The Definitive Guide to

IT Audit

Learn all about IT audits, the role of an IT auditor, and how they can protect your company from information security incidents.

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Introduction

Over the past decade, companies across all industries have been heavily investing in cloud technology. While they’re hoping to gain a competitive edge by staying up to date, new technology adoptions always come with new risks in the form of hacks and data breaches. Since such incidents could be detrimental to any organization, technology risk management and understanding the importance of IT audits have become increasingly important.

Learn all about IT audits, the role of an IT auditor, and how they can protect your company from information security incidents.

 

What is an IT Audit?

An IT audit or information technology audit is an investigation and evaluation of IT systems, infrastructures, policies, and operations. Through IT audits, a company can determine if the existing IT controls protect corporate assets, ensure data integrity and align with the organization’s business and financial controls.

While most people are familiar with financial audits that evaluate an organization’s financial position, IT audits are still a fairly new phenomenon that is now gaining more importance due to the rise of cloud technology. The purpose of an IT audit is to check on security protocols and processes in place and IT governance as a whole.

As an unbiased observer, an IT auditor makes sure that these controls are properly and effectively installed, so the company is less vulnerable to data breaches and other security risks. However, even if adequate security and compliance are provided, there has to be a line of action in case of an unlikely event that would threaten the health and reputation of the examined business.

Next, learn more about an IT auditor’s role, skills, responsibilities, and certifications.

 

IT Auditor role

An IT auditor develops, implements, tests, and evaluates all IT audit review procedures within a company that relies on technology. These audit procedures can extend to networks, software applications, communication and security systems as well as any other systems that are part of the organization’s technological infrastructure.

By conducting IT-related audit projects and following established IT auditing standards, IT auditors have an essential role in ensuring that an organization and its sensitive data are protected from external or internal security threats. After all, just a small technical error can have a devastating impact on the entire organization.

IT Auditor responsibilities

Now you know why IT auditors have such an important role within a company relying on technology. But what do their actual responsibilities look like in practice? Below, we’ve outlined the most important ones.

  • Development and planning of audit test plans
  • Determining audit scope and objectives
  • Coordination and execution of audit activities
  • Adhering to auditing standards established by the company
  • Development of details audit reports
  • Identifying best practices for meeting audit requirements
  • Maintain and update IT audit documentation
  • Communicating audit findings and recommendations
  • Ensuring that previous recommendations have been implemented

IT Auditor skills

The skills required for the job of an IT auditor may differ depending on which industry they work in. However, there is a general set of skills that most companies are looking for when hiring an IT auditor. These skills include:

  • Formal qualifications: This may not be required at all companies but can help IT auditors in applying a systematic approach to their work.
  • Practical experiences: Previous work experience in data security and IT auditing is always a plus.
  • Understanding core business processes: This helps the IT auditor in linking IT systems to the value they bring to the business.
  • Understanding key IT processes: This allows the IT auditor to prioritize IT risks.
  • Strong analytical and logical reasoning ability: IT auditors should be able to use data analysis and visualization tools.
  • Strong communication skills: This ability is necessary for explaining complex security issues to non-technical management teams.

IT Auditor salary

With the adoption of new cloud technologies, it does not come as a surprise that the position of an information technology auditor is in high demand. After all, companies of all sizes and across all industries have been leaning into new technology trends. So, what does an IT auditor actually earn?

Depending on experience, qualifications, and location, an IT auditor’s salary can range from $44k at the lower level to $143k for IT auditor directors or managers. This means that the average annual pay for an IT auditor working in the United States is currently at $93k per year or $45 per hour.

IT Auditor certifications

IT auditors can increase their chances of getting hired and being paid well if they acquire job-related certifications. Below are the two most common ones.

  • Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA): This certification is offered through the ISACA. It is specifically designed for information security professionals and information technology auditors. Before IT auditors can earn this certificate, they need at least five years of professional experience in the field of IT auditing.

  • Certified Information Security Manager (CISM): This certification targets information security managers and focuses on the design and maintenance of information security programs. To earn this certificate, individuals need at least five years of IS experience and three years of working as a security manager.
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IT audit objectives

During the planning stage of an IT audit, an auditor needs to define the audit objectives and make sure that they align with the overall business objectives. Usually, the primary objectives fall into one of the following:

  • Evaluation of systems and processes that are supposed to secure company data.
  • Determining potential risks that could compromise information assets and finding ways to mitigate these risks.
  • Verifying the reliability and integrity of information.
  • Checking compliance of information management with data protection laws, policies, and standards.
  • Establishing ineffectiveness in IT systems or management.

 

Types of IT audits

As you can imagine, there are various types of IT audits that can be initiated by different authorities or entities within or outside of a company. In the following, we’ll cover the most common types.

Technological innovation process audit

In this audit, the length and depth of an organization’s experience in using certain technologies are assessed to create an individual risk profile. This can apply to new or already existing technology projects. It also takes the company’s presence in relevant markets into account.

Innovative comparison audit

This IT audit examines the innovative abilities of an organization in comparison to its strongest competitors. Auditors take a close look at the company’s track record when it comes to producing new products as well as its development and research facilities.

Technological position audit

This audit only looks at the technologies that the organization is currently using and what value they add to the overall business goal. This helps in determining if there is a need for new technologies. The latter are usually categorized by the terms like base, key, pacing, and emerging.

Systems and applications

This audit is initiated to verify if all systems and applications are running efficiently and whether they are reliable and properly controlled. As a subtype, there are also system and process assurance audits that assist financial auditors. Cloud-heavy infrastructures benefit from SaaS management discipline that can easily uncover all used applications for a software audit.

Information processing facilities

Apart from the application's audit, there is also an audit for information processing facilities. These include all physical IT equipment, operating systems but also the IT infrastructure as a whole. Auditors verify that processing facilities work timely and accurately even under disruptive conditions.

Systems development

IT infrastructures are constantly evolving as better systems are being developed and deployed. In a fast-paced cloud environment, companies need to ensure that systems under development meet their objectives and align with their business standards before deployment.

Management of IT and enterprise architecture

This audit aims to verify whether IT management and staff have developed an organizational structure and sound procedures to secure and control information processing. This also includes a review of the Enterprise Architecture and tools used for best practices and frameworks.

Client & server, telecommunications, intranets & extranets

As the title suggests, this IT audit is all about the client and server-side. Auditors verify if all telecommunications controls work efficiently and timely for the computer receiving the service. This not only covers the servers but also covers the network that is connecting the client to the servers.

 

Information technology audit process

The actual IT audit process can differentiate from organization to organization. However, there are usually four stages that IT auditors go through to complete a successful audit:

  • Planning: This stage is the most important one as it sets the tone for the entire audit. A lack of understanding of internal IT procedures and not properly assessing the amount of work and time involved can lead to false conclusions and higher costs. That’s why audit teams are advised to consult as much IT expertise as needed. At the end of this stage, there should be a detailed IT audit plan that outlines the scope, objective, timeframe, process, and budget of the audit.
  • Fieldwork: This stage can take a variety of forms but is usually conducted on-site. The audit team identifies and analyzes key risks within the audited process or system. Controls are being tested and evaluated to make sure they mitigate risks as intended. Control weaknesses point out improvements that should become part of a corrective action plan or a recommendations section in the final report.
  • Reporting: During and after the IT audit is executed, audit teams need to document their findings for evidence, especially if certain controls are not working effectively. After creating a report draft that is discussed with management, the IT auditor writes up a detailed audit report that summarizes and communicates the audit results in a concise and factual tone.
  • Follow-up: This final stage is often overlooked but just as important as the previous ones. Internal or external auditors make sure that the recommendations or action plans in the audit report are followed and whether the improvements are working adequately and effectively. Usually, the IT audit is officially closed once the follow-up proves that the suggested improvements have been successfully implemented.

Conclusion

With the increasing adoption of SaaS applications and cloud-based systems, companies take on more security risks and accumulate shadow IT. If performed correctly, IT audits create knowledge and much-needed visibility. They can give organizations the information and data they need to make sure that the right controls are in place and that risks are being mitigated in the best way possible. Thus, sensitive data is protected from hackers and other security threats.

 

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Answers to frequently asked questions on IT Audit

What is an IT Audit?

An IT audit or information technology audit is an investigation and evaluation of IT systems, infrastructures, policies, and operations.

What is the purpose of an IT audit?

A company can determine if the existing IT controls protect corporate assets, ensure data integrity and align with the organization’s business and financial controls.

What does an IT auditor do?

An IT auditor develops, implements, tests, and evaluates all IT audit review procedures within a company that relies on technology. These audit procedures can extend to networks, software applications, communication and security systems as well as any other systems that are part of the organization’s technological infrastructure.

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