5 Ways to Plan and Prepare for a Cyber Audit
Why Are Cyber Audits Important?
Cyber attacks are continuously evolving. How well organizations evolve to protect themselves and their clients is dependent on various factors, including the review of their practices, processes, and infrastructure. For the federal government, cyber audits play a central role in keeping agencies secure and prepared for any future threat. While the process of preparing and undergoing an audit can be unwieldy, these audits can highlight gaps and serious areas for improvement.
How to Prepare Your Organization For A Cyber Audit
Leveraging their experience and lessons learned, our cybersecurity experts compiled the five steps you and your organization can take to best prepare for a cyber audit.
1. Establish a communications plan
It is critical to establish a communications plan with all stakeholders in the organization to ensure everyone is aware of their responsibilities and understands the proper flow of information. First, the organization should identify a primary point of contact to lead the effort and serve as the liaison between the auditors and the organization’s stakeholders. Secondly, the organization should identify points of contact within each respective area included under the scope of the audit. All points of contact must be trained on how to respond to audit requests and interviews. The guidance should emphasize that stakeholders must only address the question asked of them and not provide any additional details outside of the scope of the question.
2. Review and understand rules of engagement
Audits will have formal rules of engagement that provide what will be examined and how these items will be examined. The rules will include important items, such as the amount of access to be given to auditors, the extent to which penetration testing can use offensive capabilities, and overall scope. A clear understanding of how the audit will be conducted and what the auditors can and cannot request will ensure a smoother audit process.
3. Take a full scale and proactive inventory
A significant part of the audit includes the review of the systems that are under the control of the organization. The rules of engagement should clearly define the boundary of the audit and provide the types of items that should be included.. Prior to knowing what is included in the audit, the organization should prepare a full inventory that not only includes all physical devices under operational control, but also their corresponding Authority to Operate documents and management documentation. It is best practice to prepare a clear index that includes all pertinent information in a single location, including a clear list of all systems and software being used, what machines software is installed on, and the license structure of the software.
4. Establish evidence management and clear ownership of items
Due to the high volume of requests that occur during an audit, it is crucial to establish evidence management and clear ownership of evidence for traceability. A helpful way to manage evidence is to establish tracking methods prior to the initiation of the audit and construct a central repository to store all evidence with separate areas based on the type of request (documents, logs, samples, etc.). One method to use is managing the audit requests via a centralized tracking log that includes the specific details of the request and tagging any evidence stored in the repository with a consistent naming convention that correlates to the audit request tracking number. Having these tracking mechanisms in place increases response times during the audit in situations where stakeholders need to refer to specific items for follow up information.
5. Identify the status of all items with plans for updates
A successful audit includes the proper documentation and demonstrates the organization is following the policies and procedures it previously established. In preparation for the audit, the organization should have all related policies, procedures, and guidance collected in a single location with the appropriate update schedules provided. Additionally, the most recent set of system scans should be provided with the corresponding Plan of Actions & Milestones (POAM) document or the government, risk, and compliance (GRC) documentation needs to be presented.
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