Understanding your baseline

In our connected world, every organization carries various types of risk related to their data and general operations, and each must know what steps they should take to most effectively protect their key assets. Unfortunately, some are more prepared than others. Sensitive product information, customer personal information, company financial data, and confidential data related to a game-changing service offering all have immense value, not only to your organization, but also to those who are looking take advantage of your organization's weakest points. Audits and assessments help you identify what those weak points might be, and subsequently target your efforts.  Audits and assessments are the foundation from which all additional control planning and activity should be driven. Use results from these activities to set your baseline and begin building a more secure organization.



Formally validate your current operation against the appropriate standard

An audit is typically considered more formal than an assessment, as they may have legal implications and require that an organization validate core processes described by a "standard".  By nature these standards are prescriptive and vary depending on the type of audit an organization is performing.  HIPAA, PCI, NIST, SOC, SSAE16 are examples of different types of audits that organizations may perform depending on industry standards. The primary objective of an audit is to compare what an organization actually does to what they "should" or "must" do according to the standard. An audit typically takes a more holistic view of all your critical data, business policies and processes, applications, and infrastructure and analyzes their collective vulnerability based on the current set of controls that you have in place to protect them. They are typically performed by a certified and independent 3rd party.  Once an organization has modified their processes to account for the standards set by a given compliance framework, the audit firm may "certify" their compliance.  This certification of compliance often must be reported on for various industry or government sectors in order for the organization to perform their core function.



More targeted, less formal

Unlike an audit, assessments don't necessarily have to be performed by an independent third party, but they may be. If an organization has the resources, they may perform various types of assessments using internal resources with the goal of improving their practices. Risk assessments help an organization prioritize their top risks by assigning likelihood and impact ratings, making decisions around remediation more data-driven.  Assessments are typically done at a higher level and can be performed against various technical and non-technical pieces of an organization's operations. Assessments also may serve as an internal benchmark exercise that helps the organization identify gaps and improve their cybersecurity and privacy practices for a given area, or across multiple areas. They are not obligated to improve these practices if they feel comfortable with the level of risk that the gap currently represents. An audit, on the other hand, requires the organization to validate that they indeed perform each task as documented in the standard in order to be certified compliant.


Finding the right resource for your assessment or audit

Audits and assessments are increasingly important for businesses that are committed to long-term growth and avoiding a breach set-back. Simply identifying and understanding the top risks can help organizations better understand their overall risk tolerance. Sourcing the right service provider who understands a company's business strategy, its customer and industry dynamics, and its technology infrastructure is key when searching for help in these areas. Audits and assessments both give organizations the chance to improve operations and reduce cybersecurity and data privacy risks, despite a slightly different overall objective for each. To find the right resource fit and set the proper baseline for your organization, look no further than Elite's auditor profiles for agencies and individuals.