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Cybersecurity Internal Audit Considerations

Muhammad Tariq Ahmed Khan's profile image

By: Muhammad Tariq Ahmed Khan

February 15, 2019

Since the threats from cyberattacks have emerged significantly and are continuously evolving, managing cybersecurity risks has become one of the substantial challenges faced by the organizations nowadays. Organizations have put in place technical and procedural controls to attain optimum cybersecurity. Furthermore, governments and regulators have played a predominant role in improving cybersecurity posture by increasing oversight, imposing more regulatory mandates and conducting frequent independent cybersecurity audits on the organizations.

 In this view, the role of internal audit has become vital to keep pace with the drastically changing cybersecurity risks. The Board and Audit Committee have set up expectations for internal audit to provide an independent assessment of existing cybersecurity control environment and assist audit committee/ senior management to understand and address the diverse cybersecurity risks of the digital era.

 The following are the considerations can be embraced by internal audit function to add value with respect to cybersecurity risks:

 Role of Audit Committee:

The Audit Committee should have oversight responsibility on cybersecurity risks in the organization. Generally, Audit Committee members are financial savvy and they lack the knowledge of cybersecurity. They, therefore, may want to bring in someone onto audit committee with expertise in cybersecurity and they should ensure that right cybersecurity management personals with right processes are available in the organization.

 Employing Cybersecurity Auditors in Internal Audit:

Internal audit should strive to attract and retain competent and knowledgeable cybersecurity talent. It is important that cybersecurity auditors upgrade themselves through training and professional development to keep abreast with the emerging threats.

 Relations with External Parties:

Internal audit should develop and maintain sound relationship with external parties as well such as regulatory authorities and internal audit professional organizations to expedite and improve the quality of cybersecurity audits.

 Evolving and Building relationships:

In order to add value to the organization, internal audit should work closely in coordination with other key functions within the organization, such as Information Technology,   Information Security, Compliance, and Risk Management Departments and must continue to evolve and build relations with them. It is important for internal audit to understand and strengthen professional relationships with them without impairing necessary independence and objectivity.

 Cybersecurity Audit Plan

Internal Audit should consider conducting cybersecurity risk assessment based on latest cybersecurity trends/ threats  and devise a risk-based cybersecurity internal audit plan. Internal Audit should also ensure that the plan is aligned with the organization’s strategic plan as cybersecurity has become a business issue these days.

 Auditing Third Party Service Providers/ Vendors:

Third parties or Vendors holding sensitive data should be brought in the scope of cybersecurity audit. This could be accomplished through a right-to-audit clause included in the contract.

 Consulting role of internal audit:

This is fundamental that Internal Audit allocates time and resources for value-added consulting services into the annual internal audit plan in a way that an appropriate balance is achieved between its core assurance services to consulting services.

In a nutshell, by adopting the above control considerations, the internal audit should provide an objective assurance that cybersecurity controls are effectively implemented and operating well. Further, insights for improvement opportunities to protect the organization’s goals and objectives are imperative to be considered

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