Conducting a Security Audit: A Guide for Managers


This guide is intended to help managers understand the process of a security audit, and is not a substitute for professional cybersecurity services. Security audits should be performed by trained professionals, and this guide is meant to aid in understanding and managing the process, not conducting the audit itself.


A security audit is a comprehensive assessment of an organization’s security posture and IT infrastructure. Conducting a security audit helps organizations find and assess vulnerabilities within their IT networks, connected devices, and applications, giving organizations the opportunity to fix security vulnerabilities and achieve compliance​1​.

Security audits serve various purposes including identifying security problems, gaps, and system weaknesses, establishing a security baseline, ensuring compliance with internal and external requirements, evaluating the adequacy of security training, and identifying unnecessary resources​1​.

When to Perform a Security Audit

The frequency of security audits depends on the industry, the demands of the business and structure, and the number of systems and applications that need to be audited. Organizations handling high volumes of sensitive data, such as financial institutions and healthcare providers, are likely to conduct audits more frequently. External factors like regulatory requirements also affect audit frequency. Special security audits should be conducted after a data breach, system upgrade, or data migration, or when changes to compliance laws occur, a new system has been implemented, or the business grows significantly​1​.

What Systems Does an Audit Cover?

During a security audit, each system an organization uses may be assessed for vulnerabilities in specific areas including network vulnerabilities, security controls, encryption, software systems, architecture management capabilities, telecommunications controls, systems development, and information processing​1​.

The Process of a Security Audit

The security audit process typically involves five stages:

  1. Scoping: This step involves identifying what you’re auditing against (e.g., ISO 27001)​2​.
  2. Preparation: This stage involves preparing all the necessary documentation and information related to the audit and its scope​3​.
  3. Fieldwork: This is the main part of the audit, where the auditor will conduct interviews, look at processes, and inspect systems and any other relevant individuals​4​.
  4. Reporting: This is the stage where findings are reported, and the audit report is presented​5​.
  5. Follow-up: The final stage involves addressing the findings and implementing recommendations to correct identified issues and improve security​6​.

Hiring a Cybersecurity Audit Firm

Given the complexity and importance of a security audit, it’s often beneficial to hire a cybersecurity audit firm. While the choice of firm will depend on your specific needs and circumstances, some well-known cybersecurity audit firms including Proper Programming, Ernst & Young (EY), PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), KPMG, IBM, and Deloitte​7​.

In conclusion, understanding the process of a security audit can help managers better oversee the process, ensuring that the organization’s IT infrastructure and systems are secure and compliant with necessary regulations.

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