The Importance of Regular Security Audits

Regular security audits of your IT environment are an essential practice to protect valuable data and maintain client trust – especially as a small and medium-sized business (SMB).

Without regular audits, every business can face disruptions from cyber attacks, including data breaches that erode customer trust and attract hefty fines. For SMBs, this kind of disruption can be far more significant in impact, which is not just financial but also reputational, potentially stalling your business growth.

Adopting a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity, facilitated by regular security audits, is thus important to keep track of potential vulnerabilities and threats. For SMBs without an internal IT team, this approach can also include proactive support from external IT partners, such as managed service providers (MSPs).  

This article will discuss the importance of regular security audits for SMBs, what they involve, how to conduct audits, and why MSPs might be your best option for consistent auditing.

What is a security audit?

A security audit is a thorough examination of your IT environment to ensure that cybersecurity measures are effectively protecting your data and systems. For small and medium-sized businesses, understanding what this process entails is crucial in today’s digital-first workplace.

During a security audit, cybersecurity professionals conduct a series of assessments which includes:

Vulnerability assessment

This involves identifying weak points within your IT systems, software, hardware and network setup within your modern workplace that could potentially be exploited by cyber attackers.

Risk analysis

Auditors analyze the identified vulnerabilities in your setups to determine the potential short-term and long-term impact on your business should they be exploited, and suggest action points to help you mitigate risk.

Compliance checks

An audit includes checking for adherence to the latest security policies and requirements, which are essential for protecting sensitive information and avoiding legal repercussions surrounding the protection and privacy of the data that you store (particularly customer data). A key example of modern regulations include the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Ensuring that your business meets specific industry standards and regulations is crucial not only for legal compliance, but also for maintaining operational integrity.

Security controls review

Auditors examine the effectiveness of current security measures and protocols, assessing how well your business is protected against known threats, such as whether you make use of modern security information and event management (SIEM) systems.

Managed services often play a key role in managing these security audits, especially if your SMB lacks IT expertise to conduct the audit for you. MSPs provide the external expertise needed to carry out detailed inspections and recommend necessary improvements. This proactive approach is vital in detecting potential threats before they manifest into actual breaches, ensuring that your business maintains a robust defense against cyber threats. 

For example, SparkNav is a managed IT provider that, as part of its fully managed security services, provides cybersecurity awareness training, SIEM controls and regular audits of your environment tailored around your unique business sector, operations and objectives. Our inspections and evaluations are built around understanding how you do your business, and the areas of cyber threats and challenges that you may need to address should an audit find issues.

Regular security audits have many benefits for businesses.

What are the top benefits of regular security audits for SMBs?

Regular security audits for any business, regardless of your sector, are not just a regulatory necessity, but a strategic advantage that can significantly influence your long-term success and stability. Here are several key benefits of maintaining routine security audits:

1. Strengthened cybersecurity defenses

Regular audits systematically identify and resolve vulnerabilities in your IT infrastructure. Over time, new threats emerge which may adapt to your ongoing investments in the latest technology platforms and software solutions. By addressing these weak points, your SMB can fortify defenses against increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks, ensuring that both your customer data and business operations are always protected.

2. Compliance assurance

Many industries have stringent regulatory requirements regarding data protection and privacy, such as GDPR in Europe or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for businesses in the healthcare sector in the United States. Regular security audits help ensure that your business remains compliant to evolving standards and expectations surrounding data governance and privacy, and avoid penalties for non-compliance. Moreover, staying compliant builds your reputation as a trustworthy business partner.

3. Enhanced customer trust

Customers are more likely to trust and engage with your business if you demonstrate a visible and continuing commitment to security. Regular security audits show them that proactive measures are in place to protect sensitive information, which can be a strong selling point when attracting new clients and retaining existing ones.

4. Cost savings

IBM’s 2023 Cost of a Data Breach Report recently revealed that the global average cost of a data breach was $4.45 million USD, a record high (this encompasses legal fees, notification expenses, and remediation efforts, and indirect costs like damage to reputation). By identifying and addressing security threats early with a security audit, you can better prevent costly breaches and the associated expenses of recovery and fines. Additionally, audits can highlight inefficiencies or redundancies in your IT systems, offering opportunities to streamline operations and reduce costs further (managing costs is also another area that an MSP or outsourced IT partner can assist you with).

5. Competitive advantage

In an environment where many SMBs in your sector may cut corners on security, those that prioritize regular audits and robust cybersecurity measures differentiate themselves in the marketplace. This commitment can be a significant competitive advantage, particularly in industries where data security is paramount.

By investing in regular security audits, it’s clear you not only protect yourself against immediate cyber threats, but also enhance your market position by demonstrating reliability and foresight in managing potential (and, in many cases today, inevitable) cyber risks.

What are the best practices for implementing security audits?

Getting started with your security audit does not have to be hard, as there are several partners (MSPs) and available frameworks to act as your starting point. For some direct examples, here are some of SparkNav’s top recommended best practices for your cybersecurity audit:

1. Establish a clear audit schedule

Determine the frequency of your audits based on the sensitivity of your data, compliance requirements, and the ever-evolving cyber threat landscape. Most SMBs benefit from annual audits, with additional checks following any major system update or security incident. A MSP specializing in cybersecurity solutions typically includes this as part of their package or ongoing support.

2. Choose the right auditors

Whether you’re using internal resources or outsourcing to a MSP, ensure that the auditors are certified and experienced in your specific industry. They should have a strong track record of identifying risks and offering practical, actionable solutions. They should also have variable accreditation; for instance, SparkNav specializes in both network security and managed Microsoft solutions, and appropriately is a Cisco-certified partner  for network management and a Microsoft-certified Solution Partner for Modern Workplace.

3. Form your team

Inform your staff about the purpose and process of the security audit. Employee cooperation is crucial, as auditors will need access to systems and information. You will also need buy-in from your team to ensure the process goes smoothly. Training your team on basic cybersecurity threats and principles can also help in maintaining security standards post-audit.

4. Create a detailed audit plan

Work with your auditors (MSP or internal IT team) to develop a plan that covers all critical aspects of your IT environment, including hardware, software, networks, and data. This plan should also specify the key deliverables, such as the audit report and a list of recommended actions.

5. Follow through with improvements

Once the audit is complete, prioritize the implementation of its recommendations immediately. Address the most critical vulnerabilities first, and develop a timeline for other improvements. Regularly review the impact of these changes and adjust your security strategies accordingly. Waiting on actioning the audit can add unnecessary delays to the project as the inevitable need to re-align takes up valuable time.

6. Document everything

Keep detailed records of all audit findings, actions taken, and outcomes. This documentation will be invaluable for tracking progress over time, demonstrating compliance during regulatory assessments, and refining future audits. MSPs keep documentation at all stages of the audit, as part of their overall managed IT services.

By following these best practices, SMBs can overall ensure their security audits are more than just a procedural necessity, and become a cornerstone of a robust cybersecurity strategy.

Why security audits are important: Next steps

Implementing regular security audits is a key component of broader cybersecurity practices that fall under specific operations, such as cloud management, network management, and server management. These audits are not just about problem detection, but about setting up a process that proactively enhances your security posture, ensures compliance, and guides your strategic decisions, transforming your business’s ability to anticipate and mitigate cyber risks effectively. 

As a SMB, it’s understandable if you have invested your IT spend on other critical areas or lack the resources to tackle your security audit plan internally. SparkNav is a MSP that specializes in helping businesses get started with a robust cybersecurity strategy, which includes audits. Speak to a member of our team today to learn how we can help with your unique business case.

Robert Griffin
Robert Griffin
As COO, Robert Griffin plays an instrumental role in aligning operational excellence with strategic goals by leveraging his decades of experience in enterprise leadership. With deep knowledge and expertise in security, governance, risk, and compliance (GRC), and AI, his insights are often shared through thought leadership channels, including LinkedIn and blogs. → Follow Robert on LinkedIn.