The primary difference between cloud-based internal auditing and traditional internal auditing is that it involves collecting data from cloud-based systems to evaluate compliance with the established criteria. Traditional internal auditing requires physical resources to be gathered and analyzed, which can take significantly longer than cloud-based auditing.  

The audit itself still helps organizations identify potential risks, but working with a cloud environment also streamlines the audit process by reducing the need for manual data collection and storage. Cloud-based audit trails are beneficial in that they allow auditors to quickly access information stored in cloud databases. This can reduce the time spent manually collecting and analyzing data. 

Additionally, cloud-based auditing can provide real-time insights into a company’s processes and performance as cloud systems are regularly updated with new information and data.  

If auditing services are scalable, in the same way that cloud tools usually run on a subscription basis, they are also more cost-effective. This means that the attestation fieldwork and audit scope can be scaled up or down depending on the needs of the organization.  

Why is internal auditing still important when using a cloud platform? 

Internal auditing is still important for any organization, whether it uses cloud-based tools or not, because it helps to ensure that established policies and protocols are being followed and external regulations are met. In short, internal auditing helps organizations remain compliant as well as monitor and improve their performance. 

Internal audits provide an opportunity for organizations to identify areas of improvement in their internal processes as well as detect any potential risks. They also help organizations keep track of their performance and stay up to date with the latest regulations.  

Additionally, internal audits provide assurance to stakeholders and other external parties that an organization is following accepted standards of practice.  

Finally, internal audits can provide valuable insights into how a business is doing and help ensure that goals and objectives are being met. Internal auditors can also use cloud auditing to spot ways that the cloud helps an organization and can save it even more time and energy, while decreasing the margin for errors and mistakes. 

What is the ISACA auditing framework?

ISACA has developed a regimented framework for auditing of IT systems. This framework allows a company’s management team to bring the areas of technical issues and control requirements, as well as, how these are related to business risks into better focus. Following the framework assures that those areas are aligned with not only the control measures of your enterprise, but also the compliance standards of your industry. As so many companies have outsourced the management of their networks to the cloud environment, ISACA has adapted these standards to extend to cloud computing.

By applying the ISACA framework to your cloud infrastructure audits, you focus on the control issues that are specific to cloud computing as well the governance of your particular cloud environment. This helps to ensure contractual compliance between your organization and your cloud service provider.

Additionally, consistent audits of your cloud infrastructure can identify any control gaps between the company and its service provider. These audits can also provide your management team and stakeholders in your company’s infrastructure performance with a fair assessment of the quality of a service provider’s internal controls. Finally, audits can provide recommendations on how choosing to rely on those controls could impact your organization’s adherence those standards set forth regarding the safety and security of your network.

Cloud computing brings with it unlimited potential in improving the reliability and performance of your network. Yet the potential complications that the cloud can present in terms of remaining compliant to the industry standards can cause a headache for your management team. Thus, consistent audits of your cloud infrastructure are essential to ensuring that compliance. As experts in the ISACA framework, I.S. Partners, LLC is the ideal auditing partner for you. We can review your cloud operations using the standards established by ISACA to pinpoint areas which could present potential concerns, plus provide you the road map needed in order to arrive at the point of compliance. You can trust in our ability to help your organization continue to safely operate on the cloud.

How can we plan for successful internal auditing in the cloud?  

Map Assets 

In order to map your cloud computing environment and understand the issues involved, you must audit cloud computing. Internal auditors can compile a list of all the cloud assets in your company by collaborating with other IT and technology leaders. These consist of: 

  • Cloud hosting platforms,  
  • Cloud software tools,  
  • Third-party cloud usage 

Identify Cloud Risks 

The technical and organizational risks that these assets present can be evaluated by internal audit teams once you have fully mapped your cloud assets. Some examples of these risks include: 

  • Weak cloud strategy, 
  • Unclear organizational roles and responsibilities, 
  • Lack of technical skills, 
  • Poorly defined change management procedures, 
  • Poor infrastructure design, 
  • Incomplete integration between on-site and cloud technologies, 
  • Low performance of the could service in terms of flexibility, availability, and security. 

Although exact risks vary between organizations, you will likely find that they follow a pattern that is comparable to other kinds of rising technology and IT risks. 

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Verify Cloud Controls 

It’s not enough to simply be aware of the risks that cloud computing can introduce. In order to determine whether enough security controls are in place or to find ways to strengthen security an internal audit should include an evaluation of the cloud controls. Instead of trusting that the CSP will take care of all security-related issues, internal audit personnel are wise to independently validate that their firm is upholding their end of the security bargain. 

Working with the cloud’s shared responsibility model, cloud service providers are required to “watch and respond to security concerns relating to the cloud itself and its underlying infrastructure.” In the meanwhile, end users, such as people and businesses, are in charge of safeguarding the data and other assets they keep in any cloud environment. 

Internal cloud controls also include procedures for access management, cloud vendor selection, and cloud compliance. To prevent unauthorized or unnecessary access, internal auditors would probably wish to work with IT staff to check access logs. 

Identify Opportunities 

Understanding risks and controls is a key part of auditing in the cloud, but it’s not only about preventing and mitigating negative factors. Auditing is also a chance to find ways of improving; it can help organizations identify areas where using additional cloud tools can bring greater savings and efficiency.   

For instance, an audit report may show that increased cloud utilization is associated with higher organizational productivity. These types of conclusions are valuable to smart decision making within the organization. 

Related article: Performing Risk Assessments with the CSA Cloud Controls Matrix.

What should auditors know about auditing in the cloud?  

Auditors should understand the cloud-based systems they are auditing and ensure that all necessary data is collected. They should also be aware of the CSP’s terms of service and other contractual obligations in order to verify that the cloud-based systems are being used in a compliant manner.  

Internal auditors working with cloud environments must have a solid understanding of cloud environment policies and security standards, such as the Cloud Security Alliance’s (CSA) Cloud Controls Matrix. Additionally, it is important for auditors to understand cloud storage solutions, cloud service providers, cloud-based architectures, and cloud security best practices.  

 Related article: Keep Data Safe with the Right CSP Audit. 

How does compliance ensure the integrity of a cloud infrastructure?

Network downtime is the enemy of any management team. Not only does it result in potential lost revenue and a decreased effectiveness of corporate controls, but it places the reliance on a system’s recovery to a single server. This is undoubtedly the reason why cloud computing has recently become so popular amongst businesses and organizations.

Yet that’s not to say that cloud computing doesn’t carry with it inherent risks. These risks can include:

  • Control gaps between the expectation of the organization and actual performance of the cloud service provider.
  • A lack of service-provider accountability.
  • An inability to satisfy the quality assurance requirements of external auditors.

Related article: What You Need to Know About SOC 2 for Cloud Security.

The main benefit that the cloud provides may also be its most glaring drawback. By placing your network in virtual space, you also, by default, accept some measure of increased exposure and a lack of oversight. These issues make remaining compliant with industry integrity standards a challenge. Yet fortunately, companies are not without help in monitoring the compliance standards of cloud computing.

If your company is in need of an internal control audit for your cloud infrastructure or you would like to receive more information about I.S. Partners, LLC, please call 215-675-1400 or email us at [email protected].

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