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Overcoming Cybersecurity Assessment & Audit Confusion

Cybersecurity has become the most critical concern of this digital world. We have seen 160 million data compromise victims in the latest reports, much higher than the previous year’s records. The primary reason behind this dramatic rise is unsecured cloud databases.

Don’t you think it’s a warning for all the companies out there in the market? Yes, it is but don’t think that nothing is safe in the internet world; it’s all about your security protocols and cybersecurity program that differs from company to company.

All you need to do first is do conduct a cybersecurity audit. Though many misunderstood cybersecurity audits with cybersecurity assessment, and there is nothing like this. Both the terms have different meanings and processes.

So, read this blog and clear your confusion between cyber assessment and audit. Additionally, you will learn what to implement when. Now, let’s dive in.

What is a Cybersecurity Assessment?

Cybersecurity assessment is a thorough investigation of cyber-related security risks to recommend best security practices. It is mainly used for IT and IT-related organizations only, and in some cases, it may be used for business units. Companies use this process to learn how secure their organization and systems are and the critical areas they need to work on. The person who will perform this assessment is a cybersecurity consultant or analyst.

How Does Cybersecurity Assessment Work?

The general method for conducting a cybersecurity assessment is as follows:

  1. First, identify the relevant systems, processes, and data.
  2. Perform a cybersecurity risk assessment by examining vulnerabilities, threats, and the likelihood of them occurring in the future.
  3. Focus on cyber-related areas critical to business objectives and suggest recommendations for best security practices.
  4. Ensure proper communication between management, IT team, security, and the analyst doing the assessment.
  5. A suitable timeline must be set for conducting a cybersecurity assessment as it may take a few days or weeks depending upon its scale and methodology used.

The reason behind recommending this process is that you will know how secure your organization concerns cyber threats. Plus, you can also estimate the potential cost of risk.

When Is Cybersecurity Assessment Conducted?

Though the process of conducting cybersecurity assessment is always ongoing. But it is usually done for the following events:

- Before applying a new IT system or network security technology.

- Before starting a new operation in any part of your organization.

- Before outsourcing or hiring new employees with access to critical data.

- When you need to comply with industry standards or a regulatory agency.

- When there is a significant infrastructure change within your organization.

Benefits of Cybersecurity Assessment:

- Helps companies identify the gaps in their cybersecurity and work on it.

- Helps estimate the financial losses because of poor security practices and lack of cybersecurity measures.

- Helps to develop a sound strategy against cyberattacks.

Also, know the drawbacks of cybersecurity assessment:

- It is a costly process and mostly not affordable for small businesses.

What Is a Cybersecurity Audit?

Cybersecurity audit is a process mainly used for IT systems, and it includes assessment of records, logs, change management controls, physical security access controls, configuration parameters, policies, standards, etc. It also involves penetration testing to check vulnerabilities to provide organizations with an objective opinion: whether their current security controls are adequate or could be improved. It’s an independent assessment of the IT systems and infrastructure.

How Does a Cybersecurity Audit Work?

A cybersecurity audit is conducted by certified internal auditors, information security professionals, or an external third party. It’s performed in two phases:

Phase I: Internal Audit

- Internal auditors or information security professionals perform this phase. It is very detailed, and it may result in high costs to the company if implemented.

- During this phase, an assessment of existing systems takes place. Plus, vulnerabilities present at different layers are taken into account.

Phase II: Third-Party Audit

- This phase is performed by independent auditors who are not associated with the company in any way. So, it’s an impartial assessment of IT systems for validating security controls.

When Is Cybersecurity Audit Conducted?

Usually, a cybersecurity audit is done when changes in specific policies or functions affect IT systems. However, the company may also opt to do it at regular intervals like annually or quarterly, depending upon the frequency of policies, procedures, and systems changes.

Benefits of Cybersecurity Audit:

- Provides a way to identify vulnerabilities and address them.

- Determines the controls in place and their effectiveness.

- Helps in identifying procedures for handling or monitoring security events.

- Provides a view of your business from an objective perspective.

Drawbacks of Cybersecurity Audit:

- It is not suitable for small businesses that do not have enough resources for carrying out proper testing.

- It is a time-consuming process and may delay the launch of new projects or products.

What is the Difference Between Cybersecurity Assessment and Audit?

Now, it’s time to know the difference between cybersecurity assessment and audit. To make it easier for you, we have listed out the major points that would help you understand the difference quickly:

- Cybersecurity assessment and cyber audit are security compliance processes, but they mainly differ in their focus area. While assessment is more general, an audit is specific.

- Cybersecurity assessment covers areas like vulnerability scanning, risk analysis, network access controls, and so on. On the other hand, cyber audit focuses only on IT systems used to store or process company data.

- Assessment mainly involves internal staff, whereas an external third party conducts an audit.

- An assessment may not be as detailed as an audit.

- Assessment is conducted to check how secure your organization is, while an audit helps validate the effectiveness of security controls.

- While carrying out a cybersecurity assessment, you will be able to save costs if appropriately done because some steps can be skipped or reduced. On the contrary, an audit is more detailed, and it may involve high costs to the company.

- During an assessment, you will learn about vulnerabilities present at different layers while an auditor is concerned only with the security of IT systems.

-During the assessment, various areas are covered, including vulnerability scanning, risk analysis, access controls for networks & systems, etc. On the other hand, only IT systems and infrastructure are assessed during an audit.

Conclusion:

I hope this article helped you better understand the difference between cybersecurity assessment and audit. There is no need to do both processes together as they’re different from each other. It also makes sense to carry out an audit if your organization is new to information security because it helps validate the effectiveness of security controls.

However, if you have experience in this field, conducting a review before making any significant changes would be sufficient. If you can do their assessment correctly, the costs involved will also be less compared to an audit.

Cybersecurity has become an essential concern of this digital world. We have seen 160 million data compromise victims in the latest reports, which is much higher than the previous year’s records. The primary reason behind this dramatic rise is unsecured cloud databases.

Don’t you think it’s a warning for all the companies out there in the market? Yes, it is but don’t think that nothing is safe in the internet world; it’s all about your security protocols and cybersecurity program that differs from company to company.

All you need to do first is do conduct a cybersecurity audit. Though many misunderstood cybersecurity audits with cybersecurity assessment, and there is nothing like this. Both the terms have different meanings and processes.

So, read this blog and clear your confusion between cyber assessment and audit. Additionally, you will learn what to implement when. Now, let’s dive in.

What is a Cybersecurity Assessment?

Cybersecurity assessment is a thorough investigation of cyber-related security risks to recommend best security practices. It is mainly used for IT and IT-related organizations only, and in some cases, it may be used for business units. Companies use this process to learn how secure their organization and systems are and the critical areas they need to work on. The person who will perform this assessment is called a cybersecurity consultant or analyst.

How Does Cybersecurity Assessment Work?

The general method for conducting a cybersecurity assessment is as follows:

  1. First, identify the relevant systems, processes, and data.
  2. Perform a cybersecurity risk assessment by examining vulnerabilities, threats, and the likelihood of them occurring in the future.
  3. Focus on cyber-related areas critical to business objectives and suggest recommendations for best security practices.
  4. Ensure proper communication between management, IT team, security, and the analyst doing the assessment.
  5. A reasonable timeline must be set for conducting a cybersecurity assessment as it may take a few days or weeks depending upon its scale and methodology used.

The reason behind recommending this process is that you will know how secure your organization concerns cyber threats. Plus, you can also estimate the potential cost of risk.

When Is Cybersecurity Assessment Conducted?

Though the process of conducting cybersecurity assessment is always ongoing. But it is usually done for the following events:

- Before applying a new IT system or network security technology.

- Before starting a new operation in any part of your organization.

- Before outsourcing or hiring new employees with access to critical data.

- When you need to comply with industry standards or a regulatory agency.

- When there is a significant infrastructure change within your organization.

Benefits of Cybersecurity Assessment:

- Helps companies identify the gaps in their cybersecurity and work on it.

- Helps estimate the financial losses because of poor security practices and lack of cybersecurity measures.

- Helps to develop a sound strategy against cyberattacks.

Also, know the drawbacks of cybersecurity assessment:

- It is a costly process and mostly not affordable for small businesses.

What Is a Cybersecurity Audit?

Cybersecurity audit is a process mainly used for IT systems, and it includes assessment of records, logs, change management controls, physical security access controls, configuration parameters, policies, standards, etc.

The cybersecurity audit also involves penetration testing to check vulnerabilities to provide organizations with an objective opinion: whether their current security controls are adequate or could be improved. It’s an independent assessment of the IT systems and infrastructure.

How Does a Cybersecurity Audit Work?

A cybersecurity audit is conducted by certified internal auditors, information security professionals, or an external third party. It’s performed in two phases:

Phase I: Internal Audit

- Internal auditors or information security professionals perform this phase. It is very detailed, and it may result in high costs to the company if implemented.

- During this phase, an assessment of existing systems takes place. Plus, vulnerabilities present at different layers are taken into account.

Phase II: Third-Party Audit

- This phase is performed by independent auditors who are not associated with the company in any way. So, it’s an impartial assessment of IT systems for validating security controls.

When Is Cybersecurity Audit Conducted?

Usually, a cybersecurity audit is done when changes in specific policies or functions affect IT systems. However, the company may also opt to do it at regular intervals like annually or quarterly, depending upon the frequency of policies, procedures, and systems changes.

Benefits of Cybersecurity Audit:

- Provides a way to identify vulnerabilities and address them.

- Determines the controls in place and their effectiveness.

- Helps in identifying procedures for handling or monitoring security events.

- Provides a view of your business from an objective perspective.

Drawbacks of Cybersecurity Audit:

- It is not suitable for small businesses that do not have enough resources for carrying out proper testing.

- It is a time-consuming process and may delay the launch of new projects or products.

What is the Difference Between Cybersecurity Assessment and Audit?

Now, it’s time to know the difference between cybersecurity assessment and audit. To make it easier for you, we have listed out the major points that would help you understand the difference quickly:

- Cybersecurity assessment and cyber audit are security compliance processes, but they mainly differ in their focus area. While assessment is more general, an audit is specific.

- Cybersecurity assessment covers areas like vulnerability scanning, risk analysis, network access controls, and so on. On the other hand, cyber audit focuses only on IT systems used to store or process company data.

- Assessment mainly involves internal staff, whereas an external third party conducts an audit.

- An assessment may not be as detailed as an audit.

- Assessment is conducted to check how secure your organization is, while an audit helps validate the effectiveness of security controls.

- While carrying out a cybersecurity assessment, you will be able to save costs if appropriately done because some steps can be skipped or reduced. On the contrary, an audit is more detailed, and it may involve high costs to the company.

- During an assessment, you will learn about vulnerabilities present at different layers while an auditor is concerned only with the security of IT systems.

-During the assessment, various areas are covered, including vulnerability scanning, risk analysis, access controls for networks & systems, etc. On the other hand, only IT systems and infrastructure are assessed during an audit.

Conclusion:

This article should have helped you better understand the difference between cybersecurity assessment and audit. There is no need to do both processes together as they’re different from each other. It also makes sense to carry out an audit if your organization is new to information security because it helps validate the effectiveness of security controls.

However, if you have experience in this field, conducting a review before making any significant changes would be sufficient. If you can do their assessment correctly, the costs involved will also be less compared to an audit.

Are you still looking for a more detailed understanding of the security compliance process?

Here are some valuable resources:

How to Secure Platform as a Service (PaaS) Environments What to Expect from an IT Security Audit Image Credit: Tima Miroshnichenko; Pexels; Thank you!

Overcoming Cybersecurity Assessment and Audit Confusion was originally published on ReadWrite on January 19, 2022 by Bhushan Shinde.

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