What is the Difference Between a Risk Assessment and an IT Security Audit?

Terms such as assessment and audits are sometimes used interchangeably, however it is important to understand the differences. Generally speaking, an assessment is an internal check on how a company operates. It can be carried out against a simple list of what’s important to the company’s management team, or made against a more comprehensive, external set of parameters, perhaps in readiness for an external audit.

An IT security audit, on the other hand, is usually a more in-depth assessment to measure how well an organisation is meeting a set of external standards or regulations. An audit will most often be completed by experts in the field of assessment, such as Mintivo.

When considering an IT risk assessment, it is usual to review hardware, software and storage solutions together with how your team is using these systems and how security threats are being identified. An IT security audit, however, would assess not only that security measures are in place – controls, policies and procedures – but also check they are being fully complied with, and ensure the business response would be effective in the event of an actual security attack.

Why is it important to undertake a Risk Assessment?

Assessments will identify areas of security weaknesses within your operation. By undertaking a range of measures to analyse risk and the compliance (or lack of) to current operational procedures, rules and security training, you will have a good idea of how secure your operation is and how effective it might be when an IT security breach occurs.

Annual or bi-annual IT security assessments are recommended and can be carried out using a number of methods. Assessments should also be undertaken following any large-scale changes to the structure of a business to identify whether any new risk factors have arisen. Ideally, plans will have included any impacts to IT infrastructure security, but an assessment post-change will confirm that all bases were covered within the plan and ensure any rectification is carried out in a timely manner.

Suggestions of suitable methods to carry out an internal risk assessment include surveys, interviews and comparison with external standards and best practices. Internal risk assessments tend to be high-level overviews, possibly studying statistics and comparisons to previous reviews.

IT security assessments are suggested before an external audit. This will allows you to make amendments to procedures and remedy any vulnerabilities identified. It will give your organisation the best chance of passing the external audit and achieving, for example, the widely recognised Cyber Essentials accreditation.

What are the benefits of having an IT risk assessment?

By undertaking a ‘top level’ assessment, you are likely to see benefits in the following areas:

Identify Specific Risks

  • Help understand the gaps in knowledge.
  • Consider vulnerabilities not previously highlighted.
  • Ensure suboptimal security considerations are rectified.

IT budget rationale

  • Justification for implementing changes, or purchasing additional IT equipment or services.
  • Highlighting potential vulnerabilities which would cause financial and reputational damage.

Maximising efficiency

  • Identifying maintenance and prevention activities required.
  • Creating an action plan from the assessment to better resource your IT.

Improve security procedures and protocols

  • Assessment outcomes will identify where training is required.
  • Updating permissions for access to certain areas of IT infrastructure.
  • Implementation of best practices across teams and departments.

What are the benefits of an external IT risk assessment audit?

Using an expert, specialist company to undertake a bespoke risk assessment audit for your company gives you the peace of mind that you are carrying out your business in the most secure way. Technology has an enormous impact on today’s businesses, but you must utilise the technology with safety and security at the forefront of your operations. This will help to protect your business, team, clients and suppliers.

An IT audit will perform detailed reviews of systems, applications and both network and server infrastructure. Qualified auditors will review all areas of security, from basics such as having the latest antivirus software installed or that strong passwords are being used to system designs, firewalls and patch management. They will scrutinise and investigate entire IT security practices, programs used and monitoring credentials, thus identifying any vulnerabilities.

In addition, auditors will also ensure that your company’s IT practices are legal and regulatory compliant, where needed.

By considering all your standard operating procedures and disaster recovery plans (including backup and recovery) an audit will enable you to know that your organisation is as safe and secure as it can be, minimising vulnerabilities that could lead to a breach or intrusion into your systems.

What are the benefits to having an IT risk assessment audit?

An audit will give you the peace of mind that your security systems and procedures fully meet your needs. It will confirm that your data, and that of your clients, are fully protected.

In addition to the benefits identified for an IT assessment, an IT security audit will also provide:

An audit will give you the peace of mind that your security systems and procedures fully meet your needs. It will confirm that your data, and that of your clients, are fully protected.

In addition to the benefits identified for an IT assessment, an IT security audit will also provide:

  • Cyber Essentials readiness.
  • Early warning for potential failures.
  • Protection against unforeseen risks and system downtime.
  • Minimisation of negligence claims in the event of a cyber attack.
  • Full understanding of your current situation and potential points of failure, enabling you to plan more effectively.

Mintivo’s audit reports, for example, contain a comprehensive list of assets, issues and recommendations. Each recommendation is highlighted as ‘High’, ‘Medium’ and ‘Low’ priorities so that you can plan future changes and manage your risk.

What to do next?

To ensure that your company operates securely and safely or to consider the benefits of Cyber Essentials accreditation, speak the experts at Mintivo to discuss your specific next steps. Our friendly and fully qualified team will be pleased to discuss how technology can help your business.

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