A security audit consists of a systematic analysis of an application, system, or database to evaluate how solid and safe it is. In the context of blockchains, security audits consist of a peer review of a smart contract or blockchain code to identify potential bugs or flaws.
Considering the traditional definition, a security audit investigates processes according to a predetermined guideline or in relation to a standard, such as the Common Criteria for IT Security Evaluation. Many companies perform security audits as a way to ensure that their systems are strong enough against potential leaks, intrusions, or cyberattacks.
Other than that, security audits are very important in determining regulatory compliance because they make it clear how a company or institution is handling and protecting sensitive data. The audits may also examine physical access to the company’s facilities and information systems, as well as the preventive strategies in place against potential attacks.
Security audits may be considered one of the three main types of security diagnostics methods, along with vulnerability assessments, and penetration tests (aka. pen test). However, full security audits will often include pen tests and vulnerability assessments, so the term definition may change depending on the context.
As mentioned, a security audit usually evaluates the safety of an information system in relation to a list of criteria. In contrast, a vulnerability assessment relies on an extensive analysis of the entire system to eventually identify security loopholes. In other words, security audits are more specific, focused on a particular niche, and vulnerability assessments are more generalistic. Lastly, we have penetration tests, which consist of simulated attacks as a way to test both the weaknesses and strengths of a system. In some cases, white-hat hackers are hired just to perform these authorized cyberattacks. Some companies also offer rewards via Bug Bounty programs.
Ideally, security audits should be carried out at least once a year, to ensure that the defense mechanisms are up to date against the most recent threats.