External IT audits – Why You Need Outside Eyes

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This is a guest blog post from Artur Kuznetsov from Wipfli LLP

With an external IT audit, your organization can confidently assess where you stand against security risks and compliance with state and federal regulations. An audit identifies possible security issues so you can resolve them before a harmful breach occurs.

IT security threats can include employee actions, disasters, and malicious attacks such as ransomware, phishing, and viruses. An external auditor can help ensure you have the necessary measures in place to keep your organization secure.

What’s involved in an IT audit?

An IT audit reviews the systems and software used in your business every day. IT audits evaluate whether controls and processes meet established best practices and are working as intended. Objectives of an IT audit include:

  • Identifying risks to your organization’s information assets
  • Validating that controls comply with applicable regulations and standards in your industry
  • Identifying where vulnerabilities are apparent

An IT audit report will outline where controls are strong and where improvements are recommended. Following an audit, your consultant can work with you and help your team put a plan in place to address prioritize next steps and strengthen controls that didn’t perform well under investigation.

Risks of not performing IT audits

An external IT audit is designed to protect your organization from bad actors and cyberthreats. IT audits will also identify where your data is at risk from natural disasters such as fires and flooding. Additionally, an audit can reveal vulnerabilities to employee-triggered breaches – inadvertent or intentional.

Why should your organization invest in an external IT audit? To protect yourself from exposure and losses like these:

Financial: Data breaches and security incidents are costly. It takes time and money to detect and contain a breach. Add to that expenses for customer notification, recovery costs and fraud monitoring. What’s more your organization may face regulatory fines, which are becoming increasingly onerous.

Compliance: Following in the wake of GDPR, the California Consumer Privacy Act and NYDFS Cybersecurity Regulations, states and governments worldwide have been introducing consumer privacy laws which may affect your business in one way or another.

An external auditor can help determine where your IT systems and practices don’t meet compliance with applicable government regulations. And, if you’re part of a regulated industry that’s subject to formal regulatory exams, you can have an independent third party assess your IT environment in advance. This gives you the opportunity to close any identified gaps and make improvements before you’re subject to regulator-imposed deadlines – or worse, fines.

Reputation: Your customers expect you to keep their information secure. Fail them, and they’re likely to take their business elsewhere. In fact, nearly 40% of the cost of a data breach can be attributed to lost business, either from customer turnover, system downtime or the increased cost of acquiring new business due to diminished reputation – according to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2020.

Essentially, protecting your customers from cyberthreats is akin to protecting your customer relationships.

Benefits of an external IT audit

An external audit completed by someone outside the organization lends credibility to the process. A well-vetted auditor provides reliability and assurance your organization is doing what it can to mitigate threats.

Independence and objectivity: An external audit performed by someone independent of the organization offers an unbiased opinion of the audit.

As an independent, outside set of eyes, your external auditor is not motivated to hide or downplay your compliance status. And, as they are not subject to internal relationship dynamics, they are more comfortable asking the hard questions to ensure their investigation is as thorough as possible. This means you can rely on the recommendations being made.

Additionally, an outside audit sends a message that the organization is being conscientious and thorough in protecting customer data. External audits add a valuable layer of transparency to your security management.

Expanded specialization: An external audit following an industry standard framework ensures adherence to policies and laws. Your auditors will be specialists in your industry, data controls and security practices. The right audit specialists bring skills beyond what your internal team can offer.

Process improvement: Ideally, an external IT audit will give you the all-clear and let you know your systems and protocols meet established frameworks and best practices. Realistically, though, an outside auditor will typically find areas where you could strengthen your controls.

Sometimes an auditor will find high risk areas that need immediate attention. Other times, they may suggest controls and improvements that can be integrated into an improvement plan over time. Either way, their recommendations can play a critical role in helping you build a resilient IT control environment.

How Wipfli can help

It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in. In today’s environment, you’re under pressure to manage information security and protect customer data. By performing an external audit, you can identify and evaluate your risk and how well your critical assets are protected.

An external audit from Wipfli includes a detailed review and testing of your IT control environment. Your results include risk ratings for each finding, according to industry standards. We approach the IT audit process with a consultative mindset, reviewing the results with you, so you understand the findings, implications, and recommendations.

More than ever, businesses are seeing the benefits of engaging an external IT audit to review their systems and validate their compliance status. If you are considering an external IT audit, Wipfli’s auditors are highly respected and knowledgeable.

Contact us to learn more – click here.  

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