What is a Network Audit?

A enterprise network security audit is an in-depth evaluation of a company’s network to assess the health of the network and check for security risks. Networks are a vital element of any enterprise, but to function effectively, they have to be protected from unauthorized access and security vulnerabilities – an audit helps prevent these security issues.

The goal of a network audit is to identify security loopholes and vulnerabilities in the network, so the network management team can take the necessary steps to repair the faults. In a network audit, auditors usually check the following key parameters:

  • Network management.
  • Network performance.
  • Network availability.
  • Network implementation.
  • Network security.
  • Overall performance.

Network auditing gives enterprises a complete picture of their networks and provides insight into potential security lapses that can cost their business in the long run. An audit identifies the issues and allows the company to fix the problem before cyber criminals exploit the loophole and cause manifold damage.

Also see: Best Open Source Network Monitoring Tools 

Why is a Network Security Audit Important?

In the ordinary course of business, a company routinely adds new hardware and software to its system. But every fresh addition can introduce new security vulnerabilities. Running an audit allows businesses to get a complete picture of their overall network security posture and rectify any cybersecurity issues before they impact business productivity.

Again, with the current flexibility around remote working and BYOD (bring your own device) policies, networks are more likely to be exposed to cybersecurity threats. Left unchecked, BYOD can expose networks to malware, unauthorized hardware, and unknown third-party apps, resulting in data loss and increased attacks by threat actors.

Therefore, it’s important for network administrators to regularly monitor and have a comprehensive overview of their networks, so it can help them discover security weaknesses within their networks.

Also see: 7 Enterprise Networking Challenges 

Benefits of Network Security Auditing

The benefits of a network security audit are:

  • Identify security risks.
  • Prevent data loss.
  • Ensure compliance with security policies.
  • Get a detailed report about network health.
  • Ensure the existing network aligns with the company’s needs.
  • Get the visibility to secure the network.

How to Perform a Network Security Audit?

A network audit involves a review of the cybersecurity policies used to protect the network. After identifying the threats, a formal audit report is made, which is then sent to the management and other stakeholders for review.

1. Perform a network device inventory

The first step is to do a network device inventory and identify all of the operating systems and devices on the network. This includes identifying all managed and unmanaged devices. A detailed investigation will help IT teams conduct an in-depth analysis of the system and locate endpoint devices and their vulnerabilities.

2. Identify network policies

Here, the auditor assesses the network policies and actual controls to ensure they match the expected standards. This will help auditors learn about the health of the devices and give them an idea of what changes are to be made.

3. Identify the threats

Identifying a list of suspected cybersecurity threats to the network is essential to improve network resilience. Some common threats are:

  • Phishing attacks.
  • Ransomware.
  • Rogue security software.
  • DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attacks.
  • Malware such as Trojan horses, spyware, viruses, and rootkits.

4. Perform a risk assessment

An auditor conducts several risk assessment tests to identify key threats to the network. A risk assessment provides the auditing team with a holistic view of the network portfolio and gives them an idea of the potential risks facing the enterprise. Based on the information collected, auditors can then prioritize the fixes accordingly.

5. Examine secure data

This step involves locating the sensitive data and taking measures to protect it. Some best practices to protect sensitive data are:

  • Using the principle of least privilege to limit the number of people getting access to sensitive data.
  • Wherever possible, allowing only read-only access.
  • Using data encryption to protect sensitive data.

6. Perform a network penetration test

Network penetration testing is a helpful method to find vulnerabilities in a system. When you do a network pen test, you test the network from all possible angles to ensure it is secure. Auditors generally run two types of pen testing: a static test to review the systems and a dynamic test to test the program when it is running.

7. Report any findings

Reporting is the final phase in the process, where the auditing team shares its findings with the organization’s stakeholders. The report highlights the existing problems and recommends solutions, helping management discover their businesses’ external and internal risks.

Also see: Best Network Management Solutions 

Examples of Network Audit Tools

When auditing a small network, network managers may not use any tool. They can just connect to the networks and perform the audit manually. But when networks are huge, which is usually the case with most enterprises, a network audit tool comes in handy.

SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor

The SolarWinds Network Performance Monitor tool is an automated and all-powerful network auditing tool that helps network administrators troubleshoot network flaws with ease.

The tool comes with an advanced set of features like NetPath and PerfStack for easier resolution of network outages, intelligent mapping, advanced alerting, performance analysis, and critical path visualization for quick diagnosis and resolution of network issues.

ManageEngine OpManager

ManageEngine OpManager is an easy-to-use network auditing tool that continuously monitors the performance and health of network devices like servers, load balancers, switches, firewalls, virtual machines, and anything else connected to the network.

This tool has over 2,000 in-built network performance monitors that proactively monitor the network’s health and provide in-depth reports on network performance.

ITarian Network Assessment

ITarian’s Network Assessment is a free network audit tool that performs in-depth scans to uncover vulnerabilities. This tool comes with extensive reporting features. In addition, it can also create a risk mitigation plan. Businesses can customize these reports and create XP migration readiness reports, Excel export reports, asset detail reports, change management reports, and full detail reports.

One of its best features is the easy setup wizard that lets businesses import networks via Workgroup, Active Directory, and IP range.

Nmap

Nmap, also known as Network Mapper, is one of the oldest network monitoring tools and one of the most famous tools used for port scanning and vulnerability checking. Nmap is an open-source network discovery tool that helps with security auditing, network discovery, and network management. Nmap uses raw IP packets to conduct network scans and to detect the kinds of firewalls being used, the operating systems that are running, ports in use, available hosts, and much more.

Also see: Best Network Automation Tools 

Identify Vulnerabilities Before They Turn Into Issues

Enterprises often overlook conducting regular assessments and audits of their networks. However, not doing so can be disastrous for organizations. A network audit is a valuable addition to a core security strategy. By helping you identify the security loopholes in time, a network audit nips vulnerabilities in the bud before they grow into critical issues.

Susnigdha Tripathy
Susnigdha Tripathy
Susnigdha Tripathy is a full-time writer and editor who presently lives in Singapore. She has over ten years of experience writing, editing, and delivering exceptional content for her clients. She currently writes for Virtasant, a cloud technology company, and Krista Software, a provider of intelligent automation solutions. Her work also gets published on several high-ranking tech websites.
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