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Auditing Business Controls
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Business controls are those points in business processes where key activities occur The IS auditor needs to identify the key processes in an organization and to understand the controls that are in place or should be in place that govern the integrity of those processes While many business controls are supported by IT applications, the auditor also needs to take a business process perspective and understand the control points from a strictly process viewpoint This is necessary because, while controls may be automated by applications, personnel are still in control and responsible for the correct operation of business processes Further, processes, even when partly or entirely automated, must still be monitored and managed by staff or management And, these processes must be documented itself an important control NOTE For the IS auditor to overlook business controls and focus only on IT applications would be a disservice to the organization, for the auditor could miss the obvious control points in key business processes Remember, the IT system is not the process; instead, the IT system supports the process
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Application controls ensure that only valid data enters a system through input controls, that calculations yield only valid results, and that output data is valid The IS auditor needs to examine system documentation to understand internal and external data flows and calculations The IS auditor also needs to examine system records to ensure that all changes made to the system were authorized There are several aspects of application activity that need to be examined; these are described in the remainder of this section
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The IS auditor should audit an application and follow transactions from end to end The IS auditor should consider whether: Any data flow diagrams or flowcharts exist that describe data flow in the transaction, and whether such diagrams or flowcharts correctly identify the flow of data Any data items in the transaction were altered in the data flow, and where alterations occurred, whether audit log entries recorded those changes, including who made them
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During an audit of information systems, the IS auditor should make several observations, including whether: Any segregations of duties (SODs) are established in terms of the entire transaction process flow
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Input data is authorized, and how the authorization is documented Any balancing or reconciliation is performed to ensure data integrity Errors occur, how they are detected, and how they are handled Reports and other outputs are generated, controlled, and protected
Data Integrity Testing
Data integrity testing is used to confirm whether an application properly accepts, processes, and stores information Data integrity tests will determine whether there are any failures or errors in input, processing, or output controls in an application The IS auditor should perform several tests on the application, in each case attempting to input data that is invalid or unreasonable to see whether the application properly rejects invalid and unreasonable data The auditor should also attempt to have the application perform calculations that should result in errors or exceptions for example, a calculation result that should be rejected The IS auditor should not only test the stated input, calculation, and output rules for data integrity, but also should assess the efficacy of the rules themselves For example, an auditor should determine whether the absence of a rule forbidding the entry of negative hours in a time-reporting system constitutes a deficiency in the application s rules
Testing Online Processing Systems
Online processing systems are characterized by their ability to process transactions for many users simultaneously An online application must be able to compartmentalize each user s work so that the users do not interfere with each other, even if two or more users are attempting to read or update the same records A typical database management system (DBMS) will be able to enforce record locking, and an application must have logic to deal with locked records gracefully Business records and transactions in database management systems are usually made up of rows in several different tables Referential integrity is the characteristic that requires that the database management system maintain the parent-child relationships between records in different tables and prohibit activities such as deleting parent records and transforming child records into orphans Application logic must be designed to prevent these situations and other types of collisions and deadlocks that can occur when many users are performing different tasks in an application The characteristic of atomicity states that a complex transaction, which could consist of simultaneous actions on many records in many different tables, is performed as a single unit of work: either it will all be completed properly or none of it will be completed This helps to ensure the integrity of all data in the database management system The IS auditor will need to fully understand the inner workings of an application, including the actions of different transactions on the underlying DBMS Then the auditor will need to stage a number of different tests to see how the application handles situations that may challenge the integrity of business information Some examples include
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