Internal audits are critical to evaluating your security posture and ensuring that cybersecurity controls function effectively. However, conducting these audits can be challenging, especially when your internal capacity is limited. In such instances, internal audit outsourcing services can bridge this gap and keep your IT assets secure from threats. Read our blog to learn more.
Why Should You Consider Internal Audit Outsourcing Services?
Outsourcing internal audits will help promptly identify security threats before they become full-blown attacks—keeping sensitive data safe across your organization.
Below, we’ll explore the top benefits of internal audit outsourcing services:
- Greater visibility into threat and vulnerability management processes
- Streamlined compliance with regulatory frameworks
- Optimization of security awareness training as it applies to your organization
- Development of industry-standard incident response protocols
By leveraging internal audits to evaluate your controls, you’ll mitigate threats to assets across your IT infrastructure. Partnering with an experienced managed security services provider (MSSP) is the best way to reap the full benefits of internal audit outsourcing services.
What are Internal Audits? (Per NIST)
Before outlining the various benefits of internal audit outsourcing services, let’s define internal audits in the context of cybersecurity. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines an audit as an independent assessment of records and activities to “assess the adequacy of system controls” based on pre-established policies and procedures.
Audits can be conducted internally or externally to address specific security or business needs.
External audits are typically conducted to evaluate compliance with regulatory frameworks. But internal audits are performed in-house to demonstrate compliance with organization-specific policies. The results of these audits are then presented to stakeholders (e.g., company leadership, Board of Directors), who can then provide oversight where gaps may exist.
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Securing Your Digital Assets Starts with an Internal Audit
For cybersecurity purposes, internal audits are essential for identifying sources of potential security vulnerabilities and mitigating these threats from becoming high-impact cyberattacks.
By outsourcing internal audits to an audit services specialist, your organization will proactively secure assets from threat risks—even when these risks seem sophisticated. The goal is to leverage internal audit outsourcing services to catch these threats early in their lifecycle.
Let’s dive into the benefits of outsourcing internal audits:
#1 Enhanced Detection of Threats and Vulnerabilities
The fast pace at which today’s IT threat landscape changes means that organizations must quickly adapt to these changes to mitigate potential threats from compromising data integrity.
To remain current, processes and tools used to detect threats and vulnerabilities must match the security needs across industries. The best way to check whether your current security controls are up to standard with those required by your industry is to conduct an audit.
However, audits are often slow processes.
Information gathering from a wide range of assets requires significant human capital, especially under tight audit deadlines. And, aside from the audits, most security teams are navigating multiple tasks at a given time and would be pressed for the capacity to take on audit analysis.
Audit outsourcing services, whether internal or external, will help speed up the pace at which crucial audits of threat and vulnerability systems are conducted.
For instance, outsourced internal audits can enhance threat monitoring tools by:
- Revealing gaps in real-time threat analysis due to:
- Slow escalation of high-risk threats
- Delayed incident response times
- Identifying sources of threat monitoring inefficiencies arising from:
- Lapses in audit logging procedures
- Manual management of access privileges
- Non-compliance with threat monitoring policies
Likewise, these audits can point to critical inefficiencies when it comes to:
- Patch management – Security patches must be promptly installed upon their release by an asset manufacturer. Failure to do so can result in risks such as:
- Assets operating at end-of-life cycles
- Deployment of untested patches
- Tracking remediation – As you remediate the vulnerabilities identified during a security assessment, you will likely need to track these processes. Poor remediation practices can compromise the integrity of assets, leaving them exposed to security risks.
Considering the importance of internal audits to the overall effectiveness of threat and vulnerability management, your organization will benefit from outsourcing these services to an audit specialist. In most cases, internal audit outsourcing services providers have extensive experience optimizing threat and vulnerability management programs across various industries.
#2 Streamlined Regulatory Compliance
Regardless of industry, any organization that handles sensitive data must comply with regulatory frameworks that protect data privacy, integrity, and availability. Most of these frameworks expect organizations to prepare for and conduct external audits of their internal security controls.
With internal audit outsourcing services, you can streamline compliance with any framework.
Internal Auditing for PCI DSS
The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standards (DSS) framework lists 12 Requirements to help organizations keep cardholder data (CHD) safe from security threats.
Whether your organization collects, stores, processes, or transmits CHD, you must comply with the PCI DSS to avoid data breach risks. Preparedness for a PCI DSS compliance assessment starts with identifying the gaps in your cybersecurity infrastructure with the help of a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA), who helps conduct these assessments.
However, even before you work with a QSA, you must conduct internal audits to evaluate your current posture with respect to the PCI standards. Considering the scope of the PCI controls, internal audit outsourcing services will help you identify gaps across your entire infrastructure.
For instance, consider PCI DSS Requirements 1 and 2, which mandate organizations to secure the networks and systems that handle CHD. Imagine the following, realistic circumstances:
- An external audit deadline is fast approaching, but You haven’t yet evaluated the risks to internal and external networks your organization uses to process CHD.
- Your security team has just discovered some vulnerabilities in firewall configurations that must be promptly remediated, lest they result in significant cybersecurity risks.
By leveraging the efficiency of internal audit outsourcing services, you will be well-positioned to identify such risks before they can affect assets and sensitive data hosted on your networks.
Internal Auditing for HIPAA
Organizations within and adjacent to healthcare must comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) to safeguard the privacy of protected health information (PHI). These organizations must comply with four primary HIPAA Rules, namely:
- The Privacy Rule
- The Security Rule
- The Breach Notification Rule
- The Enforcement Rule
Of these Rules, the Privacy and Security Rules outline various data safeguards to secure PHI.
Based on these safeguards, you can conduct an internal audit to ensure your organization meets the minimum standards necessary to guarantee the confidentiality and integrity of PHI.
For example, an audit of the Privacy Rule safeguards might require:
- Reviewing healthcare transactions to ensure they were strictly for:
- Treatment of data subjects
- Processing payments for healthcare services
- Management of healthcare operations
- Evaluating PHI disclosures to confirm that PHI was used for public interest or benefit
Similarly, an internal audit of the Security Rule compliance might assess the effectiveness of safeguards implemented, across the three primary categories thereof—
- Administrative safeguards, such as:
- Well-defined security roles and responsibilities
- Management of access to electronic PHI (ePHI)
- Security awareness training
- Physical safeguards, such as:
- Restriction of access to physical locations of ePHI
- Technical safeguards, such as:
- Monitoring access to environments containing ePHI
- Tracking the traffic on networks used to transmit ePHI
Depending on the number of assets within your organization, HIPAA internal audits can be extensive, requiring significant bandwidth. However, internal audit outsourcing services will help augment audit capacity, allowing you to secure PHI as it’s collected, processed, and stored.
#3 Optimized Security Awareness Training
When you outsource internal audits, you also benefit from the auditor’s expertise to boost your cybersecurity awareness. This expertise can serve several purposes, the most important being that it expands your internal knowledge base regarding the threats your organization might face. However, you can also curate the insights gained from outsourced internal audits to develop long-term security awareness training strategies.
A Knowledge Base to Mitigate Emerging Threats
Your security team likely thinks a certain way about approaching internal audits or remediating vulnerabilities—and may not always be aware of new threats. With internal audit outsourcing services, your internal team can gain insights from an experienced audit professional who has worked with multiple organizations and may be capable of identifying threat patterns more quickly.
These insights can be applied to your entire organization. Your staff can learn tricks to identify and mitigate threats and vulnerabilities, empowering them to help boost your cyber defenses.
For example, consider phishing. As phishing attacks become more sophisticated, your staff must be equipped with the skills and knowledge to identify phishing emails that look legitimate (e.g., spear phishing). Unfortunately, some phishing attacks have been engineered to bypass even the robust anti-malware tools, making them far more effective at intruding cyber defenses.
Preventing such threats from unfolding is critical to keeping your organization’s data secure in the long term, especially when guided by an internal audit specialist—expertise matters.
Internal Threat Intelligence for Future Training Sessions
An audit outsourcing services provider is also helpful when building internal threat intelligence that can be leveraged to develop impactful security awareness training sessions.
The specialists conducting these audits can identify recurring vulnerabilities and gaps that put your organization at risk of cyberattacks. Once identified, the auditors can then compile the information about these risks into a database to guide future training sessions.
And, as you conduct more of these outsourced internal audits, your organization will be well-positioned to track the impact of security awareness training sessions on the overall controls and safeguards you implement.
#4 Development of Robust Incident Response Plans
As part of any security program, incident response plans ensure that the designated teams within an organization promptly respond to security events as they occur. And, like any other component of a cybersecurity infrastructure, incident response plans must be audited to ensure they remain effective when cyberattacks occur. With the help of an internal audit outsourcing services provider, you will be one step closer to achieving robust incident response plans.
Auditing the Components of an Incident Response Plan
To audit an incident response plan and evaluate its effectiveness, you must know where to start looking. One place to start is with the most essential components of an incident response plan:
- Qualified personnel (within and outside of the security team), whose responsibility is to:
- Identify potential security incidents based on atypical patterns (e.g., unusually high traffic on a specific server)
- Escalate incidents using established incident response protocols
- Communicate the status of a security event with stakeholders (e.g., senior leadership and the rest of the organization)
- Containment protocols that keep the security event from affecting other components or assets in your IT infrastructure
- An incident help desk to address concerns from:
- Internal staff
- Partners (e.g., vendors)
- Remediation team to immediately work on fixing gaps or vulnerabilities that potentially compromise:
- Availability of services to customers or other stakeholders
- The integrity and privacy of sensitive data
Conducting effective internal audits of incident response plans can be challenging if you have never had a security incident affect your organization. It may not be feasible to rely on previous response protocols to mitigate a future attack, considering the variations in attack vectors.
Additionally, if some assets were irrecoverable following a security event, you should investigate why this occurred and apply these findings to future incident response planning.
That’s where internal audit outsourcing services come in handy.
The qualified auditors providing these services can help identify gaps in incident response protocols that you may not have previously observed internally. You will also gain greater confidence in knowing that your current incident response plan has been thoroughly tested to ensure its rigor meets the needs of your organization’s security infrastructure.
Partner with an Internal Audit Services Provider
Whether you are looking to prepare for regulatory compliance assessments or optimize parts of your cyberdefenses, partnering with an internal audit outsourcing services provider will help you conduct effective internal audits. As a seasoned audit specialist and MSSP, RSI Security has worked with countless organizations to enhance their audit practices.
To learn more, contact RSI Security today!
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