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Security Audits & Penetration Testing Explained

Security audits and penetration tests are both important services offered by New York cybersecurity providers like Carden IT Services. In this article we’re going to discuss how these two services are different and why each is a vital part of any comprehensive IT security package.

What Is A Cybersecurity Audit?

An IT security audit is a comprehensive assessment of your company’s cybersecurity procedures. IT security audits will aid in the identification of vulnerabilities in your networks, your devices, and your applications. They entail checking for security flaws and conducting penetration testing to see how effectively your IT infrastructure can withstand different types of cyberattack. When carried out thoroughly, security audits aid in the developments of new security procedures and finding areas which need improvement.

Why Does Your Business Need A Cybersecurity Audit?

An effective cybersecurity audit will flag potential vulnerabilities in your networks and hardware. It also helps show where your company meets essential security standards and where it fails to do so. An IT security audit is a vital step in developing a risk assessment for your cybersecurity and will help you choose which preventative measures to implement.

What Is Included In A Cybersecurity Audit?

Unlike a cyber security assessment, which gives a snapshot of an organization’s security posture, a risk assessment focuses on the long term. An audit is a thorough review of a company’s cybersecurity from the ground up. The following are the key areas covered by a cybersecurity audit. 

  • Network Security
    The audit will identify elements of your network which could be used by attackers to steal data or affect other parts of your IT. An example of a network vulnerability that a cybersecurity audit might detect would be an access point which is not properly secured. 
  • Operational Security
    A thorough review of the procedures, policies, and cybersecurity controls currently in place in your organization. This includes any automated patching procedures you have in place. 
  • Data Storage
    This will confirm that your organization has the necessary controls in place to effectively manage the data encryption process. Data should be securely encrypted while at rest, while being stored on-site, when it is stored in the cloud, and when it is in transit. 
  • Access Security
    A review of how access to data and systems is verified in your organization. Including role-based access and management of account privileges. 

What Is A Penetration Test?

A cybersecurity expert will replicate the precise techniques used by a hacker to determine if your IT infrastructure is vulnerable to a similar attack.

Penetration testers will use a combination of open-source and commercial tools to try and break into your network. They may also use more low-tech methods like calling up a member of your team and impersonating someone else in your organization to convince them to hand over data or grant them access. 

Why Does Your Business Need Penetration Testing Services?

Until your cybersecurity is tested in a real cyberattack, all your defences are only hypothetical. Regrettably, if you wait until that time comes, it may be too late. 

Penetration testing gives you the opportunity to see how your cyber-defences hold up to a real-world attack.

If your business is secure, you’ll be able to prove it using a realistic example. If not, you have the chance to discover flaws and repair them before a real attacker can exploit them.

What Does A Penetration Test Include?

There are five steps in a professional cybersecurity penetration test.

  1. Recon
    From publicly available sources, the penetration tester gets as much information as possible about your company, employees, and systems. Real hackers will often use information from social media and news stories to gather information about your company before attempting an attack.
  2. Automated Scanning
    The tester uses automated tools to examine your network for open ports and other detectable vulnerabilities that they can easily exploit to obtain access. In a real-world attack, hackers will often scan thousands of networks a day, looking for an easy target.
  3. Attempting Access
    The penetration tester will attempt to obtain access to your network using a combination of vulnerabilities they have discovered during the recon and scanning phases, as well as using social engineering, and other approaches. They might even put your physical defences to the test by attempting to get into your server room, for example.
  4. Maintaining Access
    If the pen tester is successful in gaining access to your network, they will try to keep that access and see if they can improve the level of access to gain control over even more of your network.
  5. Debrief
    The penetration tester will draft a report detailing the systems they were able to break into and how they accomplished it. They will then collaborate with our cybersecurity department and your team to strengthen your cyber defences.

Hopefully, this has been a useful overview of the difference between cybersecurity audits and penetration tests and why each is necessary in order to have peace of mind in your network security. Speak to our team today to book your cybersecurity audit. 

Author: Jeremy Huson

Jeremy Huson is the founder and director of Carden IT Services LLC. He has nearly two decades of experience managing businesses’ IT networks and his areas of expertise are IT consultation and cybersecurity.