Key Takeaways:

  • Rising Cybersecurity Concern: 78% of internal auditors see cybersecurity threats as high or very high, up from 60% in 2017.

  • Audit Focus Shift: Nearly 20% of internal audit plans now target cybersecurity and IT risks, surpassing other areas.

  • Essential Internal Audits: Internal audits identify vulnerabilities, ensure compliance, and align cybersecurity measures with organizational goals.

  • Strategic Partnerships: Collaborating with security consulting services like LBMC provides expert guidance and strengthens overall security strategies.

Insights from The Internal Audit Foundation's 2024 Report

Did you know that a recent survey revealed a significant number of internal auditors flagged cybersecurity as the primary risk facing organizations? These survey results underscore how much more focus needs to be placed on protecting sensitive organizational data.

The Internal Audit Foundation’s 2024 edition of the North American Pulse of Internal Audit Benchmarks for Internal Audit Leaders provides invaluable insights into the state of internal audit, and this edition has a special focus on cybersecurity. The report contains key metrics and survey results conducted by the Foundation and includes data related to audit priorities and post-pandemic recovery.

This report has been a key source of guidance for internal audit and organizational leadership since 2008. It speaks to both current conditions and long-term trends in the internal audit space. By highlighting key areas of focus for internal audit functions, the report helps internal auditors prioritize their activities and allocate resources effectively to ensure that internal audit efforts are aligned with the most significant risks facing an organization.

The latest findings emphasize the prominent role of technology, especially cybersecurity and IT, as the primary areas of concern. Cybersecurity and IT have emerged as the foremost risks, with additional attention on third-party relationships, compliance/regulatory issues, and operational challenges.

An alarming 78% of surveyed Chief Audit Executives and Directors believe the risk from cybersecurity threats is high or very high. That’s a significant increase from the 60% who felt that way in 2017. Only 21% of respondents say the risk is moderately high, and 1% believe the risk is low. This shows that auditors are more worried about cyber threats than ever before.

Internal Audit Foundation's 2024 Report: Risk Levels - All Respondents

According to the survey, efforts to deal with cybersecurity and IT risks make up almost 20% of internal audit plans, exceeding the allocation for operational, financial reporting, and compliance/regulatory areas. This significant statistic highlights the growing concern surrounding cybersecurity and underscores the need for a deliberate strategy to manage these risks effectively.

The Crucial Role of Internal Audit Programs

An internal audit program plays a critical role in addressing cybersecurity and IT risks in an increasingly digital world. This includes finding weak spots, identifying areas for improvement, and reporting findings to senior management and the board. To accomplish these objectives, internal auditors should be asking themselves these questions:

  • Am I aware of the IT department’s chosen adopted security framework?
  • Have we conducted a regular assessment of our cyber maturity?
  • What key performance indicators do we use to measure the effectiveness of our cybersecurity controls and IT processes?

If any of the answers to these questions is no, it may be time to reassess the audit plan.

Empowering Internal Auditors in Cybersecurity

Internal auditors have a special role in making their companies safer from cyber threat actors. Today, their job goes beyond just checking the company’s finances. They also look closely at how the company uses technology and protects its information.

By doing thorough checks and risk assessments, internal auditors can find weaknesses and suggest ways to mitigate risks. They also ensure the company’s tech safety measures align with its goals and the rules it needs to follow.

Deep Dive into Risk Assessment

A strong plan for keeping information safe starts with in-depth knowledge of the company’s technology and how it’s protected. Conducting regular assessments of cyber maturity and the robustness of cybersecurity controls is paramount. These assessments empower auditors to unveil potential vulnerabilities and pinpoint areas in need of improvement, ensuring a fortified security posture.

Unveiling Risks

The journey of risk identification is a cornerstone of the cybersecurity assessment process. Internal auditors use multiple ways to uncover where the company might be vulnerable. They work closely with stakeholders in the company, look carefully at documents, and evaluate the technology configurations. Understanding the specifics of these vulnerabilities, along with the overarching threat landscape, is necessary to craft effective mitigation tactics.

Elevating Organizational Security

In the quest to fortify cybersecurity, a multi-faceted strategy is essential. This strategy encompasses rigorous risk assessment, solid governance, ongoing employee training, and the implementation of stringent security controls. By prioritizing these elements, organizations can enhance their defense mechanisms against cyber threats.

Strategic Risk Assessment and Prioritization

Initiating a detailed risk assessment is crucial for discerning and ranking potential vulnerabilities and threats. This proactive measure makes sure cybersecurity efforts are targeted accurately, optimizing the use of resources to protect against the biggest risks.

Governance and Policy Development

The establishment of clear, comprehensive cybersecurity policies is the bedrock of a secure operational ecosystem. These policies, crafted in alignment with industry benchmarks and legal mandates, serve as the framework for a cohesive cybersecurity strategy. They guide organizational conduct and establish benchmarks for security practices, reinforcing the organization’s commitment to cybersecurity.

Cultivating Security Awareness

The importance of creating a work culture where everyone knows how to stay safe online is essential. Through regular, engaging training sessions, employees learn about digital hygiene and how to spot phishing attempts. They also understand the importance of using the internet safely. Empowering employees with this knowledge equips them to act as the organization’s first line of defense against cyber incursions.

Strengthening Access Controls

Implementing rigorous access controls is a critical step in protecting sensitive information from unauthorized access. Organizations can boost their security levels by sticking to the principle of least privilege and using multi-factor authentication. This reduces the chances of data breaches and cyber-attacks.

Through these coordinated endeavors, internal auditors significantly contribute to guiding their organizations toward a cybersecurity stance that is both more secure and resilient. Their expertise and proactive stance are invaluable assets in the ongoing battle against cyber threats.

The Future of Cybersecurity in Internal Audit

Cybersecurity represents an ongoing process rather than a final goal. Organizations must emphasize the critical function of internal auditors in maintaining cybersecurity. Equipped with appropriate expertise, instruments, and collaborations, internal auditors are pivotal in navigating their organizations toward a secure digital environment.

The continual evolution of cybersecurity threats calls for an adaptable and forward-thinking approach from internal auditors. By keeping up with the latest trends and threats in cybersecurity, internal auditors can foresee and address risks. This vigilance helps ensure their organizations stay secure in a constantly evolving digital environment.

Looking ahead, the significance of cybersecurity within the audit process is undeniable. Armed with the right tools and know-how, internal auditors play a critical role in helping their companies handle threats. By adopting innovative approaches and collaborating with security professionals, internal auditors can significantly contribute to creating a secure and resilient digital environment.

The Importance of Security Consulting Services

Partnering with security consulting services and collaborating with cybersecurity partners such as LBMC provides organizations with expert guidance to improve their security practices. These partnerships bring specialized knowledge and fresh perspectives, significantly contributing to the security strategy by offering comprehensive risk assessments, policy development, and reviews of crucial documents. This collaboration between internal auditors and external cybersecurity experts is essential for developing clear objectives and action plans that improve an organization’s overall security infrastructure.

LBMC’s Contribution to Cybersecurity and Internal Auditing

LBMC specializes in providing personalized cybersecurity consulting services. We offer a wide range of options, helping organizations enhance their current programs or start new ones. Services range from policy formulation, and adherence to security standards, to providing Virtual Chief Information Security Officer (vCISO) services.

Our outsourced internal audit services address a wide variety of organizational requirements. These services extend from operational aspects to financial and compliance risk evaluations, covering a comprehensive scope of needs.

Content provided by LBMC Cybersecurity professional – Garrett Zickgraf.