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Why you need a data audit trail

August 2, 2022

Do you know who has access to your data – and what they’re doing with it? When it comes to protecting the integrity of your data and your business, there’s no substitute for a comprehensive data audit trail. 

From critical infrastructure to online shopping, data is the lifeblood of the digital economy. But that data only has value if its authenticity can be guaranteed, which is why it’s important to be able to track its provenance, and document any changes made along the way. 

Here’s why you need a data audit trail, and how it can protect your business. 

What is a data audit trail? 

The idea of an audit trail isn’t unique to the digital age. It’s a concept with roots in finance and accounting, where companies have long been required to keep manual paper trails to document their transactions and procedures. 

Today, it’s important for all companies with a digital footprint to be able to track their data. A data audit trail is a detailed record of all the activity related to a piece of data – it can tell you who accessed a file and when they accessed it, and it can track any activity that relates to the file and any modifications and alterations any user made to the file. 

A data audit trail provides transparency, and helps to ensure the security of sensitive information. If, for instance, you had a document that required an electronic signature, a data audit trail could tell you exactly when the document was signed, by which user, and whether or not any changes were made to the document afterwards. 

For a data audit trail to have value, it’s crucial that it can’t be modified. If records can be changed after the fact by someone attempting to cover their tracks, they’re worthless, in terms of providing integrity and validity. 

The information tracked should also be structured in a clear and accessible format that can be easily understood, and the trail should only be accessible by the owner of the data – and anyone they choose to share it with. 

How does a data audit trail benefit your business? 

The transparency that comes with a data audit trail is useful for a number of reasons. 

Firstly, the mere existence of a data audit trail encourages user accountability. Knowing that their steps can be traced back to them – and that these steps can’t be altered or deleted from the record – is likely to make users put more thought into how they handle data, and take more care in following best cybersecurity practices. 

Rightly or wrongly, the fact is that people tend to behave better when they know they’re being watched. So a user is far less likely to delete, modify or utilise a file in a way they shouldn’t if they know every action that relates to that file is being monitored and accounted for. 

A data audit trail can also be used in legal proceedings to prove the validity of a specific action, such as an electronic signature, and it can be used to demonstrate compliance. If there’s any question about how a particular piece of data has been handled, you can simply point to your audit trail – a particularly useful feature at a time when legislation is being introduced around the world that raises the stakes for data protection and allows for stiffer penalties for data breaches. 

Most importantly, if a file is handled improperly, a data audit trail enables you to get to the bottom of it and find out who’s responsible, without the need for a lengthy investigation. 

In the event of a breach, you can use a data audit trail to look for unusual activity and identify when the attack occurred. If you’re hit with a ransomware attack, for instance, cybercriminals will encrypt your data, and hold that data hostage until you agree to pay a ransom. Even if you pay the ransom, there’s no guarantee you’ll actually get your data back. 

But if you have a comprehensive data audit trail, you can look for the earliest signs of a breach – and if you have the capability, you can then roll back your data to a previous state, before the suspicious activity occurred and before any data was lost. This enables you to recover from what could have been a company-killing disaster with your data intact. 

You can also look at your audit trail to determine how the breach occurred. Armed with that information, you can put new security procedures in place to improve your data practices and close off those entry points to attackers. 

The ultimate audit trail 

Cryptoloc’s technology protects the confidentiality and integrity of documents stored online by combining three different encryption algorithms into one multi-layer process that has never been breached. This technology has been deployed across a wide range of applications, including our file storage and document management solution, Cryptoloc Cloud.  

Users of Cryptoloc Cloud are given access to a system-generated audit trail, which records all actions related to each document stored with Cryptoloc, including time and date stamps. 

These records can’t be altered, giving users complete confidence in the integrity of their files, including legal agreements, funds transfer records, financial reconciliations, contracts, estate documents, personal records and deeds of ownership. 

Better yet, with Cryptoloc Cloud, every previous version of every file can be accessed by the file owner at any time. Different versions of the same file can also be shared with different third parties. 

These audit and versioning features provide proof of a file’s chain of custody, as well as the identity of anyone who’s ever accessed it, and an immutable record of any changes that were made to it. This enables Cryptoloc users to produce verifiable versions of a file at the time it was uploaded, updated, shared or signed.

With a comprehensive audit trail that can’t be altered, there’s no way for any user actions to slip between the cracks, ensuring full transparency and accountability when it comes to your data. 

Big Brother is watching – but in this case, he’s on your side. 

Learn more about how you can use Cryptoloc to store files with a comprehensive data audit trail and get started with your free account here