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What is a security audit and how can it benefit your small business?

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When the average cost of a data breach in the United States in 2022 is $9.44M ($5.09M above the global average), organizations of every size can appreciate the need for a security plan. 

Yet, one in five small businesses don’t have a plan in place, and studies have shown that such businesses are more, not less, prone to attack. You might think that hackers are too preoccupied with going after huge corporations to bother with early-stage businesses, but in reality, hackers target small companies because they tend to have less security. 

If you’re a small business, the best time to be proactive with your security is now — before you get hacked. Getting started might seem overwhelming at first. Even the phrase “security audit” can sound daunting! But we’re here to break it down for you so you know how to protect your company.

To get started, we’ll cover what security audits are, why they’re important, and how they work to mitigate risk for your organization.

What is a security audit?

A security audit is a systematic evaluation of a company's information systems, networks, and physical infrastructure. Audits are conducted by a team of security professionals who use various tools and techniques to assess the current state of an organization's security posture.

Security audits can be conducted internally by a company's security team or by a third-party security firm. Audits might be conducted on a regular basis, such as annually or bi-annually, or in response to a specific security threat or incident.

The results of a security audit are typically presented in a report that identifies any vulnerabilities or weaknesses before recommending steps to improve the organization’s security. This may include modifying network infrastructure, application security, access controls, physical security, and more.

If you find the word “audit” intimidating because of the cost or the amount of work involved, there’s no reason to worry — keeping calm and staying focused is easier when you know what to do. 

Now that we’re clear on what security audits are, let’s explore why they’re important.

Security audits are the way you show your customers and partners that they can trust you with their data. You can think of an audit — and the certification that often comes with it — as your ticket to increasing revenue and closing more deals. These audits have other important benefits as well:

  • Prove compliance: Many industries have strict regulations. A security audit proves that you are meeting those requirements. Additionally, some frameworks, like SOC 2, require regular audits.
  • Reduce risk: Security audits help organizations assess and mitigate potential risks to their systems and data. By identifying vulnerabilities and weaknesses, organizations can take steps to prevent data breaches, cyber-attacks, and other security threats.
  • Lower costs: Regular security audits can be more cost-effective than dealing with the consequences of a data breach or cyber attack. The costs associated with a security breach can include legal fees, damage to reputation, and loss of customer trust. We’ll cover more on costs below.
  • Improve your security posture: Security audits help organizations continuously improve their security posture. By identifying and addressing new vulnerabilities as they appear, organizations can ensure that their systems and networks are secure and prepared to respond to potential threats.

What are the four types of security audits?

Security audits fall into a few different categories depending on when they’re done and who they’re conducted by. Knowing these distinctions will help you to build out a stronger, more complete security plan. They include:

  • Routine security audits: Routine security audits are conducted on a regular basis and are designed to identify any new vulnerabilities that have arisen since the last audit to ensure that an organization's security posture can be updated to protect those areas of risk.
  • Event-based security audits: Event-based security audits are conducted in response to a specific event or trigger, such as the deployment of new technology or the detection of a security threat. 
    Internal security audits: Internal security audits are conducted by an organization's own security team or employees. These audits can either be event-based or routine.
  • External security audits: External security audits are conducted by a third-party security firm or consultant. These audits are typically more comprehensive and objective than internal audits, as they are conducted by an independent party with no prior knowledge of the organization's systems or infrastructure. 

How often should you perform security audits?

The frequency of security audits depends on the specific needs and risks faced by an organization. Below are some factors that may influence the frequency of security audits:

  • The size and complexity of the organization's systems and infrastructure
  • The sensitivity of the data being protected
  • The level of risk faced by the organization, including the likelihood and potential impact of a security breach or cyber attack
  • Industry regulations and compliance requirements

Of course, conducting security audits regularly is ideal for keeping your organization’s security up-to-date on an ongoing basis. This way, your business can prepare for potential security breaches or new risks that might occur.

The best way to keep from feeling overwhelmed by a process is to understand it. We'll show you what a security audit looks like step by step, so you know what to expect. 

Step 1: Planning

The auditor or assessment team will develop a plan outlining the scope and objectives of the audit, as well as the tools and techniques to be used. This is arguably the most important step for ensuring a smooth audit.

Step 2: Preparation

The auditor or assessment team will gather information about your organization's systems and infrastructure, such as network diagrams, system logs, and security policies.

Step 3: Testing

They will use a variety of tools and techniques to test the organization's systems and infrastructure for vulnerabilities and weaknesses. This may include conducting network scans, running security software, or even physically inspecting the organization's premises.

Step 4: Reporting

The auditor or assessment team will prepare a report summarizing the audit findings and, if needed, recommending steps for improving the organization's security posture.

Curious how long this process will take? Well, this answer can also vary, but there are ways to drastically reduce the time it takes to prepare for an audit.

The cost of a security audit can vary widely depending on a number of factors, including the size and complexity of the organization's systems and infrastructure, the specific focus of the audit, and the level of expertise required.

Security audits can cost up to tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the specific needs of the organization. Some audit firms may charge a flat fee for their services, while others may charge an hourly rate. The price will also vary greatly depending on if you decide to go the traditional route of hiring an old-school auditing firm in addition to your other security vendors or go with a more efficient, one-stop platform like Strike Graph that takes you from the initial design of your security program all the way to certification.

Strike Graph vs Traditional Auditing Firms

It is important for organizations to carefully consider the cost of a security audit in relation to the potential benefits and risks. While the upfront cost of a security audit may be significant, the costs associated with a data breach or cyber attack can be much higher, including legal fees, damage to reputation, and loss of customer trust.

How Strike Graph can help

The best time to start working toward your first security audit is now, and Strike Graph can make the process painless. Our compliance operation and certification platform walks you step by step through the security compliance process from initial risk assessment to control assignment, evidence collection, and finally certification. All in one place — no additional vendors, surprise costs, or unexpected delays. 

Keep up to date with Strike Graph.

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