What are Internal Control Weaknesses?

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A control weakness is a failure in the implementation or effectiveness of internal controls. Malicious actors leverage internal control weakness to circumvent even the most robust security measures. The wide range of internal controls, the increased number of new technologies, and the rate at which malware evolves necessitate data security control monitoring. Regularly monitoring allows organizations to test the effectiveness of their internal controls and expose weaknesses in their implementation.

 

What are Internal Control Weaknesses?

What are data security controls?

Data security controls keep sensitive information safe and act as a countermeasure against unauthorized access. They enable risk management programs by counteracting, detecting, minimizing, or avoiding security risks to computer systems, data, software, and networks.

They include technical controls as well as operational, administrative, and architectural controls. Additionally, controls can be preventative, detective, corrective, or compensatory.

These processes protect your organization by providing reliable financial reporting as required by various regulations and industry standards governing investment, capital, and credit risks. For example, section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) requires annual proof that companies accurately report  financial statements and that their procedures ensure effective fraud prevention as well as showing that they have addressed any uncertainty such as stocks.

 

What are technical control weaknesses?

Technical security controls focus on hardware and software. Weaknesses in technical controls stem from changes in technology and maintenance or configuration failures.  In 2014, the “heartbleed” vulnerability exploited a technical control weakness in SSL to expose data, resulting in a rush of emergency patching.

 

What are operational control weaknesses?

Operational security (OPSEC) focuses on monitoring operations and enforcing a risk management program. Operational control weaknesses stem from the human factor. When those conducting operations fail to follow established standards and policies, operational controls are weakened.  Incident response is a time sensitive operational control. It’s peak effectiveness results from rapid intervention. As the interval between the incident and intervention increases, the effectiveness of incident response is exponentially reduced.

 

What are administrative control weaknesses?

Administrative security controls are also referred to as procedural control.Failure to consistently adhere daily operations to established standards or regulations results in administrative control weaknesses. A regularly scheduled backup routine is an important procedural control related to disaster recovery. Failing to test the integrity and viability of backups exposes the organization to the risk of media degradation, which can have a negative impact on recovery ability or create material weakness following catastrophic events or human error.

 

What are architectural control weaknesses?

Security architecture focuses on creating a unified design that documents and addresses the risks across an organization’s integrated information technology environment.  A weakness in either design or documentation damages the foundation of an organization’s security structure.  Unexpected hardware replacement is at high-risk for architectural control weakness due to circumvention of the normal change management process. The urgent nature of these replacements creates the potential for configuration irregularities, missed patches, or other implementation oversights.

 

How does risk management support internal controls?

The core values of governance, risk, and compliance (GRC) focus on defining risks so that your organization can comply with standards or regulations, while continuously monitoring to ensure the processes work. Effective corporate risk management involves creating a structure to support the procedures that protect resources and assets.

Risk management is not a set and forget process. Established controls must evolve as the threat landscape evolves. Malicious actors modify their tactics regularly.  Maintaining peak effectiveness necessitates the reassessment of risks periodically throughout the information system’s life cycle.

 

Why Organizations Need to Continuously Monitor Their Controls

Continuous monitoring provides real-time insights into new vulnerabilities and threats facing your information systems by incorporating machine learning tools. Although malicious actors continuously evolve malware and ransomware to avoid detection, continuous monitoring enables management to respond to threats that impact its risk assessment and business processes.

Monitoring internal controls requires integrating internal audit as well as ongoing activities to ensure that the organization embedded procedures within normal operations. These detective measures help internal analysts review effectiveness. The audit committee needs to regularly update the Board of Directors by providing reports and reviews.

How Automation Eases the Burden of Continuous Monitoring

As organizations scale, they increase the number of internal controls they need to monitor. Technology use increases the overlap between different types of controls.  For example, operational risk now becomes an IT risk. Before computers, an employee accessing hard copies of sensitive information was an operational risk because it meant that the business did not follow its employee internal control procedures. Cloud migration now makes unauthorized access an IT risk as well as an operational risk.

 

Information systems continue to scale, keeping pace with the speed of business. Organizations that attempt to rely on manual monitoring face the daunting and expensive task of hiring and training staff. With a shortage of experienced professional in the field, this constant increase is both cost-prohibitive and reactionary. The result of manual monitoring is an organization with an out of date security program that falls behind and eventually becomes a victim of an attack.  Continuous monitoring systems that utilize machine learning and automation allow organizations to keep pace with the integration of new technologies, increased number of internal controls, and the ever-evolving threat landscape.

 

How ZenGRC Enables Corporate Data Security Control Monitoring

ZenGRC allows you to prioritize tasks so that everyone knows what to do and when to do it so that you can more rapidly review the “to do” lists and “completed tasks” lists.

With our workflow tagging, you can assign tasks to the individuals in your organization responsible for the activities involved in risk assessment, risk analysis, and risk mitigation.

Finally, with our audit trail capabilities, you can document remediation activities to prove that you maintained data confidentiality, integrity, and availability as required by law.

For more information about how ZenGRC can streamline your GRC process, contact us for a demo today.