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4 Best Practices for How to Run a Compliance Audit

4 Jul., 2018

A formal compliance audit could expose massive vulnerabilities in your company’s security systems. Follow these four best practices and run your own audit to see how you’re doing.

5 IT Compliance Tips to Meet GDPR StandardsEnterprise and federal organizations regulated by multiple regulations must occasionally undergo formal compliance audits.

A compliance audit is a review process meant to verify that your company is adhering to policies and procedures that reduce the chances of data breaches or other catastrophic events that could degrade your reputation or cause financial harm. Audits may be performed internally or by private consultants that provide reporting for government or regulatory agencies. That auditor will evaluate the security controls and practices that are in place, identify the acceptable or unacceptable risks, catalog assets or individuals, and then file an audit report.

For example, if your company falls under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) privacy and security act, then you should run regular security audits and assessments to ensure you keep up with compliance standards or run the risk of paying fines up to $25,000 for each violation.

Similarly, if you process, store, or transfer the personally identifiable information of European Union citizens, then you fall under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and you should conduct audits to keep your cybersecurity up to date or potentially pay damages up to four percent of a company’s global annual turnover.

Whichever legislation your organization follows, these four best practices will help you run a successful compliance audit:

Identify all technical security controls that are currently in place. Create checklists and inventories of everything related to your cybersecurity infrastructure. Assets, apps, devices, employees with access to sensitive information, operating systems, policies, and procedures should be cataloged, with the documentation kept in a central location where both auditors and your security team can refer to them and update them as necessary.

Identify all potential gaps, risks, and vulnerabilities. Scan and review the likelihood of every possible threat and vulnerability that could exist in your infrastructure. Check for unauthorized devices and the unsanctioned use of remote access applications and technology. Weed out weak passwords, users without multi-factor authentication, any outdated software or old hardware, and confirm encryption and other safeguarding technologies are all in place.

Run tests and demonstrations. Once vulnerabilities are discovered, run tests that exploit them. Since exposing and tinkering with weaknesses can be dangerous, the tests can be as simple as leaving a text file in an unprotected corner of a system. Otherwise, security gaps must be recorded so they can be evaluated and remedied later. A demonstration of vulnerability can also help prove to the C-Suite that investing in cybersecurity is worthwhile for the organization, and it can help auditors improve testing techniques.

Prepare and file written documentation and come up with a response plan. The response plan, which is one of the primary points of running a compliance audit, should detail the threats, sources of threats, and risks an organization could face without proper security measures. Of course, recommendations on how to fix weaknesses should be included so managers can balance the costs of mitigating risks to the company systems. Organizations can then plan out how they will respond to the audit and plot out budgets and measures to appropriately upgrade cybersecurity.

For companies that rely on cybersecurity to safeguard sensitive customer and employee data in the cloud, a compliance audit is a great way to catalog, test, and update controls and protocols so they meet compliance standards. For recommendations on how to upgrade your security measures with best-in-class encryption solutions, contact eperi.

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