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Remember Facebook's data breach that impacted 533 million users and cost Meta €1.2bn in fines? But Facebook is not alone. Brands like Yahoo, Ali Baba, LinkedIn, and Twitter have all suffered data breaches and cybersecurity attacks.

That's why ensuring online safety should be every business's top priority, and a cybersecurity audit is a great way to do that.

So read on and learn how to perform a cybersecurity audit for your business in six practical steps (the easy way).

What is a cybersecurity audit?

A cybersecurity audit is assessing whether you have the required security systems in place. It also ensures regulatory compliance, analyses cybersecurity risks, and reviews the current cyberattack or data breach defence system.

The goal is to identify and resolve any vulnerabilities that can compromise your business's crucial data, processes, and more.

Moreover, conducting regular cybersecurity audits helps you:

  • Protect against reputational and financial threats
  • Increases the value and quality of your solution
  • Enhances customer loyalty
  • Improves regulatory compliances
  • Mitigate legal liabilities
  • Future-proof solutions


How to perform a cybersecurity audit

A cybersecurity audit is an excellent opportunity to stress-test your online safety against possible breaches and find new areas for improvement to enhance your business's overall security state.

However, conducting a comprehensive cybersecurity audit can seem intimidating. Allow us to show you how it's not with these easy six steps:

1. Determine scope

The first step is to answer the question: why are you performing the audit? This is an ideal starting point for identifying the elements in your organisation that require a cybersecurity audit.

For example, in the audit, you may want to focus on:

  • Physical security practices
  • IT infrastructure (networks, software, and hardware)
  • Vulnerability management
  • Sensitive data storage and protection
  • Assessing your cybersecurity policies
  • Evaluating compliance standards

Once you've identified the scope, document all the requirements. This will help ensure consistency in future audits.


2. Identify the stakeholders

Identify people/departments responsible for cybersecurity compliance in the company and parties who must be involved in the audit. Once identified, establish the responsibilities of each stakeholder in writing.

You can also leverage this opportunity to recognise employees with access to your organisation's critical data. Ensure these individuals understand their role in maintaining the company's cybersecurity.

Pro tip: providing all your stakeholders with regular cybersecurity training is an extra step you can take to ensure your team is aware of the latest technologies, policies, and threats.

3. Assess existing cybersecurity policies

Thoroughly review your cybersecurity policies and IT inventory document. See if your security policies, procedures, and inventory (hardware, software, databases, and services) are still up-to-date.

Watch out for irrelevant policies that exist just because “that's the way it's always been done”. This way, the audit can help instigate positive changes in your security processes by updating policies that reflect current security challenges.

Also, make sure to thoroughly review all the third-party software you are using for your business. For example, if you use an accessibility testing tool for your specially-labelled employee, ensure it's safe and provides ample data security.

Here are a few more things you should assess for the audit:

  • System Security
  • Data and cloud storage
  • Network Infrastructure
  • Physical security (visitor management system, access control, etc.)
  • Data protection (data storage, backup procedure, and encryption mechanism)


4. Identify risks

Now it's time to conduct a cybersecurity risk assessment. It helps you identify threats and challenges that affect your audit scope.

Here are some most common security threats that plague today's digital landscape:

  • Stolen password: a data leak can expose employees' critical personal data, including passwords that cybercriminals can obtain and use to hack into corporate accounts
  • Malware: files or programs that try to damage, invade, or disable computer systems
  • Distributed denial of services (DDoS attacks): the attempt to force the shutdown of a website or crash the server with massive fake traffic
  • Zero-day exploits: unpatched security vulnerabilities that hackers use to gain unauthorised access to critical systems and data
  • Social engineering: tricking employees into exposing sensitive information (for example, phishing and business email compromise)

To identify these threats, focus on data and resources that are most likely to be targets of breaches.

NOTE: Security risk assessment is not a 'one and done' process. To ensure your organisation's online safety, you must assess these risks regularly.


5. Remediate identified risks

Using all your findings – threats, challenges, and vulnerabilities – create policies and practices to remediate all the gaps. Work closely with your stakeholders to implement required security improvements.

You want to keep cybersecurity practices proactive to ensure you aren't only providing band-aid solutions. Build long-term security strategies to protect your organisation from online attacks.

Use technologies like cloud automation to continuously monitor security control, secure crucial data in a cloud environment, accelerate incident response, and more.

Here are a few more tools you can use for better cybersecurity:

  • Vulnerability scanners
  • Penetration testing tools
  • Log analysis and SEIM (Security Information and Event Management)
  • Compliance and policy management
  • Security vaults

NOTE: Record all the implemented changes as a log of cybersecurity efforts. This will come in handy during an external audit.


6. Plan response

No matter how strict or advanced your cybersecurity policies are, you're never 100% safe. Even LinkedIn has suffered a cybersecurity attack, with 500 million records leaked online. No matter how large the company is, it's always best to be ready with a solid incident response plan.

Here’s what a comprehensive incident response plan should have:

  • Response protocol: a guide for the employees on what to do in the event of a cyberattack or breach
  • Business continuity plan: an actionable plan on how your business will recover and return to normal in case of potential security incidents

Also, make sure the response plan prioritises risks and process of remediation (strengthening security architecture, software patching, and segmenting network structure).

Review the plan consistently and update the plan, policies, and documents as technology and cybersecurity challenges advance.

Pro tip: make a shareable document of the incident response plan (including identification, prevention, and response tools) and share it with all your employees during the training. Using this, you'll make your employees an active line of defence against cyber threats.


All set for your cybersecurity audit

The world is digitising at lightning speed, and so are cyber attackers. In such treacherous times, regular cybersecurity audits are the only way to keep your business's cyber safety in check.

So, conduct internal cybersecurity audits with the steps mentioned above and keep your business's digital transformation on an upward trajectory with a strong safety harness backing you.


About the author:

Nikola Sekulic is a seasoned brand developer, writer, and storyteller. Over the last decade, he’s worked on various marketing, branding, and copywriting projects – crafting plans and strategies, writing creative online and offline content, and making ideas happen. When he is not working for clients around the world, he is exploring new topics and developing fresh ideas to turn into engaging stories for the online community.

Nikola Sekulic


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