Preparing your organization for an external audit can be a difficult and time-consuming process. One of the hardest parts: collecting audit evidence. 

External audits are examinations performed by an independent third party that verify your compliance with regulations or industry standards. The auditor’s findings, if negative, can result in fines against your organization, other regulatory enforcement action, civil lawsuits, and other ordeals. 

To perform the audit, your auditor will rely on evidence of your internal controls, policies, procedures, and practices, that you provide. You can prepare for audits by taking a number of steps, such as:

  • Understanding the standard or regulation in question;
  • Identifying subject matter experts (SMEs);
  • Allocating sufficient resources to SMEs;
  • Determining internal procedures; and
  • Gathering documentation of your procedures. 

Gathering documentation is arguably the most important of these steps. That doesn’t mean it’s easy.

Big Data and Data Analytics: Why They’re Important

Big data, or data sets that are too large and complex to be processed by traditional methods, is changing the way the world uses business information. 

While the act of accessing and storing large amounts of information for analytics has been around for a long time, the concept of big data gained momentum in the early 2000s when industry analyst Doug Laney articulated the now-mainstream definition of big data as the “three Vs”:

  • Volume: Organizations collect data from a variety of sources, including business transactions, smart devices, industrial equipment, videos, social media, and more. 
  • Velocity: Data streams in to businesses at an unprecedented speed and must be handled in a timely manner. Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, sensors, and smart meters are among the devices producing these torrents of data, which often need to be analyzed in near-real time
  • Variety: Data comes in all types of formats, from structured, numeric data in traditional databases, to unstructured text documents, emails, videos, audios, stock ticker data, and financial transactions. 

What organizations do with big data matters. But without data analytics, the information is meaningless.  

Data analytics can be either predictive or prescriptive. Predictive analytics uses machine learning, modeling, and data mining to take a “best guess” about what events might happen next, based on what already did happen according to the data. Prescriptive analytics then offers possible courses of action, based on the findings from predictive analytics. Prescriptive analytics helps the organization to prioritize its actions and make decisions. 

Using both types of analytics together, then, organizations can use their big data to sharpen risk assessments and prioritize mitigation strategies. These insights can lead to better decisions and strategic business moves; reducing costs and time spent on projects; making smarter decisions; and developing and optimizing products and services.

Combining big data with high-powered analytics can also help with tasks such as determining the root causes of failures, issues, and defects in near-real time; and intercepting fraudulent behavior before it affects your organization. 

Big data is (as the name implies) too big to analyze manually; and to monitor your systems and networks continuously, you need technology’s help. Your internal auditors need tools, as well, to determine what has happened, what is currently happening, and what is likely to happen. 

Using Splunk for Big Data Analytics

Splunk is one tool large organizations often use for searching, monitoring, and analyzing machine-generated big data. 

Capturing, indexing, and correlating real-time data in a searchable repository, solutions from Splunk Inc. can generate graphs, reports, alerts, dashboards and visualizations to make machine data accessible throughout your organization: data patterns, metrics, problem diagnostics, and intelligence for business operations. 

Used for application management, security and compliance, and business and web analytics, Splunk collects and analyzes high volumes of machine-generated data using a standard API to connect directly to applications and devices. It streamlines big-data analysis for effective governance, risk management, and compliance (GRC).

Using Splunk Solutions for GRC 

One Splunk security information and event management (SIEM) solution, Splunk Enterprise Security (ES), analyzes security data from your networks and endpoints including malware, vulnerabilities, and identity and access information. Giving teams the insights they need to quickly detect and respond to internal and external attacks, Splunk ES simplifies threat management and minimizes risk. 

Splunk also offers a Google integration, and received FedRAMP authorization from the General Services Administration (GSA) FedRAMP Program Management Office (PMO) at the moderate level in 2019. Splunk Cloud debuted on the Google Cloud Platform in 2020. 

While users of Splunk Cloud or Splunk Enterprise can search data and generate reports directly using Splunk Web, a Splunk app provides a more customized experience, targeting a specific set of data for a specific purpose. 

A Splunk app is a packaged solution that runs in Splunk Cloud or Splunk Enterprise and contains a collection of knowledge objects and extensions for a specific technology or use case. 

The Splunk community can use Splunkbase to find and upload public app packages for other Splunk customers to download and install to Splunk Cloud or Splunk Enterprise

Organizations already using Splunk for big data analytics are a step ahead in the external audit process. If you were to record all the time and effort spent on evidence collection for an external audit, the return on investment in a GRC tool that can integrate with Splunk becomes clear. 

How ZenConnect Helps Automate Splunk Evidence Collection

The Splunk ZenConnect plugin for ZenGRC, for example, allows you to pull audit evidence from Splunk, saving you time and money. And ZenConnect provides endless flexibility in the kinds of evidence you can source. 

With the push of a button, ZenConnect’s evidence “fetchers” reach into Splunk and pull evidence into ZenGRC so you don’t have to. Instead, you’ll be free to focus on the fundamental issues of compliance—and you can eliminate the tedious tasks that can make compliance feel like a burden. 

Easing communication and enabling continuous documentation and insight, ZenGRC makes continuous auditing and reporting easy. 

With ZenConnect for ZenGRC, you can seamlessly not just Splunk, but integrate all your business applications to make your organization’s evidence collection process more simple and effective. 

ZenConnect gathers evidence from a variety of data sources, integrating automatically with any of these popular business applications:

  • Jira
  • ServiceNow
  • AWS
  • Splunk
  • Slack
  • Tableau
  • Qualys
  • Amazon s3
  • OneDrive
  • Box
  • OneLogin
  • Okta
  • Microsoft
  • DUO
  • Centrify 

Plus, ZenGRC’s customizable APIs let you add on applications of your choice to your integrated GRC stack.

Worry-free risk and compliance management are the Zen way. Contact us today for a free consultation, and learn more about how our Splunk integration for ZenGRC can save your organization time and money, and enhance your compliance program.