IT security has always been an essential part of a complete IT business strategy. However, there is a vast difference between being a part of and being a prime focus.
Previously, IT security assessments were pretty straightforward: a small team with IT security expertise and experience would conduct regular audits using antivirus software, business applications, etc. Security settings were checked for their optimization levels. Access and authorizations for end users’ computers were managed and their activities monitored.
But is this all they do? Are these measures sufficient to keep a company safe? The answer is a resounding no because many activities such as installing security software or managing access issues are already carried out by an IT team, not necessarily by an IT security team.
Here are statistics on some security test findings:
Contextis‘s recent report says, “For applications, approximately 35% of high impact findings are considered easy to exploit; for internal infrastructure, typically 80% to 90% of high impact vulnerabilities are easily exploitable“.
Trustwave‘s 2016 Global Security Report says 97% of applications tested by them in 2015 contain at least one vulnerability.
What is the purpose of an IT Security Assessment?
The IT Security assessments conducted nowadays have to follow very different tactics. They are expected to think outside the box, to produce and reproduce critical flaws and loopholes and fix them before an outsider is able to take advantage of these loopholes.
No company operates without accessing the internet; it not only connects the company to millions of clients but also opens doors to unwanted intruders. Following procedures as per security assessments makes sure these doors always remain closed for would-be attackers while making sure the way is not blocked for clients.
The primary goal of the IT security team is to perform assessments, reviews, and audits periodically to find any loopholes and fix the existing ones. These vulnerabilities are not just ones allowing external factors to enter into the corporate network, but also the other way around.
Everything having the ability to disrupt a company’s day to day function would fall under the list of items to be assessed. Let’s take a look at the different types of security assessments.
Types of IT Security Assessments
A vulnerability assessment is conducted to check for any weakness within an application, a system or a network that could be compromised or allow it to be accessible to an unauthorized third party.
These assessments are never ending tasks, as every software or system upgrade changes or adds certain code or features which weren’t a part of the equation during the scan performed previously.
Security Audits aren’t necessarily assessments. They are carried out by governing bodies who set out a predefined set of standards with which an organization is expected to comply.
Standards will typically vary, as some organizations maintain higher internal security standards than others; however, being in compliance with relevant industry rules and regulations is always important. In addition to compliance requirements, it’s essential that companies adhere to these standards in order to maintain their reputation in the marketplace.
Penetration testing checks for vulnerabilities, however, the assessment techniques are very different from the ones carried out through vulnerability scanning.
The assessment group can be described as a team of white hat or ethical hackers who not only have complete organizational sanction but are actually tasked to conduct activities a company expects from a malicious hacker. These tasks include performing data breaches and stealing information, disrupting an application or hacking a website.
Everything is done with utmost security and the results are reported to the company. Depending on the results achieved, they either move on the next task or the company is made aware of vulnerabilities that need to be fixed.
A security policy is a set of documents describing how the company plans to secure and protect its physical and IT assets. The policy document, once created, is continuously updated to record any additions or to make any changes.
Additionally, employees are educated on how the plan is supposed to be executed in order to protect assets, including data.
A risk assessment is a determination of the level of risk acceptable to a company. It outlines the potential threats at various levels, checks their probability and the possible impact they may have.
These factors are based on the value of the asset in question. The goal is to bring the risk to an acceptable level and to ensure that the impact is low.
IT Security Assessment Report
A security assessment report should typically include the basic outline and background information, objectives and limitations. It should include a detailed report on the present environment along with the examination methods used, as well as the assessment tools and equipment used to conduct the assessment. The summary should include the overall findings.
Also to be included in the reports is detailed information on the results achieved for the various tests such as vulnerability testing and penetration testing conducted through the process, along with diagrams or drawings if any. It should end with the final analysis and recommendations based on the findings and test results.
An IT security assessment is a fundamental way to fight security threats. These assessments help to significantly reduce outside attacks, as well as create awareness within the company so potential (if any) threats from inside the company are brought down to a minimum level of probability.