The Critical Role of IT Audits in Modern Businesses Img

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Behind the Screens: The Critical Role of IT Audits in Modern Businesses

The use and adoption of technology is rapidly increasing in today’s workforce. Think about it, most of the workforce is utilizing computers to do their jobs in some capacity. This extends from business owners continually accessing confidential documents, to teachers crafting lesson plans, cashiers processing transactions through point-of-sale systems, and mechanics logging your vehicle for repairs and maintenance. The list goes on and on!

As industries witness a yearly surge in their workforce’s integration with technology, the rise in cybercriminal activity escalates. Put plainly, when technology usage rises, cybercriminals gain more chances to exploit company data by holding it for ransom, stealing sensitive end user information that can be used for accessing bank accounts, or executing straightforward scams like soliciting gift cards or upfront payments with promises of future benefits. These vulnerabilities exist for all organizations regardless of size. There are some cybercriminals who invest considerable time targeting large Fortune 500 companies, aiming for substantial payouts. Most smaller organizations believe that their smaller size keeps them hidden from the gaze of cybercriminals, but hackers do not discriminate based on size. Hackers adopt a numbers game strategy, focusing solely on small to mid-size organizations to exploit since these organizations are more likely to not put emphasis on cybersecurity. Lacking everything from updates on workstations, poor password management, to never requiring their staff to take part in regular cybersecurity training; leaving the door wide open for hackers to infiltrate their network.

So how can an IT audit help contribute to the fight against the persistent attacks from cyber criminals? First and foremost, Your IT team or IT provider should be offering cybersecurity training for your staff, so they can stay up to date on the latest trends. As technology evolves, your staff need the tools to adapt and keep your data safe. However, the infrastructure and security of your network is the other factor in keeping your business safe from cyber threats and this falls solely on the business owners, supporting leaders, and of course your IT team.

However, most business owners and leaders are unfamiliar with IT and their network at a high level, and even if they are familiar, most of their time typically is spent on focusing on the bottom line, or other high level management decisions.

The IT team, or IT director on the other hand, usually falls in one of two boats: The most common scenario is that the IT team specializes only in end user support and not the network. Alternatively, sometimes the IT team has the knowledge to create a decent network but has too much work on their hands helping the end users. The second being that internal IT personnel become very prideful, protective, and even content about the network they have created, typically viewing change as a threat rather than progress.

audit group is responsible for staying current on trends, best practices, and standards to combat cyber-attacks. The IT audit group holds no ownership or pride in the network they examine and therefore will be able to surface the “tough” conversations and results along with providing an external point of view that is built with knowledge attained from managing hundreds of other organization’s networks over the years.

Now that we have an idea of why an external IT audit is important, let’s examine the benefits and the results that the audit will provide:

  1. Security vulnerabilities: There are many components that relate to security. Security standards that are not met are called gaps. These gaps commonly involve instances where there is a lack of multiple layers of security—such as the reliance solely on passwords without implementing multifactor authentication. Other prevalent security vulnerabilities include the absence of encryption, suboptimal configurations for servers, switches, and firewalls, inefficient antivirus protection, the absence of password rotation policies, and the failure to deploy endpoint detection and response solutions. The list goes on and on. Security standards are constantly changing and most of the time a small, or one-person IT team does not have the time to self-educate themselves.

  2. Aging equipment and hardware: The majority of equipment and software should adhere to a lifecycle policy, which includes a timeline for ongoing support, updates, and the distribution of security patches. When equipment, such as servers and PCs, surpasses this designated timeline, it becomes a security vulnerability. Cybercriminals exploit these outdated systems by targeting areas that are no longer receiving patches. Conducting an audit allows verification of the status of all network-connected components and devices, identifying outdated elements and establishing necessary pathways for improvement.

  3. Warranty expirations on servers and other equipment: In the event of a server failure or malfunction, network vendors will place the upmost priority on customers with active warranties, while also bearing the financial costs of most repairs. Meanwhile, those without warranties are likely entitled to wait at the back of the line, all while being responsible for the cost of replacement parts, and at worst case scenarios, a brand-new server costing thousands and thousands if the server cannot be repaired. Servers and other equipment without warranties require an unprecedented amount of downtime, which is currently costing businesses an average of $17,000 an incident. An audit will provide documentation of all active and expired warranties.

  4. Areas to use technology to improve productivity: An IT audit should reveal opportunities where technology can be utilized to save the organization time and money. For example, tools such as a VPN or remote working software will be suggested.

  5. Connectivity scans: Conducting an audit will unveil whether the building is equipped with the appropriate number of robust access points and sufficient Wi-Fi coverage. As part of this evaluation, a heatmap is often generated to identify potential issues such as “dead spots” or areas with excessively high levels of radio interference.

  6. Equipment: A network is highly customizable to the needs and operation of the organization at hand. If an organization has a physical set up in house, there are vital components that need to be configured and included. For example, data backups and uninterruptible power supply systems need to be set up in case of a catastrophic server failure. Additionally, servers and other vital pieces of equipment should be set up in a secure and environmentally controlled space. During inspection, an IT audit should reveal if the right equipment is both set up correctly and in a secure place.

The IT audit fulfills various functions, with the seven mentioned above representing only a selection of the most significant benefits. At its core objective, an IT audit empowers a third-party organization comprised of skilled IT professionals to comprehensively examine the entire network, assessing its setup, interconnections between components, and the distinct functions of each element. The ultimate goal is to compile a comprehensive list that includes asset counts for crucial equipment and users, identify security vulnerabilities, issue a graded report card for each essential aspect, and provide clear recommendations and actionable plans for the organization to immediately enhance its IT network.

As mentioned earlier, business leaders usually lack the time or expertise to conduct an audit, and IT directors or teams may be unwilling to critique a system they personally constructed. The optimal facilitators for an IT audit are professionals equipped with the right network scanning tools and extensive experience across various networks in diverse organizations. Their broader scope allows for a more comprehensive comparison of the current network to other setups, surpassing the perspective of an internal IT staff member. utilize IT audits, discover not only their strengths within their network, but also what improvements are necessary. Audits are best described as a tool for organizations to improve their IT stack alignment with their business goals, in order to foster greater success.

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