Security Audit

What is an IT Security Audit and How to Do It?

Updated on: June 12, 2021

What is an IT Security Audit and How to Do It?

Over the years, the online business landscape has evolved due to rapid advancements in technology and adoption of assets that offered feasible IT environments to organizations that made them more secure and efficient for running their operations online. However, while expanding online, cyber risks also increased with more targeted attacks against organizations ranging from small to large to disrupt their businesses and revenue. Since the last decade, there has been a steady increase in cybercrimes and newly introduced hacking techniques.

Today, we are seeing thousands of businesses getting targeted with malware, DDoS attacks, and what not. According to a recent report by FBI, during this COVID-19 pandemic, cyberattacks on business have increased 300% more. Another report by IBM states that the average cost of a data breach reached to $3.86 million as of 2020

The results of security breaches were devastating for organizations both financially and reputation-wise. Hence, to avoid this from happening, security of IT infrastructure has become an important task for organizations to keep their online assets secured. Conducting IT security audits for networks and applications in an IT environment can prevent or help reduce chances of getting targeted by cybercriminals.

Performing an IT security audit can help organizations by providing information related to the risks associated with their IT networks. It can also help in finding security loopholes and potential vulnerabilities in their system. Thereby patching them on time and keeping hackers at bay.

Emphasizing on the importance of security, Bill Gates once remarked,

Security is, I would say, our top priority because for all the exciting things you will be able to do with computers – organizing your lives, staying in touch with people, being creative – if we don’t solve these security problems, then people will hold back.

So, let’s dig deep and find out what is an IT security audit, how to do it and its benefits for online businesses:

What is IT Security Audit?

An IT security audit is basically an overall assessment of the organization’s IT security practices both physical and non-physical (software) that can potentially lead to its compromise, if exploited by cybercriminals.

This includes things like vulnerability scans to find out security loopholes in the IT systems. Or conducting penetration tests to gain unauthorized access to the systems, applications and networks. Finally, the penetration testing reports generated after performing all the necessary procedures are then submitted to the organization for further analysis and action.

An IT security audit also comprises the physical part. In which, the auditor verifies physical hardware access for security and other administrative issues. However, this article only covers the non-physical part of an IT security audit.

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Benefits of IT Security Audit

Like we mentioned, an IT security audit reveals underlying vulnerabilities and security risks in an organization’s IT assets. Identifying risks, however, has a positive rippling effect on the organization’s overall security. How? We discuss them point by point below:

  1. Weighs your current security structure and protocols and helps you define a standard for your organization with the audit results.
  2. Mitigates hacker-risks by discovering potential hacker entry points and security flaws well in advance.
  3. Verifies how compliant your IT infrastructure is with top regulatory bodies and helps you conform in accordance.
  4. Finds lag in your organization’s security training and awareness and helps you make informed decisions towards its betterment.

Types of IT Security Audit

There is more than one way to categorize an IT security audit. Generally, it’s been categorized on the basis of approach, methodology, etc. Some of the common categorizations are:

Approach Based

  • Black Box Audit: Here, the auditor only knows about the info that is publically available regarding the organization that is to be audited.
  • White Box Audit: In this type of security audit, the auditor is provided with detailed info (i.e. source code, employee access, etc) regarding the organization that is to be audited.
  • Grey Box Audit: Here, the auditor is provided with some info, to begin with, the auditing process. This info can also be gathered by the auditors themselves but is provided to save time.

Methodology Based

  • Penetration Tests: The auditor tries to break into the organization’s infrastructure.
  • Compliance Audits: Only certain parameters are checked to see if the organization is complying with security standards.
  • Risk Assessments: An analysis of critical resources that may be threatened in case of a security breach.
  • Vulnerability Tests: Necessary scans are performed to find possible security risks. Many false positives may be present.
  • Due Diligence Questionnaires: Used for an analysis of existing security standards in the organization.

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Importance of an IT security audit

  • Protects the critical data resources of an organization.
  • Keeps the organization compliant to various security certifications.
  • Identifies security loopholes before the hackers.
  • Keeps the organization updated with security measures.
  • Identifies physical security vulnerabilities.
  • Helps in formulating new security policies for the organization.
  • Prepares the organization for emergency response in case of a cybersecurity breach.

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How to conduct an IT security audit for your business? [With tools]

Before beginning with the process of security audits, it is important to use the right set of tools. Kali Linux is one such OS that is customized and contains a bundle of tools to conduct a security audit. This OS can be used by installing on a separate machine or making the present machine dual-booted or on a virtual machine. To install it on a virtual machine, follow this article.

Once everything is set, let’s begin!

1. Recon Dog

While doing a black box IT security audit, it is necessary to gather some info about the target like CMS being used, etc. This would help in narrowing down and targeting the precise security weak points. Recon dog is just the right tool for this purpose. This tool requires no installation so download it from here and start using it as a normal script.

Alternatively, you can open up your terminal in Kali and type:

git clone https://github.com/s0md3v/ReconDog

This will save it into a directory called ReconDog. Now navigate to the directory and run it using the following commands:

cd ReconDog
python dog

Thereafter, an interface will open asking you for the type of recon you wish to perform. Once you enter the recon option, it will ask for the target URL. After typing it, press enter and the scan will start.

IT Security Audit

2. Nmap

Another great tool to conduct an IT security audit is Nmap. It can be used to discover open port vulnerabilities and to fingerprint the network internally as well as over the internet. To use this tool, open the terminal in Kali and type:

nmap -v -sS -A -T4 target

Replace target with the IP address you wish to scan. This command runs a stealth scan against the target and tries to detect the Operating system and its version. For more help type:

nmap -h
IT Security audit using nmap

3. Nikto

Nikto is another great tool to find vulnerabilities in the server. Use it to discover all kinds of potential server misconfigurations. However, it also generates a lot of false positives so they need to be verified by exploiting. To scan your site using Nikto, open the terminal in Kali and type:

nikto -h www.your-site.com

For more help type:

nikto -H
IT Security Audit Nikto

4. Metasploit Framework

Metasploit is perhaps one of the most powerful exploitation frameworks used to conduct an IT security audit. All the potential vulnerabilities discovered using Nikto can be checked using Metasploit as it contains a large number of exploits. To use them, open the terminal in Kali and type:

msfconsole

This will load the Metasploit framework. For further using Metasploit, read this article.

Metasploit

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5. Xsser

While conducting an IT security audit, it is important to check for common web injection vulnerabilities like SQL injection and cross-site scripting. To tool used to check for XSS vulnerabilities in your website is Xsser. To use it, open the terminal in Kali and type:

xsser --gtk

This will open a graphical interface like the one in the image given below. Just set the necessary options and start hunting for XSS bugs!

6. Sqlmap

To check for SQLi bugs on your site, there is no better tool than Sqlmap. Firstly select a parameter you wish to test. Thereafter, open the terminal in your Kali and type:

sqlmap -u "www.your-site.com/page?param=1" --dbs --random-agent --batch

Replace the URL part with the URL of your site and page with the name of the page you wish to test for SQLi and param with the parameter you wish to check. Thereafter, this command will automatically try to exploit SQLi bugs and enumerate the database names to you. For more info type:

sqlmap -h
IT Security Audit using SQLMAP

IT security audit service by Astra

Although this article covers many tools, it is just introductory in nature. The hackers are smarter these days. Therefore, for better security and avoiding the cumbersome process of the manual security audits, it is advised to go for a professional security audit that can cover vulnerability assessment and penetration testing for an organization’s physical network assets such as firewalls, routers etc, integrated cloud services, devices such as cameras and printers etc., and ultimately the web applications.

We at Astra Security provide a robust IT security audit with more than 1250+ active security tests done on applications and networks at very efficient and flexible pricing plans. In addition to this, Astra’s support team ensures that all doubts regarding security audits are clear to you. IT security audit done by Astra can help you discover:

  • Zero-day vulnerabilities in applications and networks
  • OWASP Top 10 vulnerabilities
  • SANS Top 25 vulnerabilities
  • Security weaknesses in IoT and Blockchain security controls
  • Technical & Business Logic Errors
    and much more..
Vulnerability Assessment & Penetration Testing by Astra
Vulnerability Assessment & Penetration Testing Process by Astra

If you have any questions regarding IT security audits, feel free to contact us!

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Jinson Varghese

Jinson Varghese Behanan is an Information Security Analyst at Astra. Passionate about Cybersecurity from a young age, Jinson completed his Bachelor's degree in Computer Security from Northumbria University. When he isn’t glued to a computer screen, he spends his time reading InfoSec materials, playing basketball, learning French and traveling. You can follow him on Medium or visit his Website for more stories about the various Security Audits he does and the crazy vulnerabilities he finds.
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