## Remembrance of Things Past

With all due respect to Marcel Proust, involuntary memory isn't something I particularly worry about. Now, involuntary forgetting on the other hand, that is something I'll admit to, and I'm fairly sure I'm not alone. We rarely lose the flashbulb moments, but the problems happen when we don't realise that flashbulb ought to have fired until weeks or months later, at which point significant events risk being lost in the fog.

In software terms, one definition of "memory" is what we record in an audit trail. This concept of a chronological record of activities isn't just an important plank in a comprehensive security strategy (sometimes called defence in depth), but our belief is that it can also add value in everyday use. For that reason, we built user-accessible (as opposed to administrator-only) audit into all of our software quite some time ago.

In earlier releases, however, that audit trail was passive, allowing retrieval of a list of activities over a given period, and that was more or less it. If I wanted to revisit the model I'd downloaded data for last month, or see precisely which times I'd logged in to use the software, I was just going to have to wade through the entries. Even when I found what I was after, I'd need further effort to translate identifiers and descriptions into the actual objects and operations of interest.

It was therefore as much for my benefit as for anyone else that we deployed an enhancement that we called Active Audit (on the basis that if it's worth having, it's worth naming). This enhancement combined a greater degree of selectivity with the ability to jump directly from each audit entry to the objects in question. In my example it becomes not only much easier to find the model I was working on, by querying specifically for logins or data downloads over the period, but it also provides an instant means of accessing the relevant model or dataset upon which it was based.

So audit isn't just for the nasty things in life — we very much hope it can also increase productivity. It certainly increases mine, since navigating activity records is something I do relatively frequently. And most importantly, having something with an infinite boredom threshold firing that flashbulb can make our memory skills seem so much more impressive. Now, if only I could find those car keys...

Assume we have a random variable, $$X$$, with expected value ... Read more