How to Conduct Your Own Internal Security Audit
Conducting a security audit is an important step toward protecting your business against data breaches and other cybersecurity threats. In this post, we break down the five steps to get started at a high level.
For more help conducting your own audit, check out our mini-guide that explains why you should do an internal security audit and walks you through exactly how to run one for your business in more detail.
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1. Assess your assets
Your first job as an auditor is to define the scope of your audit by writing down a list of all your assets. Some examples of assets include:
- Computer and tech equipment
- Sensitive company and customer data
- Important internal documentation
It’s unlikely that you’ll be able to audit all your assets—so the final part of this step is determining which assets you’ll audit, and which you won’t.
2. Identify threats
Next, look at the assets you plan to audit and list the potential threats next to each one.
What counts as a threat? Any activity, occasion, behavior, or thing that can cost your business a significant amount of money.
3. Evaluate current security
It’s time for some honesty. Now that you have your list of threats, you need to be candid about your company’s ability to defend against them. It is critical to evaluate your performance—and the performance of your department at large—with as much objectivity as possible.
For example, maybe your team is particularly good at monitoring your network and detecting threats, but it’s been a while since you've held a training for your employees. You’ll want to consider how you can build a strong culture of security among all your employees—not just in the IT department.
4. Assign risk scores
Prioritizing the threats you’ve identified in this audit is one of the most important steps—so how do you do it? By assigning risk scores and ranking threats accordingly.
A simple formula for determining risk considers three main factors: potential damage from an event, the likelihood of that event, and the current ability to handle that event (determined in step three). The average of these three factors will give you a risk score.
Here are other factors to consider:
- Current cybersecurity trends: What is the current method of choice for hackers? What threats are growing in popularity and which are becoming less frequent? Learn cybersecurity predictions and observations from a white hat hacker herself.
- Industry-level trends: What types of breaches are the most prevalent in your industry?
- Regulation and compliance: Are you a public or private company? What kind of data do you handle? Does your organization store and/or transmit sensitive financial or personal information? Who has access to what systems? The answers to these questions will have implications on the risk score you are assigning to certain threats and the value you are placing on particular assets.
Concerned about staying up to date? Get timely coverage of the latest data breaches and learn how to respond today.
5. Build your plan
The fifth and final step of your internal security audit? For each threat on your prioritized list, determine a corresponding action to take. Eliminate the threat where you can, and mitigate and minimize everywhere else. You can think of this as a to-do list for the coming weeks and months.
Ready to start a security audit?
Remember to download a copy of our security audit mini-guide to help you conduct your first audit. Your results can be used as a baseline for future audits, so you can measure your improvements (or areas that need improvement) over time. Creating an atmosphere of security awareness starts with you. And conducting a security audit is a crucial first step.
Ready to start implementing better security with a password manager? Read A Practical Guide to Cybersecurity with a Password Manager to learn how to prevent risks and take more proactive measures.