Audit

Why Ongoing Audits are Good for Business

If you browse cybersecurity literature long enough you’ll find the benefits a business can derive from a privacy or security audit are generally well understood and regarded, but lesser-known are the perks of ongoing audits. This is largely due to a generalized concern some businesses hold that subsequent audits may be redundant – which is a prudent question of cost-efficiency. What’s often misunderstood in this concern is that the benefits of continual audits are at the same time greater and different than those of singular audits, with the difference being seen largely in the distinction between proactive and reactive action. Let’s take a quick dive into this distinction, and discuss a few key benefits continuous audits will bring.

A simple way of highlighting the key point of utility of continual audits is by considering the audits like you might consider a medical check-up – after all, an audit essentially is a health check for your information security system, so this makes for an apples-to-apples analogue. If you’re feeling very sick you might well schedule a one-off check-up. From there a doctor will run tests, make a diagnosis, and create a treatment plan to get you back into good shape. This check-up is generally the role an isolated audit will perform, and it definitely is a step in the right direction. But it’s worth remembering that if routine re-visits aren’t made then afterward you’re liable to miss otherwise detectable signs of illness and become sick again. And although it’s true that you can schedule another appointment at that point, the fact you’re sick to begin with is damaging to the body, and the recovery process can be drawn-out, challenging, and expensive. It’s oftentimes a lot more efficient for both your health and wallet to mitigate the risk of sickness consistently by making check-ups a routine, which represents the emergent perks of continual audits. 

It’s likely you can see how this same concept applies with information security audits – the best way by far to handle incidents is to take measures to avoid them entirely, and these measures are directed by continual audits. With that in mind, let’s look at a few specifics of how exactly these ongoing audits keep your business healthier than ad hoc audits:

  • Layered Net: A single audit might not always detect all risks present – some issues only become apparent in trends between multiple audits. A continual audit process ensures that most every detectable risk present in a system is identified, not just those apparent at a single point in time.
  • Remediation Review: Following the conclusion of an audit should come the process of addressing the identified risks. A common issue with said process is that the remediation efforts are not always fully effective, leaving the organization exposed still to a risk they believe is mitigated. Subsequent audits will review remediation efforts to assess their efficacy and provide guidance on how to improve them. 
  • Currency & Compliance: More frequent audits mean less room exists in-between for organizations to unknowingly diverge from emerging regulations and best practices. This not only simplifies the maintenance of compliance by way of lending more time to react to and prepare for new requirements, but also lends a competitive edge by allowing for quick adoption of new security and privacy best practices. 
  • More Recent, More Value: Over time your organization and the risk landscape it’s exposed to changes, and thus audits lose relevance with time. This makes recency a large variable in the value an audit brings, both internally and externally. For instance, externally it’s often found that potential partners or clients only accept audits from the last year or six months, with more recency generally preferred. Internally, timely findings in developing systems are oftentimes extremely beneficial, as it’s far easier to adjust for security early in that system’s implementation than attempting to retrofit it far afterward.

Altogether, the benefits listed above are most apparent in (if not exclusive to) a continuous audit process. And these points don’t even account for the human benefits of the process, such as improving staff’s understanding of your organization’s risk posture over time or demonstrating your organization’s commitment to cybersecurity and data privacy to prospects. It’s worth remembering that security and privacy are not problems to fix, but an ongoing process of improvement – in that sense, with audits an increase in quantity often boosts the quality of the process altogether.

Is your business interested in the benefits of a new audit? Whether you’re looking to establish an audit process or conduct your first audit ever, CyberData Pros are experts in the process and can walk you through it – from scoping to a polished report. Contact us now for a free consultation and to learn more about our services.

read more

The Best Defense is a Good Offense

Within the realm of cybersecurity, there are a multitude of steps your organization can take to help better secure your infrastructure, network, and applications. While it might sound easy to go with an out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach, a particularly important component of a strong security posture involves digging to uncover weaknesses before they become a real security incident. Oftentimes discerning what these various tests, scans, and reports are in the first place can leave one confusingly scratching their head, let alone recognizing which option might be best suited for your business. Two of the more common techniques that often get lumped together are penetration testing and vulnerability scanning, but while there can be some overlap, it’s important to distinguish and understand the differences between the two. 

Both penetration testing and vulnerability scanning can be beneficial to an organization in their own way. Depending on a multitude of factors and circumstances, one might be chosen over the other, i.e. if there are budget limitations, or perhaps one is required by a standard, regulation, or contractual agreement. While on their own both options carry great value, the strongest results come from a combination of the two as both methodologies complement each other to form a comprehensive approach. To briefly define, vulnerability scanning is a process that uses automated tools to search for and identify known vulnerabilities across an organization’s devices, systems, and networks. Penetration testing, often referred to as ethical hacking, takes a more manual approach by attempting to actively exploit any weaknesses that exist, in order to simulate what damage could be done by a real attacker. 

Aside from the core definition, there are benefits and comparisons between the two that are important to discuss when you are considering implementing either or both options. When a vulnerability scan is completed, the results are generated into a report that identifies, categorizes, and scores each found vulnerability. Since there is no attempt to actively exploit, the purpose here is primarily informative. It requires manual analysis to sift through the false positives and carry out the remediation steps to mitigate the risks associated with the findings, prioritizing  the most critical findings first. Vulnerability scans are performed more frequently than penetration tests (ideally quarterly) and are useful to compare to previous scans to monitor progress. Due to their more lightweight nature, vulnerability scans are much quicker and cost-friendly than penetration tests. 

By contrast, as the goal of a penetration test is to think like the “bad guys”, they are significantly more detailed and thus require substantially more time and effort. Because of the thorough and in-depth nature, a penetration test takes days to weeks to complete. Naturally, the cost associated with a penetration test is higher than a vulnerability scan, but it’s worth noting that a retest is frequently included in the cost. Additionally, they do not need to be conducted as frequently as vulnerability scanning; annually is the most common interval. 

Pages could be written diving into the details of each, but the aim here is to give you a short synopsis and explanation of these often confused terms, and hopefully by doing so allow you to have a better understanding of the real world applications of each. Each carries its own value, but the best approach combines the advantages of both to take your company’s security strategy to the next level. 

Here at CyberData Pros, our team is proud to offer these services to our clients, and we encourage you to contact us to discuss how vulnerability scanning and penetration testing can help your ability to strengthen your company’s security. The best defense is a good offense.

read more