What is an Audit Trail Report and Why Does it Matter?

The In's and Out's of Audit Trail Reports

Audit trails are defined as electronic records of procedures or events as they chronologically occurred. An audit trail is a helpful component of historical and supportive documentation, especially regarding security authentication and mitigation.

The records that compose an audit trail are collected in a data log. An audit trail report is defined as the compilation of those records.

Information commonly contained within audit records include a description of an event and the date and time at which it occurred. While some audit records have IP addresses or information about the device used to access information, others provide a less specific report of the systems, applications, and users involved.

More complex audit trails may even pinpoint specific actions undertaken by users within systems or applications. For example, any changes made by users or inappropriate actions performed may be red flagged by IT staff for further investigation.

The Importance of Audit Trails

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A primary benefit of a trail report is that it can be easily supplied to those who wish to view audit information. Concerned parties that wish to review audit data can range from a compliance officer to a fraud investigator.

Different industry types utilize audit trails in order to provide a record of changes made historically. Examples of how audit trails are used by different industry types range from certifying election results to recording transactions of a vendor.

Many businesses use audit trails for compliance adherence purposes or as a way to supplement claims of operational integrity. All in all, a trail report keeps a company more organized and informed about its own business processes and procedures.

How Audit Trails are Used

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Audit trails are used in a variety of different business best practices and operations. Examples of how audit trails are used include the following-

1. Fraud- Audit trails are absolutely crucial for identifying and disclosing fraudulent business activity. The ability to clearly view a date range in addition to any changes made to the trail supplies concrete evidence to concerned parties.

For example, an untrustworthy executive may have tried to view audit trail information when they sensed an increasing pressure in the workplace regarding security. Then, the business executive may have decided to make changes to try and avoid being caught engaging in fraudulent activity.

However, due to the ability to view changes made and interactions within the audit trail, even the savviest offenders would find themselves caught red-handed. As such, a company may choose to use audit trail data for everything ranging from initial employee termination to evidence for a criminal charge.

2. Disasters- Unfortunately, there are situations in which an audit trail report may become unavailable for a date range temporarily. Due to an unforeseen disaster, reports may be damaged or otherwise corrupted.

Thankfully, a trail report can be utilized to recreate transactions for a date range if a backup version exists. However, if there is no backup available, reconstruction may be the only option available for a business to recreate its transactions.

Reconstruction is recognized as a time and energy-consuming task. Most companies would prefer to aggressively avoid the reconstruction process whenever possible.

Due to technological advances, some software programs can be immensely helpful for reconstruction initiatives. Although the investment may feel lofty, the ability to recover and reconstruct transactional data is well worth it.

3. Identification- Even the most organized businesses may occasionally be unable to remember important information about a previous transaction. Or perhaps there arises a need for changes made to a specific previous transaction.

However, a business professional may find that they have absolutely no idea how to locate the missing transaction. Thankfully, accounting software programs will allow them to find lost audit trail information through search functions.

Search functions range depending on the specific accounting software that a business possesses. Some accounting software will even permit users to locate a transaction by searching a date range or user name.

4. Compliance- There is no business that operates outside of some type of regulation or compliance. However, dependent on geographic location and a range of other factors, some companies are more heavily monitored than others.

An audit trail report is generally recognized as a valid source for proving that compliance was met. Additionally, an audit trail report provides a record for concerned parties to easily view audit trail data.

Key Takeaways

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  • The ability to have an audit trail report available for review is immensely beneficial for many different business processes and operations.
  • Audit trail report use is a great way to keep a business organized, trustworthy, and compliant.

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