An internal IT audit is often overlooked, misunderstood or even ignored by businesses until one of two things tend to happen. Either, they experience a negative impact from poorly provisioned or deployed IT, or they already use a responsible IT provider. If your business is working within a regulatory framework, this IT audit checklist should be an essential element of your IT audit and overall strategy.
In many cases, your business will rely on auditors to determine whether your organisation operates within the boundaries of regulatory compliance. Everything from data storage to identity and access management (IAM) systems face scrutiny. Businesses often have bespoke IT environments, each with different perimeters to defend and users or data to manage, a coordinated audit plan is an absolute necessity to ensure your internal controls are effective.
To be effective, you must understand what external auditors will look for during a compliance audit. Ask yourself if you are able to demonstrate:
- Effective controls to address regulatory compliance and that the design of your IT deployment has zero deficiencies.
- That your business continually monitors and employs those controls so that there are no processes that compromise your compliance framework design and threaten your computer system security
Evidence is Key
Whenever you design and implement security and controls for the benefit of your customer’s and your business’ security, you should always document and produce evidence, which you can make available to auditors. Your control program, must be more than just effective, its effectiveness must also be visible. You can achieve this by monitoring and reporting on both, the design of your controls and the processes to which your organisation’s individuals adhere.
Follow these steps and you will closely replicate a compliance IT audit:
1. Plan the audit
Take into account everything mentioned above and consider your deployment’s weaknesses in relation to the Governance Risk and Compliance framework you have in place. Plan the audit around regulations, risk assessment and cost implications of design or system failure.
2. Hold and audit meeting
Discuss with key stakeholders how you plan to conduct your audit and ask for feedback on how your audit will affect staff, operations and particularly seek out information that will contribute to the effectiveness of your audit.
3. Collect Data and Test
Begin the audit process and collect data that identifies deficiencies in your IT systems. Review IT policies and procedures as well as your business’ structure. Speak with personnel and refer to your Business Impact Analysis. Monitor the processes and procedures in action to ensure your organisation and employees adhere to the documentation or training.
4. Address Identified Problems
Correct anything, which you identify in Step 3. Consider the best approach to dealing with deficiencies. This could be better documentation, improved procedures or a redesign of your security policies and IAM systems.
5. Repeat Step 3
Test the changes you make to ensure they are effective. Ensure you test every part of your organisation as if you were doing so for the first time. Any changes you make may have an impact on the effectiveness of controls and measures that were not addressed in Step 4, which means a thorough testing plan is necessary as if testing for the first time.
6. Report the Findings of Your Analysis
Reporting must be relevant to both your organisation and the regulatory framework in which it operates. Your IT provider should have a thorough understanding of laws pertinent to your industry, including financial, health and legal industries in addition to understanding cross-border data protection and compliance issues. Compare your reports to each regulation framework with which your business needs to comply.
7. Create a Final Report
Not every issue will call for a major overhaul. Some features of your IT may need additional monitoring or minor tweaks as part of an ongoing audit process. Consider suggesting automated IT processes that identify problems, report and document them in accordance with compliance obligations.
You can meet many regulations by simply identifying where better monitoring is necessary to allow your organisation to respond to problems. Suggest IT controls, updating procedures and auditing schedules that will ensure your organisation sits well with external auditors.
Where to Start
Wherever possible, work with external auditors and regulatory bodies as early as possible in the process. Assess your IT provider to ensure they have the skill-set, knowledge and experience necessary for your business to comply with regulations.
Most of all, address auditing before it becomes a problem. The earlier your IT systems employ sufficient control frameworks, the easier it is to scale as your business grows.