Computer network security audit: checklist, process and reporting guidelines

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When it comes to computer security, you need to be extra vigilant to avoid a data breach. Hackers are always looking for new ways to gain access and therefore it is essential for any organization that deals with confidential information to conduct regular network security assessments. In this article, we discuss what a computer network security audit is and why performing one can help you avoid major data breaches. We also include a checklist of steps to take when performing your own network security audit as well as guidelines on how your report will look.

What is a computer network security audit?

Computer network security audits are designed to verify the level of protection your business has put in place for its computer and data systems. These types of audits often take place every year and help companies determine if they are following best practices or if there is an area that needs improvement. Although most companies deal with sensitive information, not all companies take the necessary precautions to prevent cyber attacks. An audit can uncover vulnerabilities before hackers exploit them. It also allows you to improve your defenses so that future violations do not occur.

Why is it important to perform IT security audits?

A data breach can be very costly both financially and in terms of reputation for a business. In fact, according to IBM in its latest Cost of a data breach report For 2021, data breaches peaked at $ 4.24 million per incident. Therefore, it has become crucial for companies to perform regular network security audits to reduce their risk of data breach. Here are some of the top reasons to consider performing an IT security audit:

  • To identify vulnerabilities in your system
  • Find out if your business follows network security best practices
  • To assess your risk of a data breach
  • To improve your defenses against cyber attacks
  • To stay competitive

IT security audit tools

When it comes to security tools, the list could go on. Each has its own set of unique features and prices. To classify and name a few:

  1. Network analysis tools: These can be used to identify devices on your network by various means, such as their respective IP addresses, host names, and MAC addresses. They can also help you find weak spots in your network, such as open ports. Some popular network scan tools include Nmap, Netcat, Nessus, Wireshark, etc.
  2. Vulnerability scanners such as DAST: DAST scanners identify vulnerabilities in software and systems. They can be used to search for known vulnerabilities as well as zero-day exploits. They can also help you identify systems requiring patches and required security fixes. Some great vulnerability scanners are Astra Vulnerability Scanner, OWASP ZAP, Burp Suite Pro, Acunetix, etc.
  3. Penetration testing tools: These tools allow you to simulate a cyber attack in order to test your network defenses. Popular network penetration test tools include Astra Pentest, Metasploit, SQLMap, John the Ripper, etc.

Computer Network Security Audit Checklist

You do not know where to start ? The following checklist should help you get a better idea of ​​how to conduct a security audit of your computer network. Remember to be creative and tailor them to your business needs.

  1. Review industry safety policies and regulations: Make sure you are up to date with the latest security policies and regulations put in place by your industry or organization.
  2. Train employees: Reduce the margin for human error by training employees.
  3. Identify the devices: Identify devices and operating systems connected to the Internet
  4. Review the network infrastructure: Review the network infrastructure to identify vulnerabilities.
  5. Assess what is at risk: Assess what’s at risk and the impact a data breach could have.
  6. Limit access to sensitive data: Limit access to sensitive data and make sure your employees know how to manage it.
  7. Update security software: Use an up-to-date firewall and install anti-virus software on all networked devices.
  8. Check for vulnerabilities and malware: Check for vulnerabilities and malware on all devices. Various tools are available for this and can make your job easier.
  9. Perform penetration tests: Penetration testing helps you simulate cyber attacks and identify vulnerabilities in your system.
  10. Monitor your traffic: Monitor your traffic for any suspicious activity.

IT network security audit process

When performing a computer security audit, there are a number of steps you need to take to do it properly. We recommend the following order:

  • Define a scope and plan for your audit. This includes deciding on the date range as well as what systems, devices, and other assets will be included. You should also decide who performs the audit and whether or not outside help may be needed throughout this process.
  • Perform manual scans of the entire IT infrastructure, including wired networks, wireless access points (WAPs), switches, and more. Also perform the analysis using automated penetration test tools. If possible, use external and internal analysis tools to get more accurate results.
  • Identify all the security vulnerabilities present in each system or device based on its risk score from step two above. Once identified, prioritize the areas with the highest risk scores first.
  • Develop a remediation plan for each vulnerability and / or security issue identified. This should include the steps necessary to resolve the issue as well as who will be responsible for performing those tasks.
  • Perform follow-up scans after remediation plans are implemented to ensure that vulnerabilities have been properly patched and that no news has emerged.

What to include in your computer network security audit report?

A computer network security audit report must contain:

  1. Detailed information on all aspects of your audit, from the date range it was performed to the systems included in it.
  2. List all the vulnerabilities found along with their respective risk scores.
  3. In addition, it should identify any areas where policy compliance may be lacking and provide suggestions on how to resolve them.
  4. Finally, the report should include a concluding section with general conclusions and recommendations for improvement.

Conclusion

With the increase in cyber threats, regular audits of computer network security are now an essential step in ensuring that your business is not vulnerable to data breaches or cyber attacks. Not only does a network security audit help you identify potential risks before they turn into problems, it also helps managers improve existing policies and procedures for managing the network. Therefore, network audits are essential for every business, large or small. By performing regular network audits and including steps in your employee network policy manual on how best to protect company resources, you can help ensure that your network is as secure as possible.

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