Proper internal audit management is essential to ensuring that necessary assessments are performed regularly and provide accurate results. Confirming adherence to policy and conformance with compliance standards requires an impartial evaluation, which is why audits are needed in addition to routine security assessments. This guide will clarify the role of the internal audit function, the purposes of the internal audit, and how proper management of the process contributes to organizational security.
What Is an Internal Audit?
As defined by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an audit is “an independent review and examination of records and activities to assess the adequacy of system controls and ensure compliance with established policies and operational procedures.”
While assessments performed by the security team are meant to evaluate and improve existing security controls, the purpose of an internal audit is to report on the efficacy of said controls to those outside the security team. There are different types of audits, and internal audits are those typically carried out by an in-house auditing team to provide results to another internal party, such as the board or CEO of the organization.
Understanding internal audit goals, the benefits of using in-house auditing staff and outsourcing, and auditing best practices will ensure your organization establishes the right internal audit management practices to remain secure and compliant.
What Are the Goals of an Internal Audit?
The most basic purpose of an internal audit is to review and assess policies and procedures. The Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) identifies six goals for security audits:
- Identifying deficiencies and weaknesses in system security
- Establishing a baseline to compare to in future security audits
- Confirming compliance with organizational security policies
- Confirming compliance with external regulations as required
- Evaluating the efficacy of security training
- Identifying redundant or otherwise unneeded resources
Collectively, these goals measure the extent to which policies are delivering on their promises.
What Is the Function of Internal Audit?
The American Institute of Certified Public Accounts defines the internal audit function as “a function of an entity that performs assurance and consulting activities designed to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of the entity’s governance, risk management, and internal control processes.” In other words, they are the internal auditor responsible for carrying out and delivering the results of the audit.
The internal audit function is seen as the third line of defense in an organization’s security strategy. By assessing existing security controls and practices, the function of internal audits is to help improve security controls and policies while protecting data, identifying new risks and threats, and creating accountability.
Is it Worth it to Outsource the Internal Audit Function?
One of the challenges faced by the in-house internal auditor is remaining impartial. The members of the security team may not be able to remain objective, which is why a separate internal audit function or team is necessary.
In cases when an in-house auditor cannot be retained, outsourcing the internal audit function is another option. There can be some drawbacks, as an outsourced auditor will require more time and resources to gain familiarity and develop rapport within the organization before performing the audit. But they will also provide a more objective perspective and may be able to offer more current, specialized approaches to the auditing process.
Optimize Your Organization’s Internal Audit Management
Creating an effective internal audit management plan is an involved process, but it’s essential to ensure audits are accurate, effective, and objective. Consider the following steps to develop an internal auditing process that will bolster security and enforce organization-wide compliance:
- Planning – Have the internal audit function and appropriate stakeholders within the organization work together to clarify the scope of the audit and ensure the auditor has all of the necessary information to perform it effectively.
- Investigation – The auditor should spend time gathering relevant information independently through interviews with personnel, analyses of controls and operations, and reviews of reports and other documentation.
- Assessment – The auditor goes through the procedures to carry out the audit as defined during the planning phase, documenting the process and generating any required reports.
- Review – The results of the audit and associated recommendations are delivered and reviewed by the party or parties the auditor is responsible for reporting to. Internal stakeholders provide a response, which may be responded to by a follow-up report.
- Next steps – The auditor and the auditing process are evaluated, and the organization decides on how to move forward with any recommendations. After a specified amount of time, a follow-up review may be performed.
The exact details of an internal audit management plan will differ based on the needs of the organization. Requiring thorough documentation and evaluation of the process will ensure that it remains well-adapted over time.
Improve Security and Compliance with Internal Audits
An internal audit management plan that mandates regular audits will contribute to your organization’s security initiatives and regulation compliance. Implement a process that clearly defines internal audit functions and responsibilities, the scope and goals of audits, and processes for evaluating results and improving audit management as needed.
Contact RSI Security today to evaluate your organization’s internal audit management.