Mention "cyber-threat" and many of us envision an over-caffeinated twenty something in a hoodie tapping away on a keyboard as he snoops into our networks from the poorly lit back room of some run-down apartment thousands of miles awayin a country like Russia or Chinastealing customer credit card details and other sensitive data.

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The role of internal audit in organizations is rapidly expanding as auditors move from being rule enforcers and compliance police to trusted advisors. Audit departments are being asked to audit culture, corporate strategy, and governance functions and are increasingly being consulted on key projects and business decisions.

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Cash rebates, free media inventory rebates, mark ups from 30 to 90 percent, dual rate cards, and non-transparent business practices are all things that can keep senior audit managers and audit committee members of the board awake at night.

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Everyone knows that culture is set at the highest levels of the organization. We may all be tired of hearing about "tone at the top," but it's never been more important. Apart from influencing the culture of the organization as a whole, executives—especially the CEO—have a big role to play in setting the risk culture.

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Companies might want to review their severance agreements and other employment contracts in light of a recent Securities and Exchange Commission ruling. The SEC is taking issue with language that discourages employees or former employees from raising concerns about wrongdoing to its whistleblower office.

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Social media sites are becoming a bigger part of most companies' plans to connect with customers and other stakeholders. And while sites like Twitter and Facebook can be powerful marketing tools, they are also fraught with risks.

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The Financial Crisis of 2008 cemented what many risk management experts have known for years: You can have an army of risk managers and all the sophisticated risk-management models and tools you like, but if there is something wrong with the culture of the organization and...

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Managing a small audit department is never easy. Covering a seemingly endless stream of risks with limited resources can be trying for any audit leader. Small audit department leaders must become experts in time management, stretching the budget, and focusing on what matters.

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Data analytics is supposed to be the great savior of the internal audit function. It has been heralded as the set of tools that will give organizations new insights into risk management, fraud, and corruption. It would free up internal auditors to use their skills on assessing non-traditional areas of the business and lower the cost of internal audit. It would change the internal audit profession entirely.

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In December 2007, I was appointed as the Inspector General of the Securities and Exchange Commission and served in that capacity until January 2012. An IG is an internal watchdog for a governmental body with its primary purpose being to identify and reduce waste, fraud, and abuse in the agency. IGs supervise both internal audit and investigative units.

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It's hard to justify recruiting great talent, investing in training, and passing on company knowledge, only to find that those recruits eventually leave for competitors because they didn't feel engaged. It's a story we've heard before.

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After 25 years in internal audit, I have come to the conclusion that excellent audit planning is essential to ensuring an effective audit. What is a successful audit? A good measure is whether both audit management and the auditee feel good about the end results.

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