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What is Audit Trail?

Audit Trail

What is Audit Trail?

Audit trails helps in the maintenance of a record related to system activity by means of system and application processes as well as by user activity of systems and applications.  In coincidence with appropriate tools and procedures, audit trails can help in detection of security violations, performance related problems, and flaws in applications.  This article studies on audit trails as a technical control and researches the meaning of audit trail, the benefits and objectives of audit trails, the types of audit trails, and tools used for audit trail.

Meaning of Audit Trail

An audit trail includes a series of records of computer events, about an operating system, an application, or related user activities.  A computer system may have many audit trails, each related to a certain type of activity.  Auditing involves a review and analysis process of management, operational, and technical controls.  The auditor will be able to get important information about activity on a computer system from the audit trail.  An audit trail recovers the auditability of the computer system.

Benefits and Objectives of Audit Trail


  • Individual Accountability of Enterprises


Audit trails are technical mechanisms that help a manager record individual accountability.  By advising users that they are personally responsible for their actions, which are tracked by an audit trail that logs user activities, managers can assist to promote proper user behavior. Users are less probable to try to circumvent security policy if they know that their actions will be recorded in an audit log.


  • Reconstruction of Events in Enterprises


Audit trails can also be utilized to reconstruct events after a problem has taken place.  Damage can be more easily be assessed by reviewing audit trails of system activity to identify how, when, and why normal operations ceased. Audit trail analysis can frequently differentiate between operator-induced errors observed during which the system may have performed exactly as instructed or system-created errors that arise from an inadequately tested piece of replacement code.  


  • Intrusion Detection in Enterprises


Intrusion detection refers to the process of identifying attempts to enter a system and gain unauthorized access.  If audit trails have been planned and implemented to record suitable information, they can help in intrusion detection.  Though usually thought of as a concurrent effort, intrusions can be detected in real time by audit trails, by reviewing audit records.

  • Problem Analysis in Enterprises

Audit trails may also be utilized as online tools to help recognize problems other than intrusions as they occur.  This is often referred to as instantaneous auditing or monitoring.  If a system or application is deemed to be important to an organization’s business or mission, instantaneous auditing may be practice to check the status of these processes.

Types of Audit Trail

A system can preserve several different audit trails at the same time.  There are characteristically two kinds of audit records maintained as part of the process of audit trail:

  • Event based logs typically contain records describing system events, application events, or user events.  
  • Keystroke monitoring is the procedure utilized to view or record both the keystrokes entered by a computer user and the computer’s response throughout an interactive session.  

Tools Used for Audit Trail

Many types of tools have been developed to help to lessen the quantity of information contained in audit records concerning audit trail, as well as to collect useful information from the raw data.  Particularly on larger systems, audit trail software can generate very large files, which can be very difficult to analyze by hand. Trends or variance-detection tools look for anomalies in either user or system behavior with reference to audit trail.  

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