecurity Compliance Audit Best Practices

| Blog, Managed Security


No longer is a cyber attack a rare phenomenon in the world we live in. Nowadays, there is a very good chance that one will affect your company. In recent years, protecting the security of your digital perimeter has become a necessity since the consequences of failing to do so are grave. Because navigating the ever-changing sea of regulations, threats, existing defense strategies and third-party risks is a challenge, obtaining a cyber security audit is one of the best ways to reduce your risk level by protecting your business and its equipment.

The Benefits of a Cyber Security Compliance Audit

It is often useful to solicit an objective perspective on your operations, and IT security audits are one of the best assessment tools available today. Investing in a cyber security audit can help you in four primary ways:

  • Auditors have knowledge of current regulations and standards. Armed with this expertise, they can analyze your information systems, controls and practices, flag potential gaps or weaknesses and recommend solutions.
  • Auditors are neutral outside entities that can evaluate vulnerabilities in your technology and assess its attractiveness to bad actors.
  • Since auditors are objective, they often provide insights about your entire organizational structure that key management personnel lack because of their close proximity to the situation.
  • Auditors provide credibility. This is particularly critical when it comes to your privacy policy. A third-party assessor will provide assurance that the mechanisms you have put in place are as effective as you claim them to be.

Conducting the auditing process provides your company with a report that will assess your preparedness in guarding against cyber security breaches of all kinds. With this information in hand, your team can make internal modifications, including changes to training protocols, data storage, program security and threats monitoring.

New Cybersecurity Standards

The Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) was enacted by presidential executive order in 2014 and must be adhered to by all federal agencies and by any companies doing business with them. Since FISMA was put in place, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) FISMA, CIO Metrics have been instituted to provide stakeholders with a recognized and agreed-upon set of standards to promote ease of use and common understanding. 

In order to comply, entities that do business with or receive funds from the federal government must prove via documentation, defined processes, policies and procedures that they are in compliance with FISMA. In order to do so, your organization must work to classify all of the sensitive information your enterprise manages and then outline the protection processes you have implemented. If your business receives federal grants, is a federal agency, a state agency running a federal program or a related contractor, you must go through FISMA cyber security auditing.

Cybersecurity is equally vital to officials in the European Union. Recognizing the risk of breaches and the need for mitigating them, the EU implemented the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) to safeguard the privacy of EU citizens’ personal information and regulate the movement of data outside the EU. Now that GDPR is in place, companies that operate in EU member nations must provide a detailed report of the breach incident within three days of its occurrence.

U.S. health care providers of all kinds are required to comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). This legislation helps to ensure the privacy and security of medical records and other personally identifiable information.

The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) is a U.S. law that sets forth requirements for audits on internal controls in order to assure that financial reports and disclosures are accurate. Compliance is administered by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) provides guidelines that all businesses, including online retailers, must follow if they process, store or transmit customers’ credit card data. Enforcement of this standard is done by both cardholders and the industry itself.

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The Scope of a Cybersecurity Audit

One of the jobs of your company’s stakeholder team is to design your own cyber security audit template. This framework helps you to conduct an analysis, evaluate the effectiveness of your current solutions and plan your improved compliance strategy. A cyber security audit framework addresses how well your company identifies, detects, protects, responds and recovers from breaches and other incidents. Specifically, you are expected to document compliance in the following areas:

  • Risk management, including hardware, software, assets and system interconnections. Risk level must be communicated to all stakeholders throughout the organization.
  • Contractor systems, including the availability, integrity and confidentiality of all services and systems that are outsourced to third parties.
  • Configuration management, including settings and baselines for all information systems as well as routine audit procedures.
  • Identity, credential and access management with a related audit for these procedures.
  • Implementing training in security and privacy.
  • Implementing processes, protocols, assessments and procedures for continuous monitoring of information security.
  • Incident response plan.
  • Contingency plan.

All federal agencies must submit reports semi annually as well as FISMA audits by March 1 of each year. If your company does business with any such agency or receives government grant funding, you too must be FISMA-compliant. The more your controls, procedures and systems gel with the current FISMA gold standard, the lower is your risk. Combine that with higher client satisfaction, and your investment of time, people, resources and education/training will be more than worthwhile.

While top-of-the-line cyber security audit programs are an absolute necessity for modern businesses, it is equally important to address ongoing compliance after the audit has been completed. That means documenting your comprehensive security efforts as well as your processes for identifying vulnerabilities and closing gaps. To that end, a staff member should be given the role of remediation specialist. 

This job includes having the skill set to focus on and address security incidents when they arise. Once identified, others can test all components, learn about and understand system and cost constraints, devise and practice corrective steps and eventually incorporate them into the company’s information protection infrastructure.

These days, the news headlines are filled with sobering tales about the disruptive and financially destructive consequences of security and data breaches. This is an issue that shows no signs of going away anytime soon. Understanding the compliance requirements that legally pertain to your company is the first step. Once armed with this information, you can find a respected third-party auditor who can guide you through the compliance requirements and assess your company’s strengths and weaknesses pertaining to them. The time has come to get the information and support you need in the cybersecurity compliance arena. 

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