Auditing A Company’s Cyber Defences

Digital threats to corporations, governments and individuals are at the highest level that they have ever been. Cyber security is not just dominating the headlines but conversations in boardrooms as well. A data leak or similar attack poses massive financial, reputational and legal risks for companies. Smaller companies are even more vulnerable as they might not have dedicated people or resources trying to combat hackers who are actively attempting to target them.

With this in mind, organisations are making efforts to establish cyber security risk management reporting tools. Although existing cyber security tools are not overly sophisticated, some organisations like the AICPA have already begun directing efforts towards this goal. Because of the work, public accounting firms already do for their clients, they are in a prime position to offer advice and services related to cyber security. In fact, almost 40% of the leading cyber security consultants are public accounting firms.

How to audit a company’s cyber preparedness?

Take a sample cyber security risk management report as an example. The process starts with the management of the company clearly defining what their objective and broad philosophy is with regards to cyber security. This requires an understanding of the data, systems, and services that are critical and tolerance levels in case some of those are compromised.

The second part is a more exhaustive description of how the company aims to achieve its stated cyber risk management objectives. This requires creating and defining a governance structure for risk management. From therein, the company can take a variety of routes to create a framework that meets their specific criteria. Processes, resources, IT infrastructure, communication channels, review criteria, accountability, environmental factors, scenario testing, etc. are defined to a granular level.

The auditor’s role is to then asses the strength of this cyber security plan. Firstly, they must asses whether the strategy employed by the company is in line with their broader principles for cyber defence. Then, they must drill down to see whether each specific component of the cyber security risk management program would be able to successfully fulfill its intended purpose.

Why do you need an auditor for cyber security?

Some have questioned whether it is necessary or ideal for an auditing professional to address challenges related to cyber security preparedness. However, there is a reason why 40% of the top cyber security consultants are accounting firms. It is because they bring to the table multidisciplinary expertise along with the independence and objectivity required to test the limits of a company’s defences. Furthermore, the professional and ethical standards which auditors are subjected to in various jurisdictions, along with a requirement for continuous learning, place them in the ideal position to embark on these security audits.

In reality, cyber security risk is just another relatively newer addition to the long list of challenges that companies have had to face over the years. Businesses rely on internal and external auditors to objectively inform them where weaknesses lie or where mistakes have been made. It is these audits and the corrective actions that they lead to, that protect businesses from unseen risks.

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