What is an IT audit? The Definitive Guide
Even if you don’t consider your business to be particularly high-tech, it is pretty safe to assume that most of your day-to-day business, concerning sales, marketing, data storage and communication is carried out via IT equipment
This, therefore, means that your organisation will be considered a prime target for cybercriminals – data after all has value. It is reported that 43% of cyberattacks affect small businesses. Are you certain that all your IT systems are effective and that they are as secure as they can be? If not, then an IT audit could be the best way to identify the weaknesses and the risks and enable you to put processes in place to manage them. The more secure your business systems are, the more difficult it is for cybercriminals to attack.
What is an IT audit?
The Institute of Internal Auditors describes a general audit as an:
‘Independent, objective assurance and consulting activity designed to add value and improve an organisation’s operations. It helps an organisation accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of risk management, control, and governance processes.’
An IT audit, in particular, takes this premise and assesses an organisation’s IT structure, operation and processes to ensure they:
- Adhere to security legislation
- Protect corporate assets
- Align with the organisation’s business goals.
There is a close examination of all security, financial and business controls which involve the overall IT infrastructure.
What does an IT audit do?
The objective of the audit is not to find fault and to criticise but to ensure that processes and controls are working well and do what they are intended to do. Through making suggestions an audit can help the organisation to reach its business goals, be more efficient and more security conscious. An IT audit includes:
- Ensuring security processes are robust.
- Identifying risks to data and information assets and how to manage them.
- Ensuring procedures are in line with IT-specific legislation.
- Identifying weaknesses within the infrastructure or management.
These objectives are reached through the investigation of five categories:
- Systems and applications – ensuring they are efficient, appropriate, reliable and secure.
- Information processing facilities – examining the processes in both normal and abnormal conditions.
- Systems development – and whether it complies with the organisation’s overall standards and procedures.
- Management of IT and Enterprise Architecture – Ensuring the processes are controlled, effective and efficient.
- Client/server, intranets/extranets, telecommunications – Identifying the efficiency and security of these processes.
Why is an IT audit important?
With the majority of business transactions being carried out online and via computer including the huge amount of data stored it is essential to be aware of the risks to security and the best way of reducing or managing this risk.
An IT audit will identify the weaknesses and risks within your IT systems which will ultimately enable your business to be:
- More secure
- A more attractive option for clients to work with
- More cost-effective
- Able to make better business decisions.
Such risks covered by an IT audit will include those associated with confidentially, security, reliability and integrity of the systems. Once risks have been identified and a roadmap put in place of how to manage these risks it enables the IT departments to better plan their budgets and resources to ensure a more secure, more efficient infrastructure.
Why are IT audits required?
As secure as you may think your IT systems and processes are, you are likely to be wrong. There will be weaknesses and risks which have not been identified which could leave your IT infrastructure vulnerable. Many businesses, for example, who have been trading for numerous years have a mishmash of hardware, software, controls and procedures which have been introduced as and when they were required. Often they have not been set up from scratch with a holistic view of the organisation, and sometimes this cobbling together of legacy and new systems can leave vulnerabilities, redundant processes and process which are no longer fit for purpose.
Regular IT audits can ensure these systems are all running to their most efficient, most cost-effective whole. Additionally, regular audits can catch any problems in the early stages preventing a snowball effect which could have a bigger, more costly impact on your business. IT audits are also able to pick up on fraudulent activity from within the organisation through scrutiny of the internal control systems and processes. And once such fraudulent activity is identified, the risks of it happening again can be reduced. So, there are numerous benefits to having an IT audit which in summary include:
- Fraud detection and prevention
- Improved data security
- Enhanced IT compliance and governance
- Risk evaluation
- System integrity
- Improved internal controls.
What is information system infrastructure?
The key objectives of most IT audits are to check the security, efficiency and robustness of the information system infrastructure within the organisation. This is an umbrella term that refers to all aspects of IT used within an organisation and can include:
- Devices and technological hardware
- Telecommunications systems
- Data systems
- Standards and conventions
- Controls and procedures.
Essentially information system infrastructure covers any technology within your organisation and more importantly how it works in conjunction to produce the systems used in the day to day running of the business.
IT audit process
When planning an audit there are six key processes that should be followed to ensure it is a valuable exercise.
- Objective – Identify the objective and the scope of the IT audit to ensure it remains on target throughout the process.
- Audit Plan – Identify how the objectives will be met and place within a strict timescale. Then it is important to notify all those who are to be involved (those being audited and those carrying out the audit), informing them of the procedures and the objectives.
- Performance – Gather the information on all the IT systems within the scope of the audit, including controls and procedures.
- Audit tests – Perform audit tests on the key IT controls to ensure they are robust, reliable and secure.
- Reporting – Once the audit is complete a report should be published, showing the findings as well as the suggestions for improvement with a recommended timetable if appropriate.
- Follow-up – It’s important to follow-up on the audit to check the risks have been addressed and the suggestions are being considered.
What are the 3 types of audit?
There are numerous audit types in the UK with the most familiar to most being the financial or tax audit. However, there are three main types of IT audits. These are:
- Performance Audit – This audit looks at the procedures, systems and general operations to ensure it is efficient, cost-effective and works within the parameters of the overall business goals and objectives.
- Compliance Audit – This is an independent audit of your organisation’s IT controls and procedures with the objective of ensuring they are in line with government legislation as well as industry compliance requirements.
- Financial Statements Audit – This is one of the most common audits and investigates the financial statements of the organisation to ensure there is no error, fraud or weaknesses within the financial infrastructure of the business.
IT audit services
Here at CIS, we are skilled IT auditors who pride ourselves on making sense of the juxtaposition of legacy and new systems and how they can work together to be cost-effective, secure and efficient to help your organisation reach its business goals.
If you would like to have a chat about ensuring your systems are working efficiently, visit our website for more information about our IT support services or contact us today.
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