Remote teams and distributed home networks have made it more difficult for IT teams to provide centralized support. Hackers have taken advantage of the increased attack surface to release new types of cybersecurity threats and CIOs are worried about remote employees falling prey to increased phishing and malware attacks.
These issues underscore the importance of having a strong security network with strategies for preventing data loss, cyber-attacks, and loss of revenue due to security breaches.
What is the purpose of a network security audit?
A network security audit is a complete assessment of your company’s security network. It includes a review of company policies, applications, hardware inventory, and practices for security faults and risks.
The objective of an effective network security assessment is to:
- Define and classify your resources, including core business processes, networks, devices, and data to determine what systems are at risk for a breach.
- Identify common entry points and hidden data sources that may allow easy access to sensitive information. Focus should be on end-point devices like smartphones and tablets as well as virtual or physical services that may not be secure.
- Estimate costs and determine the impact of a cyber-attack to your critical assets and processes. Consider threats such as exposure of personal information, IP theft, data loss or destruction, and interruption of business processes
- Identify critical data, sensitive personal identifiable information (PII), or corporate information that may be vulnerable to unauthorized access or external cyber-attacks.
What are the types of network security audits?
There are two types of network security audits: vulnerability assessment and penetration testing.
1. Vulnerability assessment
A vulnerability assessment is an extensive evaluation of your IT infrastructure to identify, classify, and prioritize security vulnerabilities. It assesses whether exposure to a known vulnerability has occurred, the severity of the vulnerability, and outlines the steps necessary to remedy the exposure. A vulnerability assessment can provide a detailed view of the potential security risks to your organization, help you determine the effectiveness of your current security controls, and better protect your business from further cybersecurity threats.
2. Penetration test
A penetration test is a simulated cyber or social engineering attack against your network that looks for exploitable security vulnerabilities. Penetration testing can use manual penetration testers or be automated with penetration testing tools. Insights gained from the testing process can help you determine how an attack might overcome your security infrastructure so that you can tighten your current security controls and remedy vulnerabilities found.
How to conduct a network security audit
Assess the vulnerability of your infrastructure
Vulnerabilities within your network can arise from internal sources, like employees with poor security practices or external sources like third-party vendors with incorrect levels of access. A comprehensive vulnerability assessment should include:
- A scan of all network ports as well as other network paths where an attacker might gain access e.g. Wi-Fi and IoT, and network services like HTTP and FTP
- Network enumeration to find devices that might identify the operating system of remote hosts,
- A review of third parties and remote workers and the level of security access they have to your internal company network and sensitive data.
- A review of security policies related to BYOD, and email usage
- An assessment of the possible risks from natural disasters, critical system failures, and human error should also be considered.
Determine information value
Highly sensitive data is often subject to regulatory or industry-specific requirements and can incur high penalties if lost or exposed to malicious actors. To manage potential security risks, it is critical to understand the value of the information you are protecting.
Consider the following when determining the value of your business information:
- Are there financial or legal penalties associated with the loss of this data?
- Is this information valuable to a competitor?
- If lost, how long would it take to recreate the data, and what would be the cost?
- How much revenue would be lost if this data was lost or exposed?
- Would the loss of this data result in damage to the company’s reputation?
Take inventory of your resources
An important step in conducting a network security audit is taking inventory of your resources. This will give you a high-level view of your network and its security controls. Evaluate all of your business processes to identify the critical assets that need to be assessed and prioritize to determine which assets should be assessed first. Not all companies have the budget to assess their entire network. Focus on your business-critical resources.
Document the results in an assessment report
Document the results of the assessment in a report to assist management in decision making related to budgets, policies, and procedures. The assessment report should describe the risks, exploits, and value of each vulnerability and outline its potential impact. It should also detail the likelihood of the vulnerability to occur and include control recommendations for preventing its occurrence.
Implement security controls to improve cybersecurity
Make a list of any weaknesses found in your security networks and develop additional security controls to address them. Controls can be classified into two groups: preventative and detective controls. The aim of preventative controls is to stop an attack from happening; detective controls are designed to discover when an attack has occurred. Security controls can be implemented through hardware or software, two-factor authentication, encryption, network intrusion detection, and other technical controls or by security policies.
Monitor continuously for issues/changes
It’s important to continuously monitor your entire IT architecture for issues on a day-to-day basis. This ensures continued compliance with your implemented controls and ensures that you are immediately aware of any changes in your security status. Continuous security monitoring involves automated monitoring of security controls, vulnerabilities, and cybersecurity threats. It alerts your organization of compromise and security misconfigurations in real-time.
Security ratings can also be implemented as part of continuous security monitoring. These ratings are created by a trusted independent security rating platform and are an objective indicator of a company’s cybersecurity status. Contact us for more information