What is an IT Audit? A Beginner’s Guide

Written by Hatice Ozsahan and Kate Lake on December 26, 2023

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According to the Global Technology Audit Risks Survey by Protiviti and The Institute of Internal Auditors, 60% of IT auditors consider third-party and vendor risks related to security, reliability, and resilience as significant.

In the simplest terms, an IT audit is like a health check-up for your company’s technology systems. It’s a thorough examination of the IT infrastructure, policies, and operations, ensuring everything is in top shape and aligning with your business goals. But, it’s more than just ticking boxes and checking systems; it’s about ensuring the heart of your business’s technology is beating strong and steady.

In this article, we’ll explore what an IT audit involves, why it’s important, and how it can be a game-changer for businesses in managing their IT risks and optimizing their technology strategies.

What is an IT Audit?

An IT audit is a process that involves inspecting and evaluating an organization’s information technology infrastructure, applications, data management, policies, procedures, and operational processes. 

The objective of the audit is to determine whether the controls in place are adequate to protect the organization’s IT assets, ensure data integrity, and align with its goals and objectives. The audit evaluates the integrity of IT protection controls and how well they align with organizational objectives. It’s designed to ensure that IT systems (including devices) are functioning properly and securely and that employees are abiding by security standards.

IT audits are an essential process that helps businesses by:

  • Ensuring that all the assets are secure and up-to-date.
  • Identifying potential vulnerabilities before they can be exploited.
  • Maintaining privacy and security compliance measures.
  • Finding inefficiencies in IT processes and addressing them before they become obstacles.
  • Assisting businesses in adapting to evolving security needs and standards.

An integrated audit is different from an IT audit, as it takes into account the relationship between information technology, financial, and operational controls to establish an effective internal control environment. While issues may not be identified in financial and operational controls, problems identified in information technology may render the financial and operational controls ineffective, and vice versa.

Key Areas of an IT Audit

IT audits are essential for assessing the efficiency and security of an organization’s IT infrastructure. They focus on five key areas, which are central to an IT manager’s responsibilities:

  1. System Security: Ensuring the integrity and protection of data and systems.
  2. Standards and Procedures: Assessing compliance with internal and external IT standards.
  3. Performance Monitoring: mEvaluating the efficiency and effectiveness of IT systems.
  4. Documentation and Reporting: Ensuring accurate and comprehensive IT documentation and reporting.
  5. Systems Development: Reviewing the processes involved in developing and implementing IT systems.

More specifically, IT audits usually examine the following fundamental areas:

  • IT Governance and Policies: Assess the existence and effectiveness of IT policies and procedures to ensure they align with business objectives and strategies.
    • Suggested reading: What is SaaS Governance?
  • Security Controls: Examine access control policies, including user account management, and review network and infrastructure security, focusing on critical elements like firewall configurations.
  • Data Protection and Privacy: Confirm compliance with relevant data protection and privacy laws. Evaluate data security measures, such as encryption and backup strategies, to safeguard sensitive information.
  • Change Management: Scrutinize the change control processes for IT systems, ensuring that all system changes are well-documented and tested for reliability and security.
  • Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery: Review the organization’s business continuity and disaster recovery plans. Assess the readiness to handle security incidents and the effectiveness of data recovery procedures.
  • Documentation and Record-Keeping: Verify that all documentation, logs, and records are meticulously maintained for audit purposes. Ensure that company devices undergo a comprehensive factory reset before reassignment to new users.

While audits will methodically examine these areas, it’s important to recognize that the needs of each organization are unique. It is essential for auditors to tailor their assessment to the company’s specific needs and infrastructure.

How to Conduct an IT Audit

Although the IT audit typically occurs over a few days, the process starts well before that.

Planing the IT Audit Process 

Before conducting an IT audit, you need to decide whether to conduct an internal audit or hire an outside auditor to provide a third-party perspective. External audits are more common in large corporations or companies that handle sensitive data. For most companies, an internal audit is more than adequate and is also less expensive. To get an extra level of assurance, you can establish a yearly internal audit and hire an external auditor once every few years.

When planning your audit, you need to make the following decisions:

  1. Choose your auditor (whether an outside auditor or an employee responsible for the audit).
  2. Decide the date for your audit.
  3. Establish processes to prepare your employees for the audit.

The auditor may need to speak with different employees and team managers to learn about your company’s IT workflows. Therefore, it is essential to schedule the audit at a time when your employees are not swamped with other work.

IT Audit Preparation

Once you have a general time frame set, you will need to collaborate with your audit team to prepare for the audit itself. This stage entails figuring out several things, including your audit objectives, the scope of the audit, how the audit will be documented, and a detailed audit schedule specifying which departments will be evaluated on different days and how much time departments should plan to dedicate to the audit.

Please note that merely having a checklist is not enough internal documentation for an audit. The purpose of this evaluation is to gain a thorough understanding of your infrastructure’s weaknesses and to develop tailored, actionable steps to remedy them. To accomplish this, you will need a more sophisticated system than a paper and clipboard.

IT Audit Process

Conducting the audit is just the third step in a five-step audit process. This step involves executing the plan you created in step two. However, it’s important to keep in mind that even the most well-planned audits can encounter unexpected obstacles. So, it’s essential to allocate enough time to navigate around any last-minute hurdles. Rushing through the process can cause you to overlook crucial elements during the audit, which defeats the purpose of conducting it in the first place.

Reporting the IT Audit Findings

Once your audit is completed, you should have comprehensive documentation that includes your auditor’s notes, findings, and suggestions. The next step is to consolidate this information into an official audit report. This report will be kept for future reference and to help plan the next year’s audit.

Afterward, you will need to create individual reports for each department head that was audited. These reports should include an overview of what was evaluated, items that do not need changes, and the department’s areas of excellence. Additionally, the reports should summarize the vulnerabilities that the auditor identified and categorize them based on their cause.

Risks that are caused by poor adherence to established procedures will need corrective action. Risks that were previously unknown will require new solutions. Risks inherent to the department’s work may not be eliminated entirely, but the auditor may suggest ways to mitigate them. For each item, explain the next steps for addressing identified risks.

Fixing and Monitoring Process

Infrastructure vulnerabilities are often caused by human error. This means that even if your team implements solutions to correct the risks identified by the audit, human error can still interfere. To ensure that fixes are implemented successfully, schedule a follow-up with each team after you deliver your report findings. It’s a good idea to schedule multiple follow-ups throughout the year to make sure everything continues to run smoothly until the next IT audit process.

What Does an IT Auditor Do?

An IT auditor plays a crucial role in analyzing an organization’s technological infrastructure to identify inefficiencies, manage risks, and ensure compliance. Their expertise extends beyond physical security controls, encompassing business and financial controls within the IT system.

When hiring an IT auditor, it’s important that they have a comprehensive understanding of five key areas: the business and its industry, outcomes of previous audits, recent financial data, regulatory statutes, and risk assessment results.

The IT auditor’s job involves identifying and documenting issues, summarizing their findings, and presenting these to shareholders, along with any recommendations for improvement. They also focus on business ethics, risk management, business processes, and governance oversight.

Regarding the IT Auditor certifications, two prominent ones are the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) and Certified Information Security Manager (CISM). The CISA, offered by ISACA, targets IT auditors and professionals in information systems, requiring at least five years of professional experience. The CISM is geared towards information security managers, emphasizing the design, building, and maintenance of information security programs, and requires a combination of general IS experience and specific experience in security management.

IT Audit: Frequently Asked Questions

What Does an IT Audit Do?

An IT audit is a comprehensive evaluation of an organization’s information technology infrastructure, policies, and operations. It ensures that IT systems are effectively managing and protecting data, supporting business objectives, and complying with regulatory standards. Key functions of an IT audit include assessing system security, verifying data integrity, evaluating risk management practices, and examining IT management processes.

What is an Example of an IT Audit?

A typical example of an IT audit is a security audit of a company’s network systems. This involves reviewing the network’s architecture, analyzing access controls, testing security protocols, examining compliance with data protection laws, and evaluating the effectiveness of cybersecurity measures. The audit may also include penetration testing to identify vulnerabilities and recommendations for improvement.

What is the Difference Between an IT Audit and a Regular Audit?

The main difference between an IT audit and a regular audit lies in their focus areas. An IT audit specifically targets an organization’s information technology systems, examining aspects like cybersecurity, data integrity, and IT governance. In contrast, a regular audit (often financial) reviews financial records and business transactions to ensure accuracy, compliance with accounting standards, and proper financial reporting. IT audits are technical in nature, while regular audits are more financially oriented.

Learn About JumpCloud

JumpCloud provides customers a unified solution of SaaS, IT security, and asset management. With JumpCloud, you can see and manage your IT infrastructure — including identities, devices, and applications — in a single pane of glass while getting the telemetry you need to ensure ongoing security and compliance. 

Try JumpCloud for free to determine if it’s right for your organization.

Hatice Ozsahan
Kate Lake

Kate Lake is a Senior Content Writer at JumpCloud, where she writes about JumpCloud’s cloud directory platform and trends in IT, technology, and security. She holds a Bachelors in Linguistics from the University of Virginia and is driven by a lifelong passion for writing and learning. When she isn't writing for JumpCloud, Kate can be found traveling, exploring the outdoors, or quoting a sci-fi movie (often all at once).

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