AlgoBuzz Blog

Everything you ever wanted to know about security policy management, and much more.

Generic filters
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in excerpt
Filter by Custom Post Type

14 Step Checklist for a Flawless Network Security Audit


14 Step Checklist for a Flawless Network Security Audit

If security policies aren’t periodically updated to meet modern threat demands, organizations risk introducing vulnerabilities into their IT security posture. 

Comprehensive audit reports help security leaders gain in-depth visibility into their organization’s cybersecurity strategy and assess the resilience of its network infrastructure.

Network Security Audit Checklist: What Does Your IT Security Audit Need to Cover?

Cybersecurity audits demand an extensive overview of the organization’s security posture and risk profile. It requires gathering and analyzing network data to identify security vulnerabilities, monitor access controls, and assess potential threats

It also includes an overview of operational security practices, penetration testing results, and incident response playbooks

Ultimately, comprehensive risk assessment data should guide the organization towards improving its security measures and preventing hackers from breaching critical data and assets.

A complete network security audit should include provide in-depth visibility into the following:

  • Security controls and their implementation.
  • The availability of network devices and access points.
  • High-impact security risks and their potential consequences.
  • The effectiveness of information security management processes.
  • Performance data on security systems and network assets like firewalls.

What Do Network Security Audits Help You Achieve?

Conducting in-depth security audits helps security leaders identify data breach risks and develop plans for managing those risks. Audit results play an incredibly important role in preventative risk management and in the remediation of cyberattacks

Organizations that regularly conduct these kinds of assessments are better equipped to address the security weaknesses that might arise when onboarding new users, adding new endpoints to the network, or installing new apps.

Network audits and security assessments can also help you achieve other important goals as well, such as:

  • Identifying network performance issues and addressing them to improve overall performance.
  • Unlocking opportunities to leverage network assets and mobile devices more efficiently.
  • Demonstrating compliance with regulatory frameworks like the NIST Cybersecurity Framework 1.1, ISO 27001 and 27002, and SOC 2 Type 2.
  • Present security performance information to core stakeholders to demonstrate the value of security policies and controls.
  • Update system security processes to address new vulnerabilities and potential threats.

Recommended Read: 20 Best Network Security Solutions + FAQs

How to Perform a Network Security Audit

The network audit process involves collecting data, analyzing it to identify potential threats, and using it to compile a formal audit report

Depending on the size and complexity of the organization, this audit may be performed by an individual network analyst, a third-party IT security audit specialist, or an entire team of internal security professionals.

These are the steps that make up a typical network audit:

1. Plan for the audit and inform everyone involved

The audit process will involve many different types of technical tasks. The specific steps you take will change depending on the complexity of your network and the specialist talent required to assess data security in different IT contexts. You will need to verify authentication protocols, operating system security, password policies, and more.

It’s rare for an individual security auditor to have all the technical skills necessary to do this on every app, device, and platform an organization uses. In most cases, you’ll need to work with other employees, third-party service providers, and other stakeholders to obtain the data you need. 

2. Document all procedures and processes associated with the audit

Recording every process that takes place during the audit is crucial. When preparing your final report, you may want to go back and verify some of the processes that took place to ensure the fidelity and accuracy of your data. If methodological errors creep into your data, they can skew your final report’s findings and end up damaging your ability to secure sensitive data correctly.

Documentation is especially important in network security audits because you are looking for systematic flaws in the way user accounts, network assets, and security systems interact with one another. These flaws may not reveal themselves without clear documentation.

3. Review standard operating procedures and how they are managed

Protecting sensitive information and critical network assets from security threats takes more than sophisticated technology. It also requires strict adherence to security policies and best practices from human users. Security audits should verify that employees and third-party providers are observing security policies in their operating procedures, and provide evidence attesting to that fact.

Reviewing the organization’s procedure management system should provide key insight into whether users are following procedures or not. If they are not, there is a high risk of shadow IT processes leading to phishing attacks and security breaches. This should be reported so that the security team can find ways to remediate these threats.

4. Assess the training logs and operations

Human error is behind eight out of ten cyberattacks. All customer-facing employees should be trained to detect phishing and social engineering attacks, and internal staff should know how to prevent malware from infecting the network. Every employee should understand how their role contributes to the security profile of the organization as a whole.

Verifying authentication processes, permissions, and password policy is also part of employee training. Every user account should be protected by a consistent policy that follows the latest guidelines for beating brute force and dictionary-based credential attacks. Data encryption policies should keep sensitive login credentials secure even if hackers successfully compromise network assets.

5. Confirm the security patches for network software are up-to-date

Start by creating a list of every software application used on the network. This can be a long, time-consuming manual process, but there are automated vulnerability scanning solutions that can help you automate this step. You will have to investigate each item on the list and determine whether new security patches are installed in a reasonably tight time frame.

Keep in mind that cybercriminals often exploit security patch releases by scanning for organizations that delay installing new patches. Patch release changelogs essentially broadcast known vulnerabilities directly to hackers, so exploiting late patch installations is a trivial task.

6. Confirm the penetration testing policy and process is sufficient

Penetration testing is one of the best ways to identify vulnerabilities on a network. If your organization has invested in pentesting initiatives, you will need to review and confirm its policies as part of the network security audit process. If you haven’t yet invested in pentesting, you may wish to outline a potential path for incorporating it into your security processes here.

You may wish to verify the size and scope of your pentesting processes at this point. Assess some of the vulnerabilities you have uncovered and determine whether the organization is investing the appropriate resources into pentesting, or whether other security initiatives should take precedence.

7. Identify gaps and misconfigurations in your firewall policies

Your organization’s firewalls play an important role managing traffic between network assets. Firewall rules should not be static. They must be continuously updated to meet the needs of the organization as it changes and grows. These devices can enforce bring your own device (BYOD) mobile policies, prevent distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, and contribute to proper network segmentation.

Manually configuring firewall policies can be costly and time-consuming. Consider using an automated change management platform like AlgoSec Firewall Analyzer to rapidly identify potential vulnerabilities in your firewall rules. Document any changes you make and include those updates in your report.

8. Ensure all sensitive and confidential data is stored securely

Every organization has to store some form of sensitive or confidential data. A major goal of network security audits is making sure this data is kept separate from non-sensitive data and protected by a higher standard of security. This data includes individuals’ names, addresses, phone numbers, financial information, and government ID data.

Access to sensitive data should be only allowed when critical for business purposes, and every action involving sensitive data should generate comprehensive logs. The data itself should be encrypted so that even if attackers successfully breach the database, they won’t be able to use the data itself. It may also be worth considering an enterprise data backup solution to provide a failsafe in the event of a disaster. 

9. Encrypt the hard disks on any company laptops

Portable devices like laptops should not generally hold sensitive data. However, many employees can’t work without processing some amount of sensitive data and storing it on the local hard drive. This is usually less than critical data, but it can still contribute to a cyberattack if it falls into the wrong hands.

Encrypting laptop hard disks can help prevent that from happening. If all the data on the device is encrypted, then the organization can avoid triggering a crisis-level security incident every time an employee misplaces or loses a company device.

10. Check the security of your wireless networks

Wireless network security is vital for preventing hackers from conducting phishing attacks against employees and on-premises customers. If your organization’s Wi-Fi network is not secured, hackers can spoof the network and trick users into giving up vital information without their knowledge.

All modern Wi-Fi equipment supports multiple security protocols. Avoid WEP and WPA – these are old protocols with well-known security vulnerabilities – and make sure your networks are using WPA2. If the organization has equipment that does not support WPA2, you must upgrade the equipment.

11. Scan for and identify any unauthorized access points

Your network may have access points that were never set up or approved by the organization. Cybercriminals can use these unauthorized access points to steal data without triggering exfiltration alerts. Additional Wi-Fi frequencies are a common culprit here – your private Wi-Fi network may be configured to use the 2.4 GHz band even though you have equipment that supports 5 GHz frequencies. If someone sets up an access point on the 5 GHz frequency, you can easily overlook it.

Data breaches can occur over a wide variety of similar media. USB and Bluetooth-enabled devices have introduced malware into corporate networks in the past. Your security audit should cover as many of these communication channels as possible.

12. Review the event log monitoring process

The best way to verify security events is by analyzing the logs generated by network assets as they respond to user interactions. These logs can tell you who accessed sensitive data and report where and when that access took place. Security analysts can connect log data across applications to contextualize security incidents and understand how they took place.

The problem is that even a small organization with a simple network can generate an enormous volume of log data every day. Your security audit should investigate the event log monitoring process and look for opportunities to streamline it. You may consider implementing a security information and event management (SIEM) platform or improving your existing one.

13. Compile a comprehensive report

Once you’ve gathered all the relevant data and included your insight into the organization’s security posture, you are ready to create your audit report. This report should compile all of your findings into a single well-organized document, with evidence supporting the claims you make and clear recommendations for improving operational security moving forward.

Consider creating customized data visualizations to showcase how key performance metrics change over time. The way you choose to communicate data can have a major impact on the way it is received, potentially convincing key stakeholders to implement the changes you suggest.

14. Send the final report to appropriate stakeholders and other key parties.

Once you’ve finished your network security audit, you are ready to send it to your organization’s leaders and any other stakeholders who have an interest in your findings. Be prepared to explain your recommendations and justify the methods you used to collect and analyze the organization’s security data. The more confident you are in the accuracy of your findings, the better-equipped you’ll be to present them if called upon.

Subscribe to Blog

Receive notifications of new posts by email.