Best Audit Trail Tools

In the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity, the ability to effectively manage and harness logs and audit trail data has become a cornerstone of organizational security resilience. Businesses are increasingly turning to audit trail software to strengthen security and enhance transparent processes, and regulatory compliance.

The digital landscape is rife with complexities, making it crucial to track and monitor every interaction, alteration, or access point within a system. This is where audit trail software comes into play

From logging user actions and system changes to tracing data flow and maintaining an authoritative record of events, modern audit trail software offers an intricate web of capabilities designed to uncover insights, prevent unauthorized activities, and simplify forensic investigations. Audit trail software empowers organizations to gain capabilities in maintaining the trust of stakeholders, upholding data integrity, and meeting stringent compliance requirements. In this article, we’ll explore the best tools available today that are revolutionizing the way organizations manage and harness audit trail data.

Here is our list of the best audit trail tools:

  1. SolarWinds Security Event Manager (FREE TRIAL) An on-premises package that provides log collection and management as well as opportunities for manual and automated threat hunting. Runs on Windows Server. Get a 30-day free trial.
  2. Datadog Log Management A cloud-based system that can collect and consolidate logs from any site and also other cloud systems.
  3. Splunk This data processing package started out as a log miniming system and it still has that capability. Available as a cloud platform or for installation on Windows, Linux, Unix, or macOS.
  4. LogRhythm A cloud-based SIEM that includes its own log collector and consolidator with the ability for file or forward log messages. Available as a SaaS platform or for installation on Windows Server.
  5. Netwrix Auditor Checks on account security, providing resolution guidance and logs for compliance auditing.
  6. FileAudit A file integrity monitor that records all file access events for compliance auditing and activity attribution. Runs on Windows Server.
  7. ManageEngine ADAudit Plus User activity monitoring that creates an audit trail for file access events. Runs on Windows Server.
  8. Centrify Authentication Service This system heightens the controls over privileged accounts and can apply its processes to cloud platforms as well as on-premises resources. Runs on Windows Server.

The Best Audit Trail Tools

Our methodology for selecting an audit trail tool

We reviewed the market for log management systems that can be used to lay down an audit trail and analyzed tools based on the following criteria:

  • A collector agent for each of the major operating systems and cloud platforms
  • A central server to receive all log messages
  • A scanner that can convert different log message types to a common format
  • A data viewer to see live log messages as they arrive
  • A filing system that includes archiving facilities that can revive archives for searching
  • A free trial or a demo to enable a log management system to be assessed before payment
  • Value for money from a log management tool that can store, forward, and analyze messages

1. SolarWinds Security Event Manager (FREE TRIAL)

SolarWinds Security Event Manager (SEM)

SolarWinds SEM is a lightweight, ready-to-use, and affordable security information and event management solution. It is positioned as one of the audit trail software tools revolutionizing the way businesses handle their log data to enhance security, compliance, and operational efficiency. SolarWinds SEM offers real-time monitoring and alerts, compliance reporting, and log analysis for security and compliance purposes.

Key Features:

  • Log collection
  • Log consolidation
  • Live log data viewer
  • Log filing
  • Log archiving

Why do we recommend it?

SolarWinds Security Event Manager is a SIEM tool that mines log messages for signs of threats. The package includes a log collector that can be put to other purposes, not just to create a pool of source data for the SIEM. The bundle includes a compliance manager that summarizes and stores log files for auditing and even generates its own audit records.

A distinguishing feature of SolarWinds SEM is its comprehensive library of pre-built connectors. These connectors facilitate the gathering of logs from diverse sources, intelligently parsing their data, and harmonizing it into a universally readable format. This process creates a centralized repository that serves as a hub for security professionals to easily investigate potential threats, prepare for audits, and securely store logs. By eliminating the complexity of handling disparate log formats, SEM paves the way for a more efficient and insightful analysis of organizational data.

SEM comes equipped with an array of tools that empower users to swiftly pinpoint relevant logs among the sea of data. Visualizations, out-of-the-box filters, and text-based searches offer versatility in exploring both real-time and historical events. For organizations subject to regulatory frameworks like HIPAA, PCI DSS, SOX, ISO, and others, SEM presents a compelling solution with its extensive range of out-of-the-box reports. These reports are tailored to address specific compliance requirements, allowing organizations to confidently demonstrate adherence to industry standards.

Who is it recommended for?

This is an on-premises package that runs on Windows Server, so it is suitable for companies that don’t like using cloud-based services and want to keep all of their log management services on their own servers. The tool has a large processing capacity and so is more suitable for large organizations.

Pros:

  • Log filing and archiving
  • Built-in compliance manager
  • Data analyzer in a log message viewer
  • Centralizes the management of logs on multiple sites and platforms
  • Options for log parsing and forwarding

Cons:

  • Only available for Windows Server

SEM is not limited to internal data management, the software allows for the simple export of filtered or searched log data to CSV format, enabling rapid sharing with internal teams or external partners. Despite its robust capabilities, SEM offers affordable pricing and flexible licensing options, making it accessible to organizations of varying sizes and budgets. Start a 30-day free trial.

SolarWinds Security Event Manager Download a 30-day free trial

2. Datadog Log Management

Datadog Log Management

Datadog Log Management is a cutting-edge platform that seamlessly integrates logs, metrics, and traces into a single cohesive view. With its array of features, Datadog stands as a leader in facilitating insightful audit trails that empower organizations to enhance their operational integrity and security posture.

Key Features:

  • Throughput charging
  • Storage option
  • Archiving mechanism
  • Log consolidation

Why do we recommend it?

Datadog Log Management is a cloud-based system that is able to collect log messages from any site or cloud platform – you just need to install a collector agent or set up a forwarder in each source. The log server consolidates messages into a common format and files them. You can also get a storage and archiving package.

Datadog Log Management offers a unified hub where logs, metrics, and traces converge, enabling a holistic perspective that amplifies the understanding of log data. The concept of “Logging without Limits™” encapsulates Datadog’s commitment to providing a cost-effective, scalable approach to centralized log management. This approach ensures that organizations can seamlessly manage their logs regardless of scale, allowing them to capture critical data from across their stack without compromise.

Who is it recommended for?

This is probably the best log management option for companies that want to use cloud-based services instead of hosting all of their systems on their own servers. The package has a throughput-based charging structure. Buyers can save log files in their own storage accounts or subscribe to a storage and archiving service on the Datadog platform.

Pros:

  • Log collection and standardization
  • A data viewer for manual analysis
  • An archiving option that allows archives to be recalled and searched
  • A partner SIEM tool on the platform

Cons:

  • Storage space costs extra

Incorporating Datadog Log Management into an organization’s infrastructure enables robust audit and investigation capabilities. Logs can be rehydrated from compressed archives, making historical data readily accessible for compliance audits or deep-dive investigations. This ensures that organizations maintain a reliable record of activities, fostering accountability and regulatory adherence. By choosing Datadog Log Management, organizations empower their teams with the tools needed to unravel complexities and optimize performance. A 14-day free trial is available on request.

3. Splunk

Splunk is a widely used platform for monitoring, searching, and analyzing machine-generated data, including audit trails, logs, and events. Right from the outset, akin to intrepid cave explorers (which is why it’s aptly named “Splunk”). Splunk’s enterprise-ready security and observability platform provides searching, monitoring, and analyses of machine-generated data via a Web-style interface.

Key Features:

  • A data processor
  • A SIEM option
  • Log collection and filing

Why do we recommend it?

Splunk can process any type of data but it has become particularly noted for its ability to search through log messages. The creators of Splunk now offer packages of tools that implement performance or security monitoring from live log message feeds. You don’t have to take on those extra services but you could just use Splunk to parse, standardize, forward, and file log messages.

Splunk also provides deep visibility into applications and infrastructure components’ performance, including the ability to capture, index, and correlate real-time audit trails and log data in a searchable repository. Splunk can identify data patterns, and generate graphs, reports, and alerts which help to diagnose problems and provide intelligence for business operations.

Splunk’s core strength lies in its ability to collect and index vast volumes of data, including audit trails or logs in real-time. It can ingest data from a wide array of sources, ranging from servers and applications to network devices and IoT devices. This real-time data capture enables organizations to gain immediate insights into their operational health and security posture. Splunk incorporates advanced analytics and machine learning capabilities to detect anomalies and patterns in data. This proactive approach enhances threat detection, allowing security teams to identify potential breaches before they escalate. It also offers a comprehensive set of tools to assist organizations in meeting compliance requirements.

Who is it recommended for?

This tool is probably a little too over-engineered for a log manager or audit trail creator. You get many more functions with this package whether you choose the cloud-based SaaS package or download the software to host it yourself. Most buyers will regard the audit trail features of Splunk as a nice extra.

Pros:

  • An adaptable data processing tool that can be used to create custom applications
  • Log file storage options
  • On premises or SaaS

Cons:

  • The performance and security monitoring services are the main features of Splunk

Splunk comes with built-in alerting conditions that detect common problem scenarios, and provide more powerful ways of monitoring signals than the standard practice of comparing a signal to a static threshold. A free 14-day trial of Splunk Observability Cloud with full access to all the features is available on request.

4. LogRhythm

LogRhythm is an industry-leading security intelligence company that specializes in log management, security analytics, SIEM, and network and endpoint monitoring. LogRhythm SIEM, audit trail, and log management capabilities are redefining how enterprises manage and harness logs and audit trail data to bolster security, enhance compliance, and gain valuable insights.

Key Features:

  • Deployment options
  • Log collector
  • Additional data feed options

Why do we recommend it?

LogRhythm is a SIEM tool that searches through log messages for security threats. The tool can be expanded by a network activity feed and user analytics. However, the core function of the SIEM relies on log message collection, which is a service that doubles up as an audit trail management system.

LogRhythm’s prowess extends to its ability to collect data from a multitude of devices, applications, and sensors across an organization’s environment. It offers preconfigured support for log sources and allows for the ingestion of custom log sources, ensuring a comprehensive analysis of network log data.

The LogRhythm platform equips organizations with real-time insight into security events transpiring across their entire environment. By seamlessly consolidating and analyzing log data, LogRhythm bridges the gap between disparate data sources, offering a comprehensive view of user behavior, system activities, and data interactions.

One of LogRhythm’s standout features lies in its ability to provide context to the data it analyzes. Through contextualization and enrichment, the platform enables organizations to distinguish between normal activities and malicious actions. This capability is instrumental in pinpointing potential threats swiftly and with precision, reducing false positives, and improving incident response effectiveness.

Who is it recommended for?

This package is available as an on-premises system and also as a SaaS package. So, this tool has a wider appeal than most of its rivals because of its deployment options. The company doesn’t publish its price list. However, the tool is aimed at large companies with a starting price that is out of the reach of small businesses.

Pros:

  • Available for Windows Server or as a hosted SaaS service
  • Additional user behavior analytics
  • Network activity feed option

Cons:

  • Not intended for small businesses

The platform empowers organizations to not only meet necessary compliance requirements but also automate the creation of audit logs and reports. This feature streamlines the often laborious process of compliance reporting, freeing up resources for other critical tasks. LogRhythm offers a comprehensive suite of log management solutions, comprising LogRhythm SIEM, an all-encompassing platform for log monitoring, detection, and response, alongside LogRhythm Axon, a cloud-native solution designed for log monitoring and security analytics.

5. Netwrix Auditor

Netwrix Auditor

Netwrix Auditor provides a centralized platform that redefines the way audit information is collected, consolidated, and utilized. Netwrix Auditor delivers a range of benefits that extend beyond compliance and security. It enables organizations to gain comprehensive insights into their IT systems’ performance, enabling them to identify areas for optimization and innovation.

Key Features:

  • Vulnerability scanner
  • Assesses application configurations
  • Generates an audit trail

Why do we recommend it?

Netwrix Auditor checks through your applications for security weaknesses and generates a risk assessment. Probably the most important facility of your system that this package examines is your access rights manager – notably Active Directory. This package will produce logs of its findings as well as summarizing in the dashboard all of the security weaknesses that it discovered.

Gone are the days of wrestling with multiple auditing and reporting tools, and struggling to gather data from disparate IT systems. Netwrix Auditor brings about a paradigm shift by offering a unified and consistent approach to audit trail management. It is designed to seamlessly gather audit data from a diverse range of IT systems, encompassing vital components such as Active Directory, Windows Server, Oracle Database, and network devices. This holistic approach empowers organizations to oversee their IT environment comprehensively, regardless of its complexity.

At the heart of Netwrix Auditor’s appeal lies its ability to drastically reduce the time and effort required for audit preparation. No longer will IT professionals need to dedicate nights and weekends to decipher cryptic logs, navigate intricate spreadsheets, and manually compile reports for audits. The software’s intuitive interface and streamlined workflows enable auditors to swiftly prepare the evidence demanded by compliance regulators with just a few clicks.

Who is it recommended for?

This package is suitable for mid-sized and large companies. It is particularly concerned with tightening access controls and also looks for configuration weaknesses that will allow outsiders to bypass those controls. The package generates its own audit trail to show that discovered weaknesses have been fixed.

Pros:

  • Generates assessment records and resolution logs for compliance auditing
  • Identifies weak account security
  • Document accounts to implement least privileged access

Cons:

  • No SaaS version

Whether facing external audits or internal inspections, Netwrix Auditor equips users to provide accurate and up-to-date information on the spot, rendering the process remarkably efficient and stress-free. A free trial and in-browser demo are available on request.

6. FileAudit

FileAudit

FileAudit is an auditing solution for organizations seeking to enhance their data protection strategies. It focuses on tracking and auditing file and folder access and changes on Windows systems. FileAudit goes beyond the limitations of native Windows event log file access tracking, offering a faster, smarter, and more efficient approach to file auditing. This software provides insights into files stored on Windows Servers as well as in cloud storage services.

Key Features:

  • File auditing
  • Windows Server
  • Cloud storage

Why do we recommend it?

FileAudit is a live security monitoring tool that documents all file access activity. The records that this system generates create an audit trail. The system will alert on each file access event and you can attach automated actions to each alert. This enables you to copy a file before alteration or deletion or block access.

The strength of FileAudit lies in its ability to proactively track, audit, report, alert, and respond to all access to files and folders. This extends to both Windows Servers and cloud storage platforms. By continuously monitoring access to sensitive files in real-time, organizations can identify potential security breaches or unauthorized activities promptly.

File and Folder Access Auditing is another standout feature, providing organizations with a searchable, secure, and always-available audit trail. This enables deep analysis of file access and usage patterns. For organizations grappling with NTFS permissions and reporting, FileAudit enables the reporting and tracking of NTFS permissions, permission changes, and properties for all files and folders.

Who is it recommended for?

This system is a file integrity monitor. The extent to which it enforces file access controls is up to the administrator. As a minimum, it will record all access events for security auditioning. The tool scans files on Windows Server. It can also monitor files on the cloud held on OneDrive, Google Drive, Box, Dropbox, and SharePoint Online.

Pros:

  • Triggers for playbooks that can recover files
  • Records of user actions on files
  • Search facility for audit records

Cons:

  • Won’t scan Linux servers

Perhaps one of the most innovative aspects of FileAudit is its ability to extend access auditing to cloud data. Whether it’s data stored in OneDrive, SharePoint Online, Google Drive, Dropbox, or Box, FileAudit provides a unified solution for monitoring files and folders stored both on-premises and in the cloud. This consolidated approach simplifies the management of data access across diverse environments. A free trial is available on request.

7. ManageEngine ADAudit Plus

ManageEngine ADAudit Plus

ManageEngine ADAudit Plus “helps keep your Windows Server ecosystem secure and compliant by providing full visibility into all activities”. By consolidating audit data, optimizing compliance procedures, and enhancing security measures, it equips organizations to tackle the multifaceted complexities of the digital age.

Key Features:

  • File integrity monitoring
  • File servers and workstations
  • Examines Active Directory

Why do we recommend it?

ManageEngine ADAudit Plus scans the user account data from Active Directory and Azure AD to extract user information. This data is used to generate log messages when a file is touched. The package also tracks account changes in Active Directory, making unauthorized or accidental changes reversible.

ManageEngine ADAudit Plus excels in gathering audit information from vital components such as Active Directory, Windows Servers, Exchange Servers, SharePoint, and even cloud-based services like Microsoft Azure and Office 365. By providing an all-encompassing view of an organization’s IT environment, ADAudit Plus eliminates the need for juggling multiple tools and disjointed data sources.

One of the standout features of ADAudit Plus is its capacity to simplify and accelerate the process of audit preparation. Traditionally, assembling audit evidence has been a time-consuming and manual endeavor, often involving sifting through complex logs and generating intricate reports. ADAudit Plus transforms this process by streamlining data collection, automating report generation, and providing pre-configured compliance reports that cater to various industry regulations.

Who is it recommended for?

This package runs on Windows Server and requires Active Directory as the corporate access rights manager, so companies that run on Linux or use a different ARM will need to look elsewhere for an auditing tool. There is a Free edition, but this will only collect data for 30 days during the free trial of the paid plans.

Pros:

  • Runs on Windows Server
  • Scans Active Directory and Azure AD
  • Records file access events

Cons:

  • Doesn’t operate on Linux

The user-friendly interface of ADAudit Plus further enhances its appeal. With intuitive dashboards, customizable reports, and an array of visual representations, the software demystifies complex audit data and transforms it into actionable intelligence. As businesses continue to grapple with the complexities of modern IT landscapes, ADAudit Plus stands as a reliable partner in navigating these challenges with confidence and efficiency. A free 30-day trial is available on request.

8. Centrify Authentication Service

Centrify Authentication Service

Centrify Authentication Service is one of the leading audit trail software reshaping the way businesses approach the monitoring, recording, and control of privileged sessions. With its host-based and gateway-based monitoring capabilities, this service brings a new level of visibility and security to privileged access management.

Key Features:

  • Privileged access management
  • Enhances Active Directory
  • Extends to cloud resource access

Why do we recommend it?

Centrify Authentication Service focuses on privileged access management. It builds on records in Active Directory and constructs is own extra layer of authentication on top of the details held in AD. The main aim of the tool is to provide improved privileged access controls to cloud services, which is often less stringent than on-premises controls.

Centrify Authentication Service offers administrators the ability to remotely observe and monitor privileged access sessions in real-time. This real-time monitoring is complemented by the flexibility to make decisions on whether to manually or automatically terminate sessions that raise suspicions or exhibit potential threats.

The service optimizes the monitoring and recording of all privileged sessions and metadata across diverse environments, including Windows and Linux Servers, Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms, and databases. It encompasses both host-based and gateway-based monitoring to ensure a comprehensive view of privileged activities.

Who is it recommended for?

This package is going to interest businesses that use cloud-based services and are frustrated by the inferior privileged access controls that many cloud-based systems provide. The tool can also extend Active Directory controls to systems running on Linux and Unix. this is a good solution for businesses that have a mic of server operating systems.

Pros:

  • Extends Active Directory controls to cloud platforms, Linux, and Unix
  • Runs on Windows Server
  • Simplifies and unifies all privileged access management

Cons:

  • No SaaS option

The Centrify Admin Portal serves as a command center, providing administrators with a centralized hub to manage and oversee all privileged access activities. With features such as SQL Server database integration, session recording, monitoring, and reporting, the service offers a comprehensive suite of tools for maintaining stringent security controls.