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security_audit

Why it's best to bring in an outside partner to do a security audit

by ​Ashish Patel
 
When it comes to protecting yourself, it pays to find the right partner.

​While nobody likes conducting audits, everyone understands the benefits regular assessments can provide your organization.

In my last blog, I talked about why we need to rethink our entire idea of how we look at security—specifically, how a risk assessment is a necessary complement to a data security assessment, providing a quantitative analysis of the value of your information and allowing you to prioritize areas of greatest risk. At the end, I also briefly talked about why organizations should consider bringing in an outside partner when conducting a security audit.

Today, I want to go more in-depth about the benefits of an external security assessment, and why you should consider it a necessary part of your data security strategy. While nobody likes conducting audits, everyone understands the benefits regular assessments can provide your organization concerning information governance, assessing risk, managing compliance issues, identifying weaknesses and shoring up your defenses. However, many organizations prefer to keep this in-house, rather than looking for an external partner to assist in conducting the audit. Though understandable, it would be far more beneficial to bring in an outside partner. Here are three reasons why:
 

Bringing in an external partner means you get a wholly unbiased and fair look at your entire organization. 

 

Reason #1: You get the entire picture

One of the more underlooked aspects of the industrial revolution was the shift toward greater specialization within economies. Workers began to specialize in one aspect of the production of goods, allowing them to become more efficient and productive, which in turn made the business more productive (and more profitable).

Today, that specialization exists within the many lines of business that make up an enterprise organization, as workers generally only work within their own departments—marketing, HR, sales and many others. And while this specialization is a vital part of the modern economy, it has some drawbacks—specifically, workers end up having a much less holistic view of an organization, since they are only involved with one aspect of it.

It falls on senior leadership to understand how all of the individual parts fit together, but this is often a challenge for a variety of reasons. Often, needed and necessary information is siloed within a specific department or group within the organization, impeding the decision-making process. Personal biases and office politics can rear their ugly head, getting in the way of making the right business decisions. And many leaders often feel a sense of ownership over departments or projects they oversee, which can—even unconsciously—affect the results of an audit.

Bringing in an external partner means you get a wholly unbiased and fair look at your entire organization. Their intent is to help you achieve your business goals and improve the business—and because they don’t have skin in the game, you can trust that their recommendations are in line with those goals.
 

Reason #2: They have the expertise

While the staff you have are more than capable in their current roles, chances are good that they may not be nearly as familiar with the ins and outs of conducting a proper security audit—or may have never conducted one before at all. Because of this relative lack of expertise, many organizations choose to have workers conduct a review and assessment in areas where they already work, putting these personnel into an awkward position: Who wants to be the one to tell their boss that there are major security problems, when it has been your responsibility to prevent these problems from happening? Often, this results in problems being downplayed as less important than they really are, or even swept under the rug entirely.


With an external assessment, you remove that element of the equation. The team you bring in does this sort of thing every single day, and have likely seen things in other organizations that may help solve problems within your own. Plus, they’ve seen the implementation of best practices inside other businesses—invaluable knowledge that they can bring to your organization. Considering this, it’s little wonder why TechTarget’s best practices guide for conducting audits recommends bringing in an outside partner.1

“You may be tempted to rely on an audit by internal staff. Don’t be. Keeping up with patches, making sure OSes and applications are securely configured, and monitoring your defense systems is already more than a full-time job. And no matter how diligent you are, outsiders may well spot problems you’ve missed.”

 

Reason #3: The stakes are higher

It seems as though every few weeks, there’s a new data breach in the news. The Identity Theft Resource Center estimates that data breaches are up nearly 20 percent2 from 2015 alone, and that in just the first five months of the year, more than 11 million records3 have been exposed to hackers.


But data breaches aren’t the only threat to your organization. Risk and compliance is also a huge potential vulnerability that could cost you millions. According to Thomson Reuters, there were more than 50,000 regulatory and compliance updates4 in 2015, and if your organization isn’t up to date on all of them, you could find yourself on the wrong side of the law. The potential results: significant fines, a big loss of brand equity and reputation, and even prison time in egregious cases.


Maintaining a strong security posture has never been more important, and you can’t afford to leave it to chance. The right partner can provide you the peace of mind that your data security strategy is sound, your potential risk is low, and that you’re in compliance with all applicable regulations—and you just can’t put a price on that.

The best time to conduct a security assessment is months ago

The second best time is right now. Find out how you can better protect your organization from these threats with the right partner.
 
Ashish Patel
Ashish Patel, Principal Consultant, Enterprise Consulting Services for Ricoh USA, Inc., optimizes business critical services and programs for global customers, with a focus on business process agility, governance, risk and compliance. Patel’s experience includes management and technology consulting, strategic planning, business development, and full lifecycle management of large business process and technology transformation projects across a range of industries. Patel holds a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from UCLA, as well as a Master of Science in Information Engineering and Management from Southern Methodist University.
 
 
1 Carole Fennelly, "IT Security auditing: Best practices for conducting audits" March, 2016, TechTarget. http://searchsecurity.techtarget.com/IT-security-auditing-Best-practices-for-conducting-audits
2 Paul Ausick, "Data Breaches Up 18% to Date in 2016" May 4, 2016, 24/7 Wall St. http://247wallst.com/technology-3/2016/05/04/data-breaches-up-18-to-date-in-2016/
3 "Identity Theft Resource Center; Data Breach Category Summary" December 13, 2016, idtheftcenter.org. http://www.idtheftcenter.org/images/breach/ITRCBreachStatsReportSummary2016.pdf
4 "Top Five Compliance Trends Around the Globe in 2016" 2016, Thomson Reuters. https://risk.thomsonreuters.com/en/resources/infographic/top-5-compliance-trends-around-globe-2016.html