An Introductory Guide to Audit Readiness – Part 3

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Continuing from Part Two where we covered three of the four competencies within an organization and their procedures for audit readiness – Information Technology (IT) can turn out to be the most complex.

IT audit readiness may include, but is not limited to the following:

  • Resource planning for the organization and readiness procedures
  • IT General Controls
  • IT Systems and application controls

IT resource planning for audit readiness

As discussed in part two of the audit readiness guide, one of the roles in the planning process is to help identify experienced team members who can contribute towards the IT department’s audit readiness, as they are the ones who have most likely undergone at least one or more IT audits. These individuals would be most familiar with the processes involved and would understand what the auditors would be requesting, the types of audits they would run, and the systems and applications involved.

Identifying IT internal systems and applications for audit readiness

Audit readiness activities for the IT environment require the identification and evaluation of in-scope systems within the organization. The organization should be tracking, recording and reporting on any activities taking place that involve the selected systems and/or applications involved in the audit readiness plan and within any department reliant on these the IT systems.

Activities may include:

  • Documented system certification and accreditation packages
  • Plans regarding system or application security controls
  • Project plans and/or agreements on any application interfaces
  • IT compliance procedures

Once the appropriate systems and applications have been identified, the audit process should move onto assessing the following two groups of controls:

  • IT general controls
  • IT application controls

IT general controls and IT applications controls

The objective or intent of IT General Controls (ITGC) is to apply assurance over the system environment(s) of in-scope systems and/or applications. The ITGCs establish the integrity of:

  • Processes and computer operations
  • Data and data files
  • Components and programs

ITGCs most commonly known are:

  • Computer operations controls
  • Data recover and backup controls
  • Data center security controls
  • Program management and program change management controls
  • SDLC also known as system development lifecycle controls
  • Access controls for data, applications and infrastructure

Furthermore, the objective or intent for IT application controls is to apply control(s) over an individual application or system, intending to support business processes.

Consideration and preparation are key to any audit assessment.  Ensuring the organization’s environments, systems and applications are identified and assessed will improve the overall efficiency during any audit or assessment related activity.

Global Shield IS specializes in IT audit readiness procedures. We are a global audit and advisory services company ready to help you become audit ready. Contact us today for advice.

 

 

Please note: These guidelines from Global Shield IS, are for an organization’s general information purposes only. It is not intended to advise or give any legal or business analysis. Global Shield IS, rather offers the services to any business who have further questions related to their uncommon or unique circumstances, to contact the office for further council.  We will then assign the most appropriate adviser to address each question specifically.

Three Steps to Improving Logical Access

3-29-2015

One of the most important IT control areas to consider for any small, medium or large-scale organization is logical access to resources such as applications and databases. Logical access is the process by which a user or object is identified, authenticated and/or authorized to an application, system, database or another object[1]. Every organization must implement logical access in order to protect valuable data and resources, both internally and externally. Logical access to information prevents this data from being accessed by employees or external threats that might present a risk to the organization. This also ensures that the right resources are being accessed on a need-to-know basis, based on each individual’s role within the organization.

If an organization chooses to ignore implementing logical access controls, it runs the risk of losing proprietary data to the outside world, which could pose a threat to the organization. If you run a search on logical access breaches you will find thousands of recent examples of data that was extracted for malicious purposes by both employees of organizations and outside threats such as hacking groups. The following three steps will enable an organization to implement logical access and provide a basic framework to protecting its data.

Step 1: Identify gaps and risks regarding logical access

The first step must be to assess what types of controls are in place currently to protect organizational data, “what do we currently have”. From there, an evaluation must be directed to find out what types of controls are missing, “what do we need”. In regards to the missing controls, calculating the risk, impact and likelihood is a necessary part of this evaluation. Other criteria to consider are:

  • Documenting a system inventory of all applications, databases, interfaces and systems within your organization.
  • Excessive Privilege: What does each employee have access to? Are controls in place to ensure each employee has access to only what he or she needs to perform daily job duties? An example of excessive privilege would be if Sandra in Accounting had full access to the Human Resources system.
  • Are the Access Control policy and procedures built off of a framework? Examples of frameworks are COSO, COBIT and NIST.

Step 2: Develop access control policy and procedures

The second step must be to develop an access control policy and procedures that adhere to the new policy. The policy will dictate an organizational wide process to implementing the access controls. Although developing a new policy can be a daunting task, the NIST, COSO and COBIT frameworks offer a great deal of information including templates to developing your access control policy and procedures.

Once the policy and procedures are outlined and developed, they must be updated, revised and tested for any errors and omissions. All members of the organization must be involved in the development process to make sure that every department’s opinions and concerns are taken into consideration. For example, if you leave the development of the policy strictly to IT management, it might restrict too much access for anyone to conduct his or her daily duties. On the other hand, if HR develops the policy, it might be too lenient and not address any threats appropriately.

Step 3: Continuously monitor and update with any changes

As the world evolves, so will its existing threats, vulnerabilities and risks. Therefore, the last step of improving logical access consists of continually monitoring and updating the implemented policy and procedures as necessary. In addition, reviews of access controls should be conducted on a periodic basis as deemed necessary by the organizational, or as dictated by policy. This will ensure that all changes to the organization are considered and implemented into the access policy.

To close, access controls are necessary and an integral part of any organization, no matter what its size. Every organization must implement logical access in order to protect its data and resources from internal and external threats. The steps above are general and will help you get started. Each organization will have to tailor these steps as necessary. Each organization will also add or remove steps that do not present a risk at the time. In addition, implementing these steps will not guarantee that you will pass an IT audit. For assistance in understanding the requirements of an IT Audit or for help getting optimal results, please contact us. As always, if you or someone you know needs assistance in understanding or implementing a new access control policy, please do not hesitate to contact us at info@globalshieldis.com.

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[1] This is not to be confused with physical access, which can also accomplish the same means, however not through the use of software alone.