It’s Not Just You: IT Security Audits are Stressful
It’s not just you: IT security audits can be a pain for everyone involved. Audits are essential to your organization’s security, but they’re onerous and take a lot of time, collaboration, and enforcement to be effective. However, when you break down each of these concerns, solutions like resource allocation, collaboration, and automation (and any other “-ation” you can think of) can make auditing season just a little bit easier.
Concern 1: Time
One of the top searches regarding security audits is “why do security audits take so long?” Long review times are a significant pain point in these audits; third-party auditors can take a long time, and slow response times from other teams in your organization can add to the frustration.
Non-security teams may slow down the process because they can view audits as strictly a security problem rather than theirs to worry about. They may not answer their user access review emails or adhere to the necessary process. However, a brute force approach (like “answer my email or you lose all your access”) is usually not an acceptable tradeoff between business and security and usually doesn’t feel right to either side.
For these reasons, it’s important to consider resource allocation and collaboration during an IT security audit. Audits can take up considerable time and resources, resulting in paused or delayed essential projects. While there will always be opportunity costs, these can be mitigated by prioritizing tasks and allocating resources effectively ahead of time to ensure the audit is completed promptly and efficiently without sacrificing important work on any team. Infosec is a whole-company endeavor and requires everyone’s involvement to be effective because security threats can affect any member of your organization.
Concern 2: Collaboration and Company Buy-In
Compliance is often seen as a Security/GRC/IT problem, but it requires the entire organization’s buy-in to be effective. Almost every compliance framework involves some form of employee education, process enforcement, behavior change, etc., meaning that they need the team handling the main portion of the audit (Security / GRC / IT) to solicit cooperation from other teams for it to work.
Getting non-security/IT/GRC people to care about audits — and security in general — can be challenging. While not a cure-all, collaboration is critical to creating an understanding between teams and thus constructing more effective security practices that reflect the genuine needs of your organization (a concept we expand on in “Cybersecurity Is More Critical Than Ever, and You (Yes, You) Can Do Something About It Now” and our RSA piece “RSA Conference™ 2023: Stronger Together”).
In addition to general collaboration, lack of adherence is another obstacle that must be addressed. People may not use policy documents, and enforcement can be challenging when people feel as though compliance checklists don’t reflect everyday usages or appear too abstract to be practically useful.
Concern 3: Enforcement/Ineffectiveness
A common complaint about compliance is that compliance checklists can feel disconnected from security reality. When policy docs are created but not used, and some continue to rubber stamp every request anyway, it’s hard not to see the compliance process as ineffective.
One solution is to revamp the documentation process to reflect actual usability. However, even when documents are written with good intentions (i.e., when they actually can work to enforce a policy), manual enforcement is difficult to ensure, and things can fall through the cracks.
User education can help here, especially in addressing the fact that people don’t want to be bad at security. Rather, many are just frustrated by not knowing what to do or by believing the best practices to be too complicated or challenging. Educating your org about your security policies can aid in their enforcement, especially when rolling out controls everyone will use, like 2FA or phishing email reporting.
While frustrating, security audits are a necessary part of keeping your organization secure (these audits can also be revenue-critical, and CISOs are often left “carrying the bag”). In brainstorming possible changes to the auditing system, some have looked to automation for an answer.
There are various prospects in the world of automating away the user access review portion of audits, but in general, the more your security practices are automated, the easier your IT security audits become. Crosswire has an entire blog post expanding on automation practices here, detailing that upfront investments in identity security products can save you time in audits later on.
Take, for example, if you have a security incident, like an active PagerDuty incident. With an automated security tool (like Crosswire’s), this can be automatically linked to the #active-incident channel so that whenever someone is added to that channel, Crosswire can automatically make that person eligible to pull Prod DB logs from AWS (the person can also request access and be automatically provisioned access). After a few hours, Crosswire can ensure the access is deprovisioned while recording a trail of all the events to make your subsequent audit that much easier.
While there are some preemptive practices to help the process, audits are still a difficult time for your organization. However, between resource allocation, collaboration, and automation making audits a little bit easier, you can help make your organization more secure by staying ahead of even more time-consuming and costly security incidents and compliance fees.
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