The word audit brings a lot of scenes to your mind. A lot of unpleasantness is associated with this word. Network security audit does ring a bell of tax audit though in an altogether different sense. In the regular tax audit you can see people physically accessing your files and network security audit they crawl into the virtual world of computer network.
Network security auditing is an approach to auditing networks in order to ensure their safety. In the entire information systems audit framework, the audit of networks is one piece of a big puzzle. The other pieces of the puzzle are audits of application software, data base etc.
A Network Security Auditor’s job is to gather certain information and understanding of this information about the network to review in order to complete the audit of network security.
The first step in this Network Security Audit is to determine the expanse of the network. A typical way to do this is to examine the network diagram. This diagram shows all the routes available on the network. A Network Security Auditor had to ensure the accuracy of this diagram.
Businesses change and the network diagram needs to be updated with these changes. An auditor has to observe the processes that exist in the organization to update and maintain the diagram accurately. Concentration at particular areas in the network such as data centers where ERP servers are hosted, and the points from where these are accessed is of great importance to the auditor. Complex networks may have many hosting points where critical resources are located. Network diagram acts as an input on the types of devices and protocols used in the network. This input can be used as a referral throughout the audit.
Once a Network Security Auditor gets the pressing issues of key areas in the network he next moves to information about critical assets, systems and services that need to be secured. Key areas like enterprise systems consisting of ERPs, mail servers and other internal applications, web servers that host applications accessed by customers and vendors and the network and its components. Hence, security and access mechanism surrounding applications and servers also needs to be strong.
The Network Security Auditor then assesses who all have access to the network and for what reasons they access. If any employees access the network from outside the office or if any customers and vendors access the systems? Is the network accessed via Internet or is there a remote access mechanism? The Network Security Auditor finds answers to these question which have a strong impact on network security.
After examining all accesses and modes of access, the auditor next moves to the network’s connections with external networks. The auditor can press this examination in the first step itself by analyzing the diagram. However, a sincere auditor should treat this separately. An external network has its own threats on the network security of a company. Internet is accessed in companies for various purposes depending on the nature of the job performed. The simplest may be browsing sites or reading and dispatching mails by employees. On a sophisticated scale some companies’ business is dependent on e-commerce websites through which the companies establish their business and exchange information with other companies. Hence there are sensitive points through which information parts enters and leaves a company.
Now that the Network Security Auditor has the knowledge of the systems accessed internally and those externally, he can determine where to install firewalls and intrusion detection systems. To ensure internal security, the gateways of the external networks should be secured. Threats from outside are checked first and then threats from inside and a plan to enhance security can be put in place. The Network Security Audit can now offer protection mechanisms by evaluating their effectiveness and adequacy.
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