Last Updated: March 3, 2020
As specialized information security professionals, security auditors conduct audits of computer security systems. They possess knowledge of computer and information technologies, plus expertise in cybersecurity, penetration testing, and policy development.
As information security threats continue impacting daily lives and business, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts a 32% increase in employment from 2018-2028 for information security professionals. According to PayScale, security auditors earn a median annual salary of just under $67,000.
Usually working as external consultants, security auditors assess computer system safety and efficiency. They provide detailed reports, note weaknesses, and offer suggestions for improvement.
These professionals also test databases, networks, and comparable technologies to ensure compliance with information technology (IT) standards. They construct and administer audits based on company or organizational policies and applicable government regulations. With knowledge and skills that apply across industrial sectors, security auditors thrive in an increasingly technical marketplace. Finance companies, small- and large-scale businesses, and nonprofit organizations conduct security audits regularly.
What Does a Security Auditor Do?
Security auditors create and execute audits based on organizational policies and governmental regulations. To inspect and assess security controls and practices, security auditors work closely with IT professionals, managers, and executives. Security auditors develop tests of IT systems to identify risks and inadequacies. Security auditors evaluate firewalls, encryption protocols, and related security measures, which requires expertise in computer security techniques and methods.
Through interviews and cooperation with executives, managers, and IT professionals, systems auditors develop plans to improve security compliance, reduce risk, and manage potential security threats.
As external auditors, security auditors offer an objective perspective on an organization's security practices. Companies and businesses bring in security auditors at regular intervals to check their own effectiveness and ensure their systems adhere to industry standards.
Security auditors also introduce new practices and technologies to companies and organizations. By advising companies or organizations to make changes based on their current practices and emerging trends and issues in the field, security auditors facilitate proactiveness. They bear significant responsibility and enjoy opportunities to develop creative security solutions. These professionals travel extensively, offering their services as needed.
Steps to Become a Security Auditor
Security auditors possess undergraduate degrees in computer science, information technology, or a related field. Associate degrees may suffice, but most employers prefer bachelor's degrees. Through classes in computer software and hardware, programming, and cybersecurity issues, aspiring security auditors establish a solid foundation for their goal.
Coursework in an undergraduate degree builds fundamental knowledge, which learners can apply in entry-level positions as security, network, or systems administrators. Administrator roles train individuals to test systems and networks for vulnerabilities, establish security requirements, and conduct basic audits.
Mid-level positions on the path to security auditing include security specialist, security engineer, and security consultant. Security specialists oversee the design, implementation, and monitoring of security systems. Security engineers build and maintain IT security solutions, while security consultants offer advice on improvements to existing security policies and practices.
Prospective security auditors can consolidate the knowledge and skills developed in entry- and mid-level IT security positions to achieve their career goals. To become security auditors, individuals need 3-5 years' experience in general information technology or information technology security. Senior security auditors have more than five years of field experience.
Security auditors benefit from industry certifications and continue on to graduate degrees in the field. A master's degree in cybersecurity, information assurance, or information systems auditing enhances field knowledge and skills.
Cybersecurity certifications demonstrate expertise in security auditing. The information systems auditor certification, provided through ISACA, focuses on information systems controls, vulnerability detection, and compliance documentation. DRI International, a nonprofit dedicated to preparing for and recovering from data disasters, offers two certified business continuity auditor programs, as well.
Top Required Skills for a Security Auditor
A bachelor's degree in information technology, computer science, or a related discipline introduces security analysts to basic technologies, theories, and practices in the field. Through experience, industry certifications, and continuing education programs, security analysts become experts in conducting audits across companies and organizations.
With strong analytical and critical-thinking skills, security auditors develop tests based on organizational policies and applicable government regulations. They apply industry standards, as well, creating comprehensive assessments of their organizations' security practices.
Security auditors know programming languages, like C++ and Java. They also use operating systems, such as WIndows and UNIX, and conduct analysis access control lists and IDEA software. Familiarity with auditing and network defense tools like Proofpoint, and Symantec ProxySG, and Advanced Secure Gateway allows security auditors to conduct efficient, thorough audits.
Security auditors understand industry data security regulations. Auditors who work in healthcare, insurance, and related medical organizations must ensure they comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, while individuals conducting audits in finance employ regulations established by bodies such as the Federal FInancial Institutions Examination Council.
Security auditors interview employees, obtain technical information, and assess audit results to prepare detailed, written reports. They relay their findings verbally, as well, offering suggestions for improvements, changes, and updates. Security auditors offer clear, concise information, thoroughly addressing all potential security gaps and weaknesses.
Objectivity, discipline, and attention to detail all lead to successful careers in security auditing. Both internal and external security auditors must understand how to identify threats and controls without bias. Security auditors who work alone need self-motivation to complete their tasks, but all security auditors must demonstrate acute attention to detail as they assess systems, log their findings, and create reports.
Security Auditor Salary
PayScale reports that security auditors earn a median annual salary exceeding $66,000. Entry-level security auditors earn roughly $58,000, while their mid-career counterparts take home more than $80,000. Senior-level security auditors earn nearly $106,000 annually.
Financial companies, like Ernst & Young and KPMG, LLP, offer the highest salaries to security auditors. Security auditors at KPMG, LLP -- the highest-paying employer to report to PayScale -- earned a median salary exceeding $69,000. Wholesale entities, such as Costco, and petroleum manufacturers, like Valero Energy, pay significantly lower wages to security auditing professionals. Costco paid its security auditors less than $58,000.
As computer and IT professionals, security auditors benefit from an estimated 12% growth in employment from 2018-2028. According to the BLS, computer and information technology occupations will add more than 500,000 positions by 2028.
With many of the same skills and duties as information security analysts, security auditors may experience similar positive growth. Far exceeding projections for the computer and information technology field, information security analysts will expand by 32% from 2018-2028.
Top industries for information security analysts include financial services and computer systems design. Companies and businesses in these sectors conduct regular security audits, which proves promising for individuals with expertise in the field.
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