A cybersecurity compliance audit on the horizon can strike fear in the hearts of company executives, and their IT personnel. But, following some preparatory tips makes it easier to pass the audit and not dread it. Here are six strategies to try.
1. Take an Inventory of Network-Connected Devices
Your company cannot stay adequately protected from cybersecurity attacks with unfamiliar devices connected to its network. A study from Infoblox found more than a third of companies polled in the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany had more than 5,000 personal devices connected to their networks daily.
The same study also found only one-fifth of respondents in the United States and the United Kingdom followed company policies for connected devices to the letter. Some respondents did not know if their organizations had such rules.
Getting off to a good start with meeting your goal to pass a cybersecurity compliance audit requires having accurate knowledge about connected devices. It's especially important to possess such information if the devices collect and store sensitive information.
2. Carry out Regular Internal Audits
Another excellent and proactive step you can take to increase the likelihood of audit success is to perform regular internal audits. That way, you'll have a better chance of noticing glaring shortcomings before the external auditors do.
Before starting the internal audit, define a security perimeter around all the company's valuable assets that are subject to a compliance audit. For example, if your company has any health-care-related data, it falls into the security perimeter. Then, only turn your attention to the things within the security perimeter when doing the self-audit. Taking this approach keeps you appropriately focused.
3. Know What Constitutes Non-Compliance
A tricky thing about cybersecurity compliance audits is that many companies fail those assessments because they don't know all the steps they must take to stay in compliance. For example, companies that handle credit card data must be PCI-DSS compliant, and doing so means having a firewall between a wireless network and the cardholder data repository and using a network detection intrusion system — among other things.
Failing to comply with PCI-DSS standards brings fines ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 per month, and parties may also receive per-incident fines. Representatives at your company must remain aware of how to stay compliant, whether for PCI-DSS or another requirement. Plus, they need to take it upon themselves to stay abreast of any updated regulations.
4. Review Current Access Controls and Make Changes If Necessary
An auditor carrying out a cybersecurity compliance check will also determine whether the data in question has appropriate access controls applied to it. Something that increases the possibility of positive audit findings is ensuring the access controls for your company's data are sufficient for the people who use them.
A study from Varonis about access control revealed 58% of companies have more than 100,000 files open to everyone. Correct access control means giving a person the amount of access they need to do their assigned tasks, and no more. Offering unrestricted access to files is never a good practice.
The Varonis study also determined 34% of the user accounts with access enabled were "stale" or inactive. That often happens when people leave the company, and organizational representatives don't take the time to tweak settings to restrict future access.
5. Keep a Log of Cybersecurity-Related Policies
You should also retain written documentation of any administrative procedures at the company associated with cybersecurity or more generalized compliance measures. The auditors will inevitably want to see them as the evaluation occurs, and you don't want to give the impression that you don't have the necessary policies in place at all.
Choose a centralized place to keep all the polices. Then, it'll be easy to review them as necessary, and you can quickly retrieve the documents at an auditor's request.
6. Mitigate Third-Party Risks
It's crucial to think about whether the third-party companies that partner with you to handle some of your sensitive data could pose security risks. Including third-party entities in your cybersecurity audit preparedness shows you are aware cybersecurity risks could occur elsewhere and negatively affect your company.
Any contracts you have with third-party providers should have sections about what those enterprises do to minimize cybersecurity breaches, and how to report if they happen. If you find any flaws in how the outside companies treat your data, establish new policies now before the audit happens and follow up to make sure the companies adhere to them.
Think Ahead to Avoid Catastrophes
Failed audits hinder your company's progress, and they can hurt the bottom line. Fortunately, the tips mentioned here let you stay on top of audit preparedness and reduce the chances of poor outcomes.
Kayla Matthews is an IT journalist and cybersecurity writer. Her work has been featured on Security Boulevard, Security Today, the National Cyber Security Alliance and InformationWeek. To read more of Kayla’s work, please visit her personal blog here.