All About the IT Audit

December 20, 2022
Thai Nguyen

An IT audit can sound intimidating, whether the event is looming on the horizon or is a possibility sometime in the future. Firms that have recently adopted new forms of technology or are currently struggling with their IT asset management may be particularly threatened by an external audit. That being the case, it is critical to know:

  • What Is an IT Audit?
  • The External Audit Vs. the Internal Audit 
  • What Is the IT Audit Process?
  • What Are the Advantages?
  • How to Prepare for an Audit? 

What Is an IT Audit?

An IT audit is the investigation, discovery, and evaluation of a firm’s information technology (IT) systems, elements, protocols, and processes. Depending on the type of organization or company, they may encounter a specific type of IT audit. The most common audit is a general audit, looking into all sectors of the IT department. Other audits may only look at particular domains, such as systems and applications, information processes, systems development, IT management, or servers and network security. 

General IT audits aim to:

  • Grade the IT systems, protocols, and policies in place at a company
  • Examine if IT specifics help accomplish company objectives 
  • Determine if there are risks to IT assets and critical data
  • Identify inefficiencies in systems or assets
  • Verify the security and integrity of data
  • Inspect if a company is making effective use of all resources
  • Check to make sure IT management is compliant with government policies, laws, and standards 

The External Audit Vs. the Internal Audit

Companies can complete external audits or internal audits. External auditors are independent organizations who look into your company’s records and complete reports; in most cases, external auditors focus on compliance checks. It ensures IT management systems and policies live up to government rules and regulations. 

However, many companies can perform their own investigations; these are called internal audits. Companies build specialized teams to perform routine evaluations, allowing them to recognize where their IT management is effective and where it is missing the mark. 

Internal IT audits can help companies develop better IT strategies to increase efficiency, reduce unnecessary spending, and improve security. While it will assist their organization, teams, and clients, it will also help them pass external IT audits and compliance tests with flying colors. 

What Is the IT Audit Process?

Whether you wish to perform an internal IT audit or want to understand the external audit process, it is helpful to know the general IT audit process:

  1. Planning: The planning phase is critical for a well-executed IT audit. Auditors must thoroughly understand the business, its goals, IT systems, and management. Likewise, professionals must set objectives for the audit, determine its scope, and establish a schedule. The plan should detail the sectors to be evaluated and the elements involved in each sector (ex. Hardware and ensuring all devices are password-protected). 
  2. Collecting Data: It goes without saying that your auditor will need all data related to your IT department. It is easier to conduct an IT audit if you have all information in a single source of truth; however, often auditors must pull from multiple systems and records to gather sufficient data. 
  3. Running Tests: In some cases, auditors will run pre-planned tests or analyses with special tools or software (ex. finding holes in your network security). 
  4. Compiling the Report: Auditors create a report detailing their findings, evaluation, and in some cases, suggestions for improvement. 

What Are the Advantages of an It Audit? 

Audits have a bad reputation; however, they can offer significant advantages to firms and teams:

  • Notifies your company of security threats and risks: Technology advances quickly. While your company may have had an excellent security system five years ago, it may not be equipped to handle today’s threats. An IT audit helps determine if and where your security systems need extra help.
  • Evaluates your overall IT systems: From a management perspective, you may have top-notch IT systems. An audit determines if your systems are actually as efficient and effective as they could be for your types of assets, your business processes, and your goals. 
  • Allows you to strengthen your IT controls: Are your IT controls as strong as they need to be? An IT audit offers an objective stance on that fundamental question and shows you where you could improve. 
  • Determines compliance: Many companies hope they are compliant. However, when they have to complete an official audit, they learn they could have done better. They may face fines or shutdowns. A self-imposed audit allows companies to discover compliance issues quickly.

How To Prepare for an Audit

When you expect an audit, it is important to have everything ready to go in the name of efficiency. Suppose your firm is well-organized, with an excellent IT asset management program. In that case, you may already be prepared in most respects.

  • Notify management, key stakeholders, and relevant IT audit and schedule departments. 
  • Create an up-to-date list of your IT asset inventory.
  • Ask the auditor for a complete checklist of sectors and information so that you can gather all necessary data. Common sectors include anti-virus software, network firewall, hardware, passwords, accounts, physical security, disaster recovery, alerts or notifications, Cloud storage, and Cloud authorizations. 
  • Prepare documents with all IT procedures and policies. 
  • Locate your Written Information Security Plan (Cybersecurity). 
  • Develop a list of all your current safeguards and security features in place. 
  • Attempt to understand your current IT gaps in advance of your IT audit. You may run your own internal audits or assessments to catch any significant problems before an official audit. 
  • Find prior IT audits and showcase how your company has improved in problem areas since then.