Definition

compliance audit

What is a compliance audit?

A compliance audit is a comprehensive review of an organization's adherence to regulatory guidelines. Independent accounting, security or IT consultants evaluate the strength and thoroughness of compliance preparations. Auditors review security polices, user access controls and risk management procedures over the course of a compliance audit.

What, precisely, is examined in a compliance audit will vary depending upon whether an organization is a public or private company, what kind of data it handles and if it transmits or stores sensitive financial data. For instance, SOX requirements mean that any electronic communication must be backed up and secured with reasonable disaster recovery infrastructure. Healthcare providers that store or transmit e-health records, like personal health information, are subject to HIPAA requirements. Financial services companies that transmit credit card data are subject to PCI DSS requirements. In each case, the organization must be able to demonstrate compliance by producing an audit trail, often generated by data from event log management software.

Compliance auditors will generally ask CIOs, CTOs and IT administrators a series of pointed questions over the course of an audit. These may include what users were added and when, who has left the company, whether user IDs were revoked and which IT administrators have access to critical systems. IT administrators prepare for compliance audits using event log managers and robust change management software to allow tracking and documentation authentication and controls in IT systems. The growing category of GRC (governance, risk management and compliance) software enables CIOs to quickly show auditors (and CEOs) that the organization is in compliance and will not be not subject to costly fines or sanctions.

This was last updated in May 2010
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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