5 Project Management Tips for Information Security Audits

When most people think of auditing, they automatically associate it with negative emotions such as stress or anxiety. At KirkpatrickPrice, we understand that undergoing an information security audit can be an overwhelming task for organizations, and we want to partner with you to ensure that we can alleviate as much of that stress as possible. However, while we have processes, personnel, and tools like our Online Audit Manager to help your organization succeed, an audit engagement is a two-way street, and your organization must be sure to manage the project efficiently. To do so, we’ve come up with a five tips for project management for information security audits.

Project Management Tips for Information Security Audits

1. Know What You’re Getting into Before the Audit Begins

Often times, organizations fail to thoroughly research and understand what exactly will be expected of them during an audit engagement. For many organizations, this is because it is their first time undergoing an information security audit. Before an audit engagement begins, organizations need to familiarize themselves with their audit firm’s audit processes and the framework(s) that they are going to be audited against. This might mean reviewing the actual framework itself, like the PCI DSS or HITRUST CSF, or referencing educational materials to prepare your organization, like KirkpatrickPrice’s SOC 2 Academy.

In addition to familiarizing your organization with the frameworks and audit processes, organizations must ensure that everyone in their organization is on board with the information security audit from the start and that they are willing to participate as needed. Gaining the buy-in from C-level executives all the way down to department heads or key team players will make the audit engagement more efficient because everyone knows and understands what’s at stake during the audit and how they can play a roll in ensuring the completion of the engagement.

2. Make an Audit Strategy

For every organization, the audit process is different depending on the time, personnel, and financial resources available. The audit process is also different based on what services you choose. Will you go through a gap analysis? Are you provided with a remediation plan? How long will it take you to remediate? Do you have multiple audits happening simultaneously? This is why establishing an audit strategy is essential to project management for information security audits. Organizations must determine who will oversee the engagement, how the progress of the engagement will be tracked, and other considerations that could impact the completion of the audit, such as what would happen if someone from the company (i.e. a Director of IT) left the company during the audit.

3. Select a Leader to Oversee the Project

Want to ensure a successful audit? Selected a leader to oversee the engagement. At KirkpatrickPrice, we call this person the executive sponsor. This is typically a C-level executive who will manage the project, serve at the point of contact between your organization and ours during the engagement, and ensure that the project remains on schedule. If a problem arises during the audit, this person should be able to effectively communicate those problems to other stakeholders in the audit and work with the audit partner to find solutions and get the engagement back on schedule. This component is especially important when it comes to project management for information security audits.

4. Stay on Top of Deadlines

By far and large, sticking to deadlines during an audit period seems to be one of the most pressing concerns for organizations. When prospects approach us about engaging in an information security audit, we’re often asked if we be able to complete the audit and report by a specific date or told about a hard deadline that compresses the timeline. Because most organizations do need an audit by a specific date, we have streamlined our audit process to ensure an efficient delivery system. However, this system only works the way it’s designed to if our clients are held accountable and complete the work they’re assigned on time. Why? Because even the smallest delay, such as not turning in artifacts or evidence when requested, can lead to receiving your report later than it’s needed, and it could also cost you in late fees, clients, or even legal penalties. Additionally, to ensure efficient project management of information security audits, organizations must analyze the availability of the key players in the engagement. For example, what holidays will impact your deadline? Are there any team member vacations scheduled during the engagement? If so, how will the workload be distributed or completed to ensure that no delays occur?

5. Utilize Your Audit Partner

Project management for information security audits may seem like a daunting task. If you feel unsure about your progress during the audit engagement, utilizing your audit partner is a great way to get back on track. At KirkpatrickPrice, our Client Success Team and experienced Audit Support Professionals are available to answer questions, provide time management help, and additional resources to ensure the successful completion of an audit engagement all year round. Unlike many other CPA firms who drop or neglect clients during the busy tax season, we won’t because we’re solely an information security auditing firm. Our clients can rest assured that if they have questions about their audit – no matter what time of year – we’ll be there to help.

Here’s the thing: whether done because it’s required or because your organization wants to be proactive, information security audits are an investment that should not be taken lightly. At KirkpatrickPrice, we’re committed to helping our clients get the most out of their investment, but our clients must understand the critical role project management plays into information security audits. Project management helps ensure the efficiency of the engagement, ensure that deadlines are met, and ensure that reports are delivered on time. Ready to get started on your audit? Want to learn more about project management for information security audits? Contact us today.

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Leveraging Information Security as a Competitive Advantage

When organizations come to us to pursue their information security goals, we make sure they know all the benefits of compliance accomplishments. This ranges from avoiding fines and answering to regulatory bodies to protecting and strengthening your business. What we want more organizations to take advantage of, though, is leveraging information security as a competitive advantage. How do you do that?

How Can You Use Information Security as a Competitive Advantage?

Information security efforts do more than assure your clients that their sensitive data is protected. When you partner with an audit or penetration testing firm that educates you and performs quality-driven assessments, your sales and marketing teams will learn how powerful compliance can be.

There are several marketing benefits to achieving compliance. It gives you an opportunity to display and explain the value of your compliance accomplishments, establishes your brand as one that’s committed to privacy and security, and gives you a competitive edge. There are so many possible ways to use compliance for marketing and branding tools. Is your organization using information security as a competitive advantage in these ways?

  • Marketing your product as reliable and secure, with an audit report to show for it.
  • Adding a landing page to your website that outlines all of your compliance achievements and goals.
  • Incorporating a compliance logo into company email signatures.
  • Using compliance logos on your company’s branded presentation templates.
  • Producing materials for conferences that highlight your information security program.
  • Distributing a press release announcing each audit report that you receive.
  • Publishing a blog post or a series of blog posts that outlines your compliance journey, like our client Paubox recently did with their HITRUST journey.

Educating Your Sales and Marketing Teams on Information Security as a Competitive Advantage

Does your competition have the same audit report that you do? Do they have the same information security standards that you do? Do they undergo penetration testing? If not, you’re ahead of the game. Your competitors are very likely considering how to accomplish challenging compliance expectations, and when you’re proactive about establishing an information security program, it will pay off. You can close deals that rely on SOC 2 attestations, you can go after business that requires GDPR compliance, you can expand your services to the healthcare industry through HIPAA compliance; the opportunities are endless when you can demonstrate that you care about your customers’ data and have the evidence to prove it.

Leveraging information security as a competitive advantage does require some extra work, though. Does your sales and marketing team understand or even know about all the effort that went into an audit? You need to take steps to educate your sales and marketing team on what types of audits you’ve been through so that they can explain the value of your information security program to prospects. When your team can have sales conversations that relay why your service is more secure than a competitor’s, you are fully utilizing all the work that went into your compliance accomplishments.

After going through a SOC 2 Type II audit at KirkpatrickPrice, Unqork’s CISO told us, “We want to be able to tell our clients and our clients’ customers that the framework that we’ve built and the design or architecture that we’ve built is as secure as is available on the market because that builds a lot of confidence and meets industry requirements. We knew that the sooner we could close that gap and prove to our customers and prospects that we’ve rolled out an information security program, thought about the processes and procedures, and considered privacy laws and requirements around the globe, that opens the door to more conversations and builds confidence in Unqork as a vendor.”

How KirkpatrickPrice Helps

We always recommend that our clients leverage information security as a competitive advantage and strive to help find creative ways to do so. When clients complete an audit with us, we’re dedicated to helping them find the best way to market their compliance. We offer our clients a complimentary press kit that includes compliance logos, the writing and distribution of a press release announcing their recent compliance accomplishment, copy to use in various marketing materials, and advice on how to best market their focus on information security. Want to learn more about how to leverage your compliance accomplishments as a competitive advantage? Contact us today.

More Compliance Resources

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5 Questions to Ask When Choosing Your Audit Partner

Why Quality Audits Will Always Pay Off: You Get What You Pay For

5 Information Security Tips You Need for 2015

Information Security Tips You Need For 2015

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Text Recap:

The New Year is here, and if Information Security trends from last year are at all telling, 2015 will be a very important year to pay close attention to the security of your sensitive data. Here are 5 Security Tips to keep in mind to protect yourself and your organization in 2015.

  1. Cybersecurity – Organized crime in the 21st century has a new name – Cybercrime. We are all too familiar with the headlines declaring the most recent retail hack. However, in 2015, the possibility of a breach is not only threatening to our credit card numbers, but also healthcare information, intellectual property, personally identifiable information, and more. Now that companies are beginning to “understand” the increasing severity of these attacks, they need to fully prepare to withstand any attack by investing in security.
  1. Privacy and Regulation – Laws and regulations that mandate safeguards and the use of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) are nothing new. What’s changing? Reactionary fines have been replaced with proactive supervisory The government isn’t waiting for a breach to inspect your compliance. However, thinking about implementing appropriate safeguards only for the sake of compliance with these laws to avoid heavy fines and penalties can be dangerous. Privacy should be looked at from a risk-based perspective. Following these laws and regulations can help prevent against loss of business and reputational harm.
  1. Vendor Management – Strategic outsourcing of consumer focused business processes comes with significant risk. According to federal legislation, the risk itself cannot be outsourced, it must be managed. Increasing governmental scrutiny has only magnified that risk. Threats from third-party providers demand that you control the supply chain. Do you have evidence to support that your vendors are compliant?
  1. Wearable Technology – Wearable technology is everywhere. While simplifying the ability to “connect”, these new pieces of technology also introduce new risk to your organization. Be proactive about securing wearables just like any other mobile device, and make sure your BYOD policy is up-to-date and enforced. Minimize the threat of a data leak.
  1. Your Weakest Link – Your People – Everyone’s heard “you’re only as strong as your weakest link”. In the world of Information Security, this adage should be on the forefront of every business owner’s mind. Protect your people. Educate your people. Setting the tone from the top is essential when promoting healthy security awareness in the workplace. When those who “sign the checks” focus on security, everyone else will too.