Author Archives: ITauditSecurity

About ITauditSecurity

Mack is an IT auditor and author of the ITauditSecurity blog for IT, audit, and security professionals. The blog provides HOW-TOs, analysis, and humor.

Shatter Silos to Identify More Risk

If you want to increase the effectiveness of your audits and find risks that haven’t been identified before, you need to shatter your silos so you can identify more risk.

Too often, audits are performed on one process, one category, or one system: Earning Commissions, Windows Servers, or Wire Transfer. Each one of those is a separate silo (one for oats, one for corn, one for rice).

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Software Components NOT Removed from Servers

left over partsWhile installing and configuring some new software on my Windows server, I noticed that the IT department forgot to remove some previous software components from my server.

I remember seeing the notice that the software was being uninstalled and replaced by another package.

I could have removed the left over components myself (I am admin on the server), but I wanted to see if they would ever be removed. Did the Windows server team forget about this, or did the team not concern itself with such things? Maybe the procedures don’t include a process to ensure all components are removed.

I waited about 2 months, but the components were not removed.

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ACL Table Already Open error message

acl table leggyOh, I hate the Table Already Open ACL error message with a passion.

And the Command Cancelled message (see the end of this post regarding that message).

Usually, it means I did something stupid, and I can figure out what, and fix it pretty fast.

Sometimes I have to scratch my head for quite some time before I figure it out.

I wrote a post in 2017 about Deleting ACL Table Covers A Multitude of Sins. This post is an expansion of that post, but mainly focuses on the “Table Already Open” error.

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My Favorite ACL Tricks

Here’s a couple of my favorite ACL tricks & treats that I use frequently to get me through the day a little faster and a little less frustrated.

These tricks are the kind that they don’t teach you in class or in tutorials (at least I’ve never learned any of them there; maybe I was in the bathroom during that session); I either figured them out on my own or had someone say, “Let me show you something.”


The Command Line

When I train someone in ACL, the command line is one of the first bonus items to which I draw their attention. The command line allows you to run individual ACL commands without using the ACL menu or scripts.

To open the command line: in the menu bar, click Window, Command Line. This will appear:

You can run most ACL commands from the command line, such as OPEN a table, ASSIGN a variable value, and lots more (the commands can be entered in lower/upper/camel case, but I use uppercase in this post to help them stand out).

My 2 most frequently used command are listed below.

DISPLAY – list the fields in a table, along with their start position, length, and more.

To run this command, 1) open the table you want to run this command against, and 2) enter the command in yellow in the command line, and press Enter.

Note that the last line shows you a computed field and the formula behind it.

DISPLAY VARIABLES – list all currently active variables, their type/format, and their values.

To run the following command, just enter it in the command line, and press Enter.

Note that user-defined variables (v_record and v_table) are shown, along with system variables (OUTPUTFOLDER and WRITE1). If you’re not familiar with ACL system variables, look them up in the ACL help file (it will be worth your time).

Note that 2 of the variables are character (C) type and 2 are numeric (N).

This command is extremely helpful when you are troubleshooting variables.

Bonus: Instead of DISPLAY, you can type DIS; instead of DISPLAY VARIABLES, you can type DIS VAR. Much shorter!

Bonus #2: Another useful use of the command line is to enter variable values. For example, if you have a NOTIFY command at the end of a script that will send an email if v_Run_Notify = “Y”, you can enter v_Run_Notify = “N” in the command line and press Enter to change the variable value and prevent the NOTIFY command from running while you test changes to your script.

Open a Table You Can’t Find

Sometimes I can’t find a table because I don’t remember (or know) which ACL folder it is hiding in (the folder in your project, not a Windows folder on your hard drive).

If you know the name of the table, you can just type OPEN <tablename> and press Enter (where <tablename> is the name of the table you want to open). When I don’t remember the table name or I’m too lazy to type it out, I copy the name from the ACL log or a script that uses it, and copy it to the command line.

When the table opens, you can then see what folder the table was hiding in (the folder is not shown in screenshot below).

Clear the Command Line

When you use the command line a lot, you have to clear it before entering another command. Instead of backspacing and deleting the text, or highlighting and deleting the text, just click the X at the far right.

Likewise, instead of pressing Enter after entering a command, you can click the checkmark.

Table History

When you’re working on a big project that contains many different tables, sometimes it’s hard to remember how that table was created. Or you haven’t opened the ACL project in a while, or you have to troubleshoot or review a project someone else created.

So what table(s) were used to create that table, and what filters/joins were used to create it? How many records did the original table contain?

I used to hunt through the ACL log or the scripts to find all that info, but for the most part, it’s all in the table history.

To access a table’s history, 1) open the table you’re interested in, and 2) from the menu bar, select Tools, Table History. You’ll see something like this:

The first line shows the original table (PcardTransactions) and the FILTER used. The second line shows the filtered data (all fields) was extracted to a new table (PCardUSA).

The third line shows number of records in the original table (Input) and the fourth line shows the number of resulting records (Output) in the extracted table.

If a JOIN was used, the table history would list the primary and secondary tables as well as the JOIN command parameters used.

The other nice thing is that you can take a screenshot of the table history and use it for documentation or evidence.

Bonus: Instead of selecting Tools, History from the menu, you can type DIS HIS in the command line, and press ENTER. Same results!

If you have some ACL tricks up your sleeve, let me know.

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Quote: Not Concerned about General Ledger Changes

Last week I was meeting with one of our company’s Accounts Payable clerks, who told me she was not concerned about some upcoming General Ledger changes.

2 changes that were submitted by developers on her behalf.

2 changes she didn’t know anything about, so she didn’t consider them her problem.

This post is a Quote of the Weak post. For more info on these types of posts, see the Quote of the Weak topic under About.

 

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AI Marketing Failure/Follow-up Failure

I’ve received an artificial intelligence (AI) marketing failure in the mail recently. Well, I think it was an AI failure; it sure was a marketing failure.

About a month ago, I received a letter saying that I could save a lot of money on my 15-year mortgage. It gave my current rate, the rate I could get if I refinanced, and the amount of the new payment.

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Artificial Intelligence will NOT take over the World

I recently posted about 4 common AI fallacies or myths regarding artificial intelligence (AI). I wanted to dive a little deeper into some of these myths, and discuss why AI will NOT take over the world.

First of all, it is easy to fear what we don’t really understand, especially when some people push the narrative of computers becoming ‘aware’, which would result in them dominating the human race.

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4 Common AI Fallacies

AI

An article posted on MachineLearningTimes.com discusses 4 common fallacies or myths regarding artificial intelligence (AI). These misconceptions lead to many misunderstandings and fear* regarding AI.

Wikipedia defines AI as “intelligence demonstrated by machines, unlike the natural intelligence displayed by humans and animals, which involves consciousness and emotionality.”

I like Investopedia’s definition better*: “the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions.”

In the post, Melanie Mitchell, Davis Professor of Complexity at the Santa Fe Institute and author of Artificial Intelligence: A Guide For Thinking Humans, lists the 4 most common fallacies that I would summarize as follows:

  1. Narrow intelligence (being really good at one task) leads to general intelligence (being good at many things, the way humans are). In other words, computers will become super-smart and take over the world.
  2. Easy tasks are hard to automate/hard tasks are easy to automate.
  3. AI works like the human mind. This comes from using ‘human-y” terms like learn, understand, read, and think, which leads some to believe AI can achieve humanness.
  4. Intelligence is all in the AI brain. In other words, “the right algorithms and data…can create AI that lives in servers and matches human intelligence.”

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Quote of the Weak: We Have a Plan to Address that Risk

As an auditor, I am told all the time by the business that “we have a current project plan that is addressing that risk”, which implies that I shouldn’t waste everyone’s time writing up an audit issue regarding the problem.

It means that the risk isn’t as big as it appears.

Really?

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Quote of the Weak: No end goal

The other day I was in a meeting to discuss a new analytics project and discovered the team had no end goal.

When the discussion started with the software to be used, I knew they were already off track.

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How to get a Data Science job with little or no experience

data scientistWhen you’re trying to get a data science job, you need experience, but to get experience, you need a job, right? Not always, and this is the case for many jobs, not just data science.

But in data science, you can generate the experience you need yourself.

You might have seen one of my earlier posts, How to get an IT Audit job with little or no experience. Let me say from the beginning that getting an IT audit job with no experience is easier than a data science job with no experience. But according to an article from KDnuggets, it can be done. And like everything else, it takes hard work.

The article defines data science as “an interdisciplinary field that focuses on solving problems and gathering information.” 

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Critical Thinking? How about just Thinking?

It seems to me that auditing as a profession is not full of critical thinkers, much less thinkers.

If you read my last post about auditor judgment, I’m struggling with some of the junior auditors that I’m working with.

But I’m also struggling with quite a few of the senior auditors that I work with, those that are my peers (which means they peer at what I’m doing and how I’m doing it and then continue on their merry paths).

I came to this opinion based on most of the auditors I’ve met through the years across many companies, small and big, and across sectors, including public service. And also by the many articles calling for the profession to do more critical thinking, and yes, it is needed. 

But let’s start with plain old thinking (walk before run).

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Quote of the Weak – Auditor Judgment

We recently acquired a new data analysis tool in our department, which prompted some of our newbie auditors to share their misunderstanding of auditor judgment and basic data analysis.

A group of less experienced and newer auditors were selected to try out the new tool before it was rolled out department-wide.

 If you’re not familiar with my ‘Quote of the Weak’ series, I described it briefly in About. For a list of posts in this series, see here. If you haven’t seen one of these posts before, it’s because I haven’t had one in a while…

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Create a Help Desk for Data

analytic metrics, numbersCompanies need to create a help desk for data, similar to the help desk they created for hardware, software, application, network, and user problems.

Can you imagine if companies didn’t have a computer help desk and each department had figure out their own computer issues? If each department had to find, load, configure, and troubleshoot their own hardware and software?

But isn’t that how most companies operate when it comes to data and data projects?

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Some Periodic Reviews Provide Little Assurance

securityI’ve written before how some periodic reviews provide management with little assurance, but management doesn’t realize how little.

My previous post focused mostly on server access. In this post, I want to look at normal user access.

For example, let’s assume your company has a policy that states that all IDs must be assigned within an Active Directory group. In other words, IDs are assigned to groups, and groups are assigned to assets; IDs should not be assigned directly to an asset.

Assume the control you are testing states that user access is reviewed annually.

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Blogging about Internal Audit (10 tips)

A looooooong time ago, Leeann asked me to write a post about blogging about internal audit, so here goes. Most of this post applies to blogging on any subject, too.

First of all, there is a dearth of good internal audit blogs, and even less good IT audit blogs. So if you’re thinking about, we sure could use you in the blogsphere!

Writing a blog is hard work, and you often get tired of it. Life finds a way to get in the way. This is my 11th year of the blog (see the first post here), which, ironically, was written by skyyler. Fortunately, we’ve gotten better since that first year.

Blogging about internal audit is like a moon shining in a dark place… here’s my 10 tips…

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Mack-the-Auditor Gets Audited! Part 3

Review ACL log

This is the third of 3 posts; this post describes how I audited the auditors and my perspective on the whole thing.

Read the first post (background) and the second post (audit results).

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Mack-the-Auditor Gets Audited! Part 2

Review ACL log

This is the second of 3 posts; this post describes the audit, some speed bumps, and the audit results.

Read the first post here, which provides the background on the audit and the audit’s scope.

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Mack-the-Auditor Gets Audited! Part 1

Review ACL logUsually, I’m the one doing the auditing, but this time, I (Mack) was the one who was audited.

It was a great experience for me.

Well, sort of. No one likes being audited (ahem). But it gave me a fresh perspective of how others feel when I audit them.

This is the first of 3 posts; this post contains some background info on the project that was audited, and the second one discusses the audit and the results, and in the third post, I describe my perspective on the whole thing, and some takeaways.

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Why this pic on this blog?

Have you ever wondered why I selected the picture above to represent my blog?

This picture illustrates so many aspects and nuances of this blog’s theme.

Here’s your chance to put on your thinking cap, and based on what skyyler and I have written about over the years, tell me what YOU think it represents.

As the comments roll in, we’ll comment on them.

Then, after a few weeks, I’ll peel back my brain and give you a peek inside as to what my reasons were.

Not sure how many of you will take me up on the challenge, but here goes…

 

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Don’t Miss all the Free Advice & Info

free adviceWhile you are checking out my blog, make sure you don’t miss all the free advice that’s laying around.

And I’m not talking about the blog posts (those are good too).

Whether you a new reader or you’ve been around since the beginning (2009!), when you find a post you like, don’t forget to do the following after you read it:

  1. Look in the upper right corner of the website for my Quick Links. This will take you to multiple posts on these subjects.
  2. Use the Search Box to search for key words.
  3. When you read a post, check out the Comments. We respond to a lot of questions and provide information that isn’t in the blog posts.
  4. Leave a question of your own in Comments. We will respond.

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Auditor Struggles, Part 4

This is Part 4 of a Case File series that describes how real auditors tried to apply questionable methods to auditing and data profiling. See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Does the Process X team provide metrics around their process?” I asked.

“Yes,” the most senior auditor replied, showing me the web page where the Process X metrics were displayed.

After reviewing the page briefly, I said, “I see they do metrics by month. You have a year’s data; are you planning to understand how they prepare their metrics and re-calculate them to see if you get the same numbers?”

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Auditor Struggles, Part 3

This is Part 3 of a Case File series that describes how real auditors tried to apply questionable methods to auditing and data profiling. See Part 1 and Part 2.

I looked at the third page of the handout and asked, “What is this?”

“A list of Active Directory (AD) groups and the user IDs in each group. I searched AD for any group containing the system name,” the junior auditor said, “and identified these 6 groups. I then downloaded all the members of these groups from AD into Excel.”

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Auditor Struggles, Part 1

Some auditors struggle with basic auditing. So when these auditors try to data analysis, well you can imagines how that goes.

I recently met with a team of auditors to give them input on what data profiling would be appropriate to perform. And what analytics might be insightful.

This is Part 1 of a 4-part Case File series that describes how real auditors tried to apply questionable methods to auditing and data profiling. Do not try these methods at home or work. Don’t even dream about them, awake or asleep. 

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xLookup Coming to Excel Near You!

Microsoft announced that they are adding a big brother to vLookup named xLookup.

The best things about xLookup: 1) it fixes some of the limitations of vLookup, 2) it is easy to understand and use, and 3) it replaces hLookup also.

Also, vLookup and hLookup are not going anyway, so if any of your colleagues struggle to learn new things, they can continue to use them as is.

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A Sneaky Way to Analyze IT Controls

When auditors need to identify and understand IT controls, they search the company intranet, review policies, look for Github repositories, review inventories, schedule meetings, and analyze IT asset data.

I stumbled on a better way to get insight into the IT controls in my company, and I didn’t have to email anyone, do any research, or frankly, anything outright. The IT controls came after me.

Fortunately, the IT controls were blind to the fact that I am an IT auditor. To them, I was just an ordinary bloke. But that didn’t last long (more on that later).

It Began a Few Years Back

It all started a couple years ago when I was building the infrastructure required to support our data analytic efforts in internal audit.

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Before You Analyze Data

Before you start analyzing data, you need to 1) know you have the right data, and 2) understand the data and the process that produced it.

This post assumes, of course, that you already accomplished some of the hardest tasks already: figuring out what data you need, where to get it, and actually getting the data. Good luck with that. :)

This post is part of the Excel: Basic Data Analytic series.

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How to Profile Data

Before you analyze data, you should profile it.

Otherwise, your analysis may not be too broad, too narrow, or you may miss some important insights or errors.

This post is part of the Excel: Basic Data Analytic series.

Data profiling is developing a profile of your data, just as facial profiles of a person, taken from various angles, helps you size up a person’s nose, identify whether his chin is sagging, and how far apart the person’s eyes are.

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Quote of the Weak – Clean Data Manually

clean data manuallyIf you are in IT, audit, or security (or any other job requiring data analysis), you should NOT be cleaning data manually.

Let me share a recent experience with you….

A young IT auditor texted me at work and asked for some Active Directory user account data that I capture automatically every week, using some scheduled ACL scripts.

If you’re not familiar with my ‘Quote of the Weak’ series, I described it briefly in About. For a list of posts in this series, see here.

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Job Automation Quiz

automation quiz

Test how much you know about automation technologies by taking the job automation quiz at Financial Management magazine.

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ACL Robotics is NOT Robotics

RPA the robotContrary to what ACL has been touting as their new ‘robotics’ feature, it is NOT robotics process automation (RPA).

[The ‘robotics’ feature is due out later in 2018. It appears to be ACL’s latest attempt to get you to use their GRC software.]

ACL, via John Verver, defines the term this way in his RPA article: “The idea is a relatively simple one: get computers to perform tasks normally performed by humans, and cut resource and time requirements for many repetitive activities.” Continue reading

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ACL Tip: Be Careful when Renaming Tables

acl table leggy




When you need to rename ACL tables, be careful to also rename the associated .fil file also.

Otherwise, you (or your ACL script) might get confused. You might delete the wrong table or .fil file, and create a head-scratching problem.

I know because I confused myself.

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Bank Closes Account, Doesn’t Know Why

bank deposit boxRecently, a large U.S. bank was found to have created unauthorized accounts; a similar bank closed one of my accounts, but doesn’t know why it happened.

More than a decade ago, I opened a safety deposit box at a local bank (a very large U.S. bank that all U.S. residents would have heard of). This wasn’t my regular bank, as my bank didn’t have such boxes; I only went to this other bank when I needed to access my safety deposit box, which was not often.

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Kyle and a Conversation about Analytics

kyle bitsA while back, a reader named Kyle and I had a conversation about analytics.

It started with his reading my Excel:Basic Data Analytics post where I list a number of procedures that anyone can do in Excel.

Kyle said he was expecting some “super sophisticated process & methodology that works like magic.”

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Quick Introduction to ACL

If you’ve ever wondered what Audit Command Language (ACL) is, here’s a quick way to find out.

ACL has provided a quick, one-page introduction to ACL. And I mean quick.

It doesn’t explain a lot, but it gives you a quick peek at the basic user interface.

You could call it the ACL Overview for Dummies.

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Analytics Blog Debate Heating Up

A debate on this blog over analytics and the future of internal audit is heating up.

A few readers, including our colleague across the sea, AuditMonkey, have dove in, and skyller and I have responded in kind.

Well, not exactly. AuditMonkey has been more kind, to his credit. But I digress.

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FREE Fraud Investigation Quiz

Quiz yourself to discover how much you know about fraud investigations.free quiz

While you may not be tasked with leading an investigation, you might need to work with those working on such an investigation. Either way, do you know the basics?

This quick, 5-question quiz from the Journal of Accountancy will indicate what you know AND what you don’t. And whether you get each answer right or wrong, the answers provide additional information. Continue reading

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Deleting ACL Table Covers A Multitude of Sins

Delete ACL table problemI’m not sure why, but sometimes deleting an ACL table or two covers a multitude of sins, errors, or just plain weird behavior.

No, I don’t get any error messages. That’s the strange part.

I’m talking about strange ACL behavior that you can’t troubleshoot by reviewing the log.

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Robotics to Replace ACL, Part 2

robot replace ACLPreviously I wrote Will Robotics (RPA) Replace ACL?

The short answer is no, and I describe the reasons in that post.

But that doesn’t mean someone won’t try.

Shortly after I wrote my original robotics post, I encountered robotics vs. ACL, part 2.

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Security Camera Saves Auditor $60

video camerA security camera helped this auditor recoup $60 recently, 2 months after I lost it.

You might recall my previous encounter with security cameras in Do Your Security Cameras Give Good Customer Service?

I was back in the same store, but this time I had a different problem.

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New IT Auditor (and WannaBEs) Master List

Here’s a list of all my posts to-date related to becoming or growing as an IT Auditor, all in one place for easy reference.
I’ll add other posts as they are written.

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Use LinkedIn to get an IT Audit job

If you’re looking for an IT Audit job, here’s how to use LinkedIn to get noticed.

new-auditorIn a nutshell, you need to enhance your LinkedIn profile so that everyone knows you’re working hard at learning IT auditor skills.

If you’re already working as an IT auditor, use these suggestions to get noticed more and move ahead (or into another company with more opportunities).

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Why Internal Auditors Should Care about Robotic Process Automation

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Audit Management Sometimes Sucks

see no evilWhen internal auditors (or those pretending to be such) do poor work and don’t follow the appropriate audit and IT standards, they are unprofessional. However, I put the blame at the feed of audit management.

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How to get an IT Audit job with little or no experience

I get asked all the time, “How do I get a job in IT audit with little or no experience?”

When Michael Onuoha asked me this question (see here), I thought I’d share my response with my readers.

You’ll find these same answers scattered around the blog as I answered people in the past, but I thought I’d pull it all together into one place.

Breaking into any field can be difficult, but it can be done. Especially when the demand for IT auditors is so high.

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Top 10 Reasons Why Being an IT Auditor is So Hard

tenBefore you choose a career as an IT auditor, consider my top 10 reasons why being an IT auditor is so hard.

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Careers After IT Auditing

life-after-it-auditRecently, a reader named Porak asked me what careers IT auditors can move to when they leave auditing (see the original question here).

I couldn’t find much on the Internet on this topic, but there’s a lot of options.

I’ve actually worked in quite a few of the areas mentioned below…

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Do you have User IDs Hidden in the Cloud?

hidden-in-the-cloudIt’s 10 o’clock in the cloud. Do you know where all your user IDs are? Are some hidden in the cloud?

Cloud security if often cloudy because it’s not on premise where you can control it easier.

That means you may have powerful user IDs in the cloud that your security team knows nothing about, which means….

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