Network Security Audits: What They Are and Why Your Company Needs One
When was your company’s last network security audit? Has it ever had one? If your business has its own computer network and if you have not been conducting regular network security audits, then your company could be at risk. A network security audit is a critical tool for understanding your company’s protection from both internal and external security threats. It involves a comprehensive examination of not only your computer network, but the people and policies that affect it.
What Does a Network Security Audit Involve?
While not every network security audit is the same, a good one should involve the following steps:
Network Asset Identification
A network security audit begins with a thorough examination of all of your network’s hardware and software, to make a list of all of your network’s assets. That examination gives the auditors a good idea not only of the resources you have to work with but also the specific vulnerabilities and risks your network has.
Review of Security Architecture
Next, the auditors examine your network’s security software, controls, technology, and identification processes. A major element of this review is an in-depth examination of your firewall. This examination should go far beyond just making sure that your firewall has the latest patches, and include a review of remote access policies and management processes. This assessment gives the auditors an idea of how your network handles cybersecurity threats.
Review of Security Policies
It is not only your network’s security architecture that gets examined, though. Your company’s security policies regarding network access and use will also be reviewed. You see, it’s not just your security architecture that’s important. If you don’t have the right policies and procedures in place regarding its use then you aren’t taking full advantage of its protection. Worse, you might actually be hobbling your security architecture’s effectiveness through bad security policies. A network security audit will catch vulnerabilities like this that most people never even think about.
Review of Security Policy Implementation
Of course, having good policies isn’t enough to assure security either. There’s still the human factor. The audit will also involve a review of your staff and how they actually implement the network security policies you have in place. This part of the audit catches sources of human error that could be opening up new network vulnerabilities.
Once the various reviews are finished, the auditors will put together a comprehensive risk assessment for your company’s network. This assessment will include a determination of what your primary risks are and the potential impact of each one. Solutions for each of these risks should also be provided, and may include anything from new software to training employees in up to date network security procedures.
Finally, the auditors should conduct testing in which they actually try to break through your network’s security. Doing so will allow them to find unsuspected security vulnerabilities and fix them.
Why You Need Regular Network Security Audits
In business, it is always better to be proactive than reactive. If you wait to make improvements to your network security only after a security breach points out your vulnerability, then you are risking your company’s money, data, and reputation. A network security audit lets you get out in front of your security risks before they cost you.
In the world of business technology, things change constantly. Over time, your company’s computers are going to get a lot of new software updates. You’ll probably get new software as well. You will probably add new computers, monitors, printers, and more, one piece at a time. You could easily switch Cloud service vendors. If you move your office or expand your business, you’ll add all of the above at once.
Every time you add new hardware or software, you’re changing your security architecture, and the new stuff may not work as well with your security policies as you expect. These changes potentially create new security vulnerabilities in your network.
Taken one at a time, these changes don’t amount to much. However, every new piece of hardware or software works a little differently. In time, all the tiny differences in how each device or program works can create a new security vulnerability where none ever existed before.
Also, when you make changes to your network slowly, one piece of hardware or software at a time, it can be easy to lose track of the number of changes your company has made to its network. You may not even realize that your network is in need of an audit until it is already too late.
Additionally, threats are evolving all the time. Just because your network had no significant vulnerabilities a year ago does not necessarily mean that it still does today even if you made no changes to your network at all. Every month brings new viruses, malware, and exploits that put your security procedures to the test.
It is therefore best to run a regular network security audit. Doing so will give you a complete, up to date picture of your network security and of any potential risks on the horizon before they become actual problems.
A network security audit helps you avoid the biggest security threats and minimize your company’s chances of being on the evening news for suffering a major security breach. Considering the potential financial losses and damage to your company’s reputation, a thorough network security audit is well worth the cost and the time involved.