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Re: [PEN-TEST] Evaluating Auditors Abilities
From: "Khan, Mansoor" <Mansoor.Khan () INVESTORSGROUP COM>
Date: Fri, 8 Sep 2000 09:08:33 -0500

I have seen some interesting comments shared on this topic and I agree
with most of them.  The issue of how to evaluate auditors
abilities/competency level is an interesting one.  In fact this is not
only true for auditors but also for other professionals who are willing
to provide their professional services to your organization.

We have already seen responses on how we should go about hiring some one
for pene testing or other engagements of this sort e.g. performing
reference checks, reviewing their credentials (resume etc.), their
clientele, etc.  One thing that I would like to point out is that
auditors or other security consultants are professionally required
(though not mandatory) to share their findings with their auditees
before reporting on them.  This step is considered to be a best
practice.  Being a professional auditor myself, I know we have always
done this with our auditees.  In some cases we also issue draft reports
and issue it only to the concerned individuals for discussions.  There
is a huge misconception that the more findings you have the better
auditor you are.

During the last two years, I have had the experience of hiring three
different consulting firms for assignments relating to security.  The
selection was made on the reputation of the firms, the professional
abilities of the individuals in their team, and reference checks.  Two
of these three firms are still in top 5 accounting firms.  The thrid one
is a small security consulting firm out in Alberta, Canada.  One of the
top five accounting firm that I had to deal with was BAD, to the extent
that we had to tell them about their weaknesses and the root cause of
their findings.  My impression was that it is not the firm that was bad
but the individuals working on the team.  However, my experience with
the other two team was not bad at all.  The individuals working for
their teams were very professional and knew about all the security
issues and were aware of all the false positives that these pene testing
tools spit out.

The reason I am sharing my experience with all of you is that you need
to do your best to ensure that you hire the right person but there are
no guarantees.  The only thing you can do to minimize the situation that
you had to encounter is to have "exit meetings" with your
auditors/security consultants and provide them with your feed back.

I hope this helps.

PS: David:  There is nothing wrong with hiring auditors for security
engagements.  What matters is the individual that you are hiring should
have the appropriate knowledge and experience.


From:  Derrick[SMTP:Derrick () ANEI COM]
Sent:  Wednesday, September 06, 2000 11:46 PM
Subject:       Evaluating Auditors Abilities

Dear Pen-Testers,

      Recently I underwent something that had me thinking about Security Auditing
companies and others (Big accounting firms that offer a side service of
auditing). Management decided that we needed to be audited by an outside
firm, which I am in full favor of. The problem came about in what an
un-named auditor did. Firewalls tend to cause false positives in some tests
and other anomalies that many auditors may not be aware of. So they
performed this audit which we did pick up and were aware of. What happened
next is what baffles me. The auditors did not understand the results that
nmap and other tools gave them. Near the end of the business day they
contact management proclaiming they have found numerous security issues and
even some backdoors in our network. After a long couple of days of testing
we found none of these issues were correct, and we then spent many hours and
several meetings explaining that the firm hired didn't seem to know what
they were doing. Management made the default comment of "We are paying them
a lot so they must be right, fix these problems". After several days of
explaining why they results were wrong and verifying the network we came out
to show that the auditors did in fact improperly interpret the results.
      The end result is management walks away wondering if they got ripped off or
if we were just trying to cover problems. It also caused a lot of overtime
and extra work for us to explain and prove the network to management. So the
end questions are these.

How can companies decide which auditors really do a decent job and are worth
their value ?
Are there any certifications or Industry groups out there or on the horizon
that will evaluate and endorse auditors ?
What is the best approach from a Network Admin position to counter end
results delivered by auditors if they seem to be in error ?
Has anyone else been through this, and is destined to get worse before
getting better ?

Thanks for any thoughts or comments,

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