One of the most common questions that I get asked is about the differences between an IT Audit and a Security Assessment. Hopefully, this quick overview helps to remove some of the confusion around these terms, which should not be used interchangeably.
What Is A Security Assessment?
A Security Assessment is a focused, proactive evaluation of an organization’s cybersecurity landscape that identifies potential risks and opportunities for improvement. The objective of conducting a Security Assessment is to provide an overview of an organization’s current state in terms of its cybersecurity posture. To do this, the currently implemented controls and systems are tested for resilience against common vulnerabilities and forms of attack.
Security assessments may, or may not, include penetration tests. However, they should always check for potential vulnerabilities. These reviews are best conducted by an independent third party.
What Is an IT Audit?
An IT Audit is a comprehensive review of your organization’s information technology (IT) infrastructure. It provides a detailed analysis of how well you are managing your IT resources, including hardware, software, networks, applications, policies, procedures, and controls.
It compares your current state of operations against a prescribed set of standards, controls, or requirements. These types of reviews are often conducted by an internal audit or an internal team, though many smaller firms use external consultants to complete them, as well.
What’s the Difference?
The difference between an IT Audit and a Security Assessment is one of scope. An IT Audit will typically focus on a single area or set of areas while a Security Assessment may cover multiple areas. For example, an IT Audit may include an examination of the organization’s capabilities to comply with a specific standard, for example, HIPAA, while a security assessment would test the cyber-security controls’ around your HIPAA data for effectiveness against common forms of attack.
In the end, an IT Audit is useful for getting a high-level overview of the gap between a required set of controls or standards, while a Security Assessment provides specific insights into how well the controls you have in place are protecting you and your assets.
What to Do with the Data
Once you have the insights provided by these engagements, you can easily use the data to update your security policies, implement additional internal controls to create an acceptable level of risks, revise your standard operating procedures or increase your network security and application-level protection.
Often, how the results of these engagements are used can be a major difference between the maturity level of your cybersecurity program. These processes should be used on at least a yearly basis for small firms, and on an ongoing basis for larger, more mature firms. Doing so will greatly improve your organizational security posture over time.
For more information on these types of engagements, or to discuss either an IT Audit or a Security Assessment, please get in touch with MicroSolved (firstname.lastname@example.org or 614-351-1237). We would love to put our nearly 30 years of experience to work for you!