While the IT infrastructure of organizations today has evolved tremendously, it has also become more vulnerable to security threats (internal and external) than ever before. Now more than ever, organizations need to analyze their complete IT infrastructure and ensure all assets are safe.
Whether you’re an MSP or IT department pro, here’s a complete guide to IT audits and the benefits of conducting in-depth and regular audits without the struggles of carrying out tedious tasks involved in the process
What is an IT audit?
An IT audit is an evaluation of an organization’s IT infrastructure, applications, data management, policies and operations. It aims to determine whether existing IT controls keep key assets and sensitive data safe while staying aligned with the organization’s goals. IT audits are crucial to ensure IT environments are updated and compliant with necessary regulations. While every audit can be configured differently, the five-step process is largely the same.
What is the importance of an IT audit?
An IT audit is essential to protect an organization’s biggest asset today — its data. IT audits represent an evidence-based approach to make sure an organization’s IT systems are appropriately protected and managed. IT audits tend to unearth an array of security loopholes, such as shadow IT, which involves using applications and tools without the knowledge of the IT department or MSP.
Given today’s unforgiving cyberthreat landscape, a cyberattack is almost inevitable. IT audits can reduce this likelihood by highlighting weaknesses that must be fixed.
What are the objectives of an IT audit?
Without a well-defined objective, an IT audit can be a futile exercise. Before running an IT audit, its objectives must be defined and aligned with the overall business objectives. The objectives of an IT audit include:
- Evaluating security systems and processes: IT audits analyze an organization’s security controls to protect its network and data. This helps determine whether the existing controls are effective and sufficient to prevent future breaches.
- Uncovering risks to information assets: Scouring an IT environment to detect risks that could potentially compromise information assets is a common objective of IT audits. An IT audit could go beyond this to explore ways to mitigate detected risks as well.
- Confirming reliability and integrity of information: Organizations often conduct IT audits to determine whether mission-critical information is stored and managed appropriately.
- Ensuring compliance with information management processes: By helping organizations gauge the effectiveness of their information management processes, IT audits help ensure and maintain full compliance with data protection regulations.
- Determining inefficiencies in IT systems and management: Inefficiency can hamper an organization’s growth. IT audits help identify inefficiencies in an IT environment and pinpoint their causes.
IT audit controls
As part of an organization’s internal controls, IT audit controls are aimed at upholding the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data, as well as the overall management of the organization’s IT environment. IT audit controls can be divided into two main categories:
IT General Controls (ITGCs)
ITGCs safeguard the integrity, availability and confidentiality of an organization’s data. These basic controls are applied to IT systems including applications, databases and support. They apply to all areas of an IT infrastructure. Some examples of ITGCs are:
- Internal accounting controls
- Operational controls
- Administrative controls
- Security policies and procedures
- Policies for the design and use of adequate documentation
- Procedures and practices to safeguard access to the network and data
- Physical and logical security policies for all data centers and IT resources
IT Application Controls (ITACs)
ITACs refer to the security measures installed to restrict unauthorized applications from endangering the security of systems and data in an IT environment. ITACs apply to the input, processing and output (IPO) functions of every application on the network to make sure:
- Processing successfully completes the desired tasks
- Processing results meet expectations
- The data is maintained properly
- Only complete, accurate and valid data is entered and updated in an application
Types of IT audits
IT audits can be initiated by authorities both inside and outside an organization to achieve various goals. The most common types of IT audits include:
Systems and Applications
These audits focus on verifying whether all systems and applications are reliable, efficient, appropriate, properly controlled, up-to-date and secure at all levels.
Information Processing Facilities
These verify whether all processes work efficiently, accurately and promptly in both normal and disruptive scenarios. These audits target all physical IT equipment, operating systems and overall IT infrastructure.
When developing and deploying new systems, an organization must ensure those systems meet their objectives and align with the required business standards. Systems Development audits determine whether these objectives are being met.
Management of IT and Enterprise Architecture
These IT audits assess whether an organization’s IT management and staff have implemented procedures to secure and control information processing. They also review the enterprise architecture and the tools used for following best practices and frameworks.
Client/Server, Telecommunications, Intranets and Extranets
These IT audits focus purely on telecommunication controls to confirm that they work properly for the server, client and network connecting the server and client.
IT audit process
While the exact process for an IT audit can vary depending on the organization, the process usually involves five steps:
- Planning: Setting the tone for the entire audit, this step is of maximum importance. If not done right, an organization could have to deal with false conclusions and higher costs. The main goal is to develop a detailed IT audit plan that outlines the IT audit’s scope, objective, timeframe, process and budget.
- Studying and evaluating controls: Before the controls can be tested and assessed, the existing controls must be evaluated thoroughly. Any complexity or risk related to each control is also identified at this stage.
- Testing and assessing controls: Controls are tested and assessed to ensure they mitigate risks the way they are supposed to. If they don’t, an audit identifies possible improvements that need to be made.
- Reporting: Documenting every step of the audit and its results are critical — especially if certain controls are found to not work properly. At this stage, the IT auditor creates a draft of the report, which is discussed with the management and then, a detailed audit report is created. The final report communicates the audit’s findings concisely and factually.
- Follow-up: Often overlooked, this step of the audit process is just as important as any of the others. At this point, auditors ensure that recommendations shared in the audit report are followed and improvements are working as intended. Ideally, only when the suggested improvements have been successfully implemented can an IT audit be officially closed.
IT audits with RapidFire Tools
Network Detective Pro is the industry-leading IT assessment and reporting tool. It goes beyond just network discovery and documentation to provide real “value-added intelligence” to the IT assessments you run. Its proprietary data collectors compare multiple data points to uncover hidden issues, measure risk, provide recommended fixes and track remediation progress.
IT audits have different applications if you’re an IT Department or MSP. For IT Departments, IT audits are a critical component to ensuring that an organization’s key assets and sensitive data stay protected, as well as compliant with regulations or other requirements. Conducting regular audits can help identify any vulnerabilities or issues in the current environment before they become more serious problems.
Now let’s look at how MSPs can use IT audits to win new customers and retain current ones while increasing revenue and growth.
By empowering everyone on your team to run and interpret IT assessments, it enables you to:
- Win new clients byhelping you close new accounts, fueling the growth of your business.
- Quickly discover risks by utilizing automated data collectors in client IT environments and issues that justify the need for your services. Compelling, brandable reports are automatically created for you, turning you into a selling machine. For example, using the Client Risk Report, you’ll be able to show any prospect or client all the issues with their existing network and how exactly they can be fixed. You can then easily justify why they need your services to protect the integrity of their network.
- **Grow your clients by maximizing the value of every client relationship.**With Network Detective Pro running regular scans on every client network, you’ll find more users and assets to bill, new projects to suggest and new opportunities to expand your service relationships.
- **Keep your clients longer by being an indispensable and trusted technology advisor.**Network Detective Pro makes it easy with customized, brandable reports for you to provide to clients that keep you top-of-mind and show your clients things they would otherwise never know about their network and users without your help. That builds their trust and reliance on you as a critical partner.
Network Detective Pro is a completely agentless solution with the ideal network discovery stack. Get a demo today to learn more about how you can keep networks and users better protected, whether you’re an IT professional or MSP.