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Transparency has become a major strategic objective for organizations globally. Owing to both regulatory requirements and customer expectations, organizations are expected to undertake strict measures to ensure a chain of accountability internally. One such measure is an audit trail.
In the simplest of terms, an audit trail refers to a record that provides a complete history and the lifecycle of an entire event through an audit log, supportive documents, and artifacts associated with the event. Such a record is maintained over a period of time, providing greater insights into how a particular activity has been carried out across months, years, and even decades. Such details can be crucial for organizations for both regulatory and transparency purposes.
Read on to learn more about what makes an adequate audit trail, how it helps organizations address various compliance needs, and what best practices to adopt when implementing audit trails within an organization.
There are certain elements or features that constitute any effective audit trail system. These serve as the building blocks that help create a comprehensive record that documents all system activities across an organization. These elements include the following:
Some of the most important ways an audit trail ensures accountability within an organization include the following:
By far, the most effective yet simple way audit trails ensure accountability is by linking specific actions to specific individuals. By doing so, these individuals can be held responsible for any actions as a result of their actions. This discourages any unauthorized behavior while promoting accountability and vigilance within the organization.
By keeping all major systems documented, all changes to these systems, major or minor, can be tracked. Hence, in case a suspicious activity does occur, it can be helpful in mitigating the damage and restoring it to its original shape. Moreover, any alterations or suspicious activities can be identified promptly, preventing potential security breaches.
If a security incident occurs, audit trails provide a detailed sequence of events. These can be further investigated to enable swift actions to identify the cause of the incident and those directly and indirectly responsible for it. Furthermore, actions can be taken to mitigate any future risks.
For many organizations, audit trails may not be a matter of choice at all. Depending on which jurisdictions and industries an organization may operate in, audit trails might be a regulatory requirement. In such cases, audit trails act as a sort of compliance checkpoint necessary to reflect an organization’s adherence to all relevant regulatory obligations.
Some of the best practices related to audit trails include:
Automation promises a blend of both effectiveness and efficiency by taking out any chances of human error. Automating all or as many audit trail-related activities as possible ensures all relevant activities can be optimized for performance and deliver the best results possible.
Regular audit trail reviews help identify any potential anomalies, potential security threats, or areas for improvement in system processes proactively. Potential risks are not allowed to gestate for long and can be remediated promptly.
Just as it is important to have the most effective technology available deployed within an organization, it is equally important to ensure the employees who are supposed to use it are appropriately trained to do so. Educating employees on the importance of audit trails, how particular measures and mechanisms help in conducting audit trails, and how they can effectively leverage these measures and mechanisms is the key to reducing any security lapses.