It’s tempting to avoid internal security audits or conduct them less frequently than you should because of the stress, time, and work involved. However, shortcutting this crucial step in your corporate security process almost always leads to increased vulnerabilities, a lower risk tolerance, and fewer resources to combat these problems.
Quantivate.com shares that within three years of its publishing, 62% of organizations experienced a critical risk event. And of those risk events, a high percentage related directly to employee productivity (62%) and operational efficiency (59%). When thorough and conducted regularly, security audits work with your other risk management efforts to lower the number of experienced risk events and keep your employees and company at peak productivity and operational efficiency.
The benefits of security audits far outweigh the costs, helping to find and diagnose security problems that would otherwise leave your people and data exposed to risk. Read on to learn what a security audit is and five ways security audits help your company understand its security vulnerabilities and address them in compliance with necessary regulations.
What Is a Security Audit?
A security audit is a thorough evaluation of your company’s physical, procedural, and digital security measures that shows how well you protect your data and personnel. Audits are like a litmus test for how effective your existing security procedures are. They help you establish a baseline of what needs improvement and what you do well.
Generally, your company can choose from two main types of security audits—compliance audits and internal audits. Compliance audits involve government or third-party groups and check your security against mandated processes to make sure you’re operating within compliance to that standard. Your internal team performs internal audits to assure that your processes are compliant and effective to the best of your knowledge. A thorough audit of either type should follow best practices to be high quality. Deloitte outlines several criteria, including, but not limited to, careful risk assessment, appropriate timing, accurate expectations, and good governance communication.
While the audit process you choose depends on your company’s needs and the regulations it follows, how often you run them should not. Many sources recommend conducting security audits on a bi-annual or quarterly basis to ensure that you’re aware of both existing and new risks to your company’s security.
5 Reasons Your Company Should Run Regular Security Audits
As noted, security audits can be a lot of work. By focusing on how these audits can impact business growth, turn risk intelligence into business value, and increase security across departments, you’ll be more likely to get organizational buy-in throughout the audit process.
1. They identify gaps in your existing systems and processes
Security audits show gaps where more training and better systems could cover known security vulnerabilities. The more security gaps you have, the higher your risk and the related likelihood of a significant security event.
Stephen Roddewig, technical writer for HubSpot, compares a thorough security audit to a grocery list.
He says, “The audit keeps an organization accountable, the same way my grocery list cross-checks that I have found everything I need. If I only went off my usual shopping habits, then nonperishable products, like mouthwash and laundry, would be overlooked.”
For example, a company with multiple physical storefronts is more likely to fall victim to theft with poor or no security cameras in place. Regularly auditing these security measures can reveal risks, like high-risk areas not covered by security cameras or faulty equipment.
2. They’re foundational to business growth
Regular security audits contribute to increased business growth by proactively improving efficiency and operations. The more efficient your business operations are, the more time and resources you can dedicate toward growth activities like lead acquisition, new product development, and improvements to current GRC efforts.
Audits help your business grow because they track the effectiveness of current security measures. For example, an internal audit might reveal that your company is still paying to license an outdated security software it no longer uses. Cutting this software releases those wasted dollars and empowers your team to put them to better use elsewhere.
3. They offer cross-departmental visibility
Since security audits generally involve every department, everyone has the opportunity to better understand and appreciate security. In turn, potential risks will be top of mind, and teams will be more likely to spot potential issues moving forward
A thorough audit considers the more extensive workings of your entire company to give visibility to existing vulnerabilities with more significant implications. You can’t fix problems you don’t know about. Security Intelligence shares this helpful example on cross-departmentalizing digital security efforts:
“When employees help build a security awareness program, they are more likely to understand their integral role in safeguarding the organization’s data. Instead of resisting IT requirements, they will become advocates of security and think twice before opening suspicious attachments, reusing easy-to-guess passwords and neglecting to update outdated systems.”
4. They ensure you comply with regulations
While you’re likely already aware of which industry, accreditation, and government regulations your company must follow, security audits can reveal unintentional slips in compliance. Noncompliance can cost your business operational downtime, lost sales, and even regulatory fines that could be avoided with audits.
Tech Republic reports that “effective auditing can save your enterprise $1.5 million during its next security breach” when conducted and reported well.
Compliance is determined by the system of standards your organization follows. Common auditing standardizations include HIPAA, SOC, GDPR, and the various ISO standards. Keeping these standards as part of your core audit process makes it easy to determine the number of compliant versus non-compliant processes and provides guidelines for getting back in compliance.
5. They systematically minimize risk
By making your audits repeatable and consistent, rather than sporadic or reactive, you’re more likely to find potential vulnerabilities. Three proven auditing techniques—vulnerability scans, departmental audits, and penetration testing—can guide your process and help cover all security bases.
You can run vulnerability scans to specifically identify flaws in internal systems and software. When you capture and track current risks, you can explicitly address them. Departmental audits follow a similar process to companywide audits, but running them with audit software lets your team focus on deeply investigating a specific department or operation to understand and combat its specific risks. Finally, add penetration testing or “ethical hacking” to your auditing process. This type of test simulates an external attack and helps prepare your team to respond in case of a real breach.
Resolver’s Internal Audit Management Software makes your audit even more effective by providing a crystal-clear picture of your existing risk and streamlining your audit process. Its agile, risk intelligence-based approach uses clear workflows, content, and simple client integrations, so you always have access to the information you need, in one central place. Schedule a product demo to learn more about how Resolver can simplify your audit process.