Oracle8i Concepts
Release 8.1.5






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You can observe a lot by watching.

Yogi Berra

This chapter discusses the auditing feature of Oracle. It includes:

Introduction to Auditing

Auditing is the monitoring and recording of selected user database actions. Auditing is normally used to

Auditing Features

This section outlines the features of the Oracle auditing mechanism.

Types of Auditing

Oracle supports three general types of auditing:

statement auditing  

The selective auditing of SQL statements with respect to only the type of statement, not the specific schema objects on which it operates. Statement auditing options are typically broad, auditing the use of several types of related actions per option. For example, AUDIT TABLE tracks several DDL statements regardless of the table on which they are issued. You can set statement auditing to audit selected users or every user in the database.  

privilege auditing  

The selective auditing of the use of powerful system privileges to perform corresponding actions, such as AUDIT CREATE TABLE. Privilege auditing is more focused than statement auditing because it audits only the use of the target privilege. You can set privilege auditing to audit a selected user or every user in the database.  

schema object auditing  

The selective auditing of specific statements on a particular schema object, such as AUDIT SELECT ON EMP. Schema object auditing is very focused, auditing only a specific statement on a specific schema object. Schema object auditing always applies to all users of the database.  

Focus of Auditing

Oracle allows audit options to be focused or broad. You can

Audit Records and the Audit Trail

Audit records include information such as the operation that was audited, the user performing the operation, and the date and time of the operation. Audit records can be stored in either a data dictionary table, called the database audit trail, or an operating system audit trail.

The database audit trail is a single table named AUD$ in the SYS schema of each Oracle database's data dictionary. Several predefined views are provided to help you use the information in this table.

Additional Information:

Instructions for creating and using these views are found in the Oracle8i Administrator's Guide.  

The audit trail records can contain different types of information, depending on the events audited and the auditing options set. The following information is always included in each audit trail record, provided that the information is meaningful to the particular audit action:

The operating system audit trail is encoded and not readable, but it is decoded in data dictionary files and error messages as follows:

action code  

This describes the operation performed or attempted. The AUDIT_ACTIONS data dictionary table contains a list of these codes and their descriptions.  

privileges used  

This describes any system privileges used to perform the operation. The SYSTEM_PRIVILEGE_MAP table lists all of these codes and their descriptions.  

completion code  

This describes the result of the attempted operation. Successful operations return a value of zero; unsuccessful operations return the Oracle error code describing why the operation was unsuccessful. These codes are listed in Oracle8i Error Messages.  

Auditing Mechanisms

This section explains the mechanisms used by the Oracle auditing features.

When Are Audit Records Generated?

The recording of audit information can be enabled or disabled. This functionality allows any authorized database user to set audit options at any time but reserves control of recording audit information for the security administrator.

Additional Information:

Instructions on enabling and disabling auditing are found in the Oracle8i Administrator's Guide.  

When auditing is enabled in the database, an audit record is generated during the execute phase of statement execution.


If you are not familiar with the different phases of SQL statement processing and shared SQL, see Chapter 16, "SQL and PL/SQL", for background information concerning the following discussion.  

SQL statements inside PL/SQL program units are individually audited, as necessary, when the program unit is executed.

The generation and insertion of an audit trail record is independent of a user's transaction; therefore, if a user's transaction is rolled back, the audit trail record remains committed.


Audit records are never generated by sessions established by the user SYS or connections with administrator privileges. Connections by these users bypass certain internal features of Oracle to allow specific administrative operations to occur (for example, database startup, shutdown, recovery, and so on).  

Events Always Audited to the Operating System Audit Trail

Regardless of whether database auditing is enabled, Oracle always records some database-related actions into the operating system audit trail:

instance startup  

An audit record is generated that details the OS user starting the instance, the user's terminal identifier, the date and time stamp, and whether database auditing was enabled or disabled. This information is recorded into the OS audit trail because the database audit trail is not available until after startup has successfully completed. Recording the state of database auditing at startup further prevents an administrator from restarting a database with database auditing disabled so that they are able to perform unaudited actions.  

instance shutdown  

An audit record is generated that details the OS user shutting down the instance, the user's terminal identifier, the date and time stamp.  

connections to the database with administrator privileges  

An audit record is generated that details the OS user connecting to Oracle with administrator privileges. This provides accountability of users connected with administrator privileges.  

On operating systems that do not make an audit trail accessible to Oracle, these audit trail records are placed in an Oracle audit trail file in the same directory as background process trace files.

Additional Information:

See your operating-system-specific Oracle documentation for more information about the operating system audit trail.  

When Do Audit Options Take Effect?

Statement and privilege audit options in effect at the time a database user connects to the database remain in effect for the duration of the session. A session does not see the effects of statement or privilege audit options being set or changed. The modified statement or privilege audit options take effect only when the current session is ended and a new session is created. In contrast, changes to schema object audit options become effective for current sessions immediately.

Auditing in a Distributed Database

Auditing is site autonomous; an instance audits only the statements issued by directly connected users. A local Oracle node cannot audit actions that take place in a remote database. Because remote connections are established through the user account of a database link, the remote Oracle node audits the statements issued through the database link's connection. See Chapter 33, "Distributed Databases", for more information about distributed databases and database links.

Auditing to the OS Audit Trail

Oracle allows audit trail records to be directed to an operating system audit trail if the operating system makes such an audit trail available to Oracle. On some other operating systems, these audit records are written to a file outside the database, with a format similar to other Oracle trace files.

Additional Information:

See your platform-specific Oracle documentation to see if this feature has been implemented on your operating system.  

Oracle allows certain actions that are always audited to continue, even when the operating system audit trail (or the operating system file containing audit records) is unable to record the audit record. The usual cause of this is that the operating system audit trail or the file system is full and unable to accept new records.

System administrators configuring OS auditing should ensure that the audit trail or the file system does not fill completely. Most operating systems provide administrators with sufficient information and warning to ensure this does not occur. Note, however, that configuring auditing to use the database audit trail removes this vulnerability, because the Oracle server prevents audited events from occurring if the audit trail is unable to accept the database audit record for the statement.

Statement Auditing

Statement auditing is the selective auditing of related groups of statements that fall into two categories:

Statement auditing can be broad or focused, auditing the activities of all database users or the activities of only a select list of database users.

Privilege Auditing

Privilege auditing is the selective auditing of the statements allowed using a system privilege. For example, auditing of the SELECT ANY TABLE system privilege audits users' statements that are executed using the SELECT ANY TABLE system privilege. You can audit the use of any system privilege.

In all cases of privilege auditing, owner privileges and schema object privileges are checked before system privileges. If the owner and schema object privileges suffice to permit the action, the action is not audited.

If similar statement and privilege audit options are both set, only a single audit record is generated. For example, if the statement option TABLE and the system privilege CREATE TABLE are both audited, only a single audit record is generated each time a table is created.

Privilege auditing is more focused than statement auditing because each option audits only specific types of statements, not a related list of statements. For example, the statement auditing option TABLE audits CREATE TABLE, ALTER TABLE, and DROP TABLE statements, while the privilege auditing option CREATE TABLE audits only CREATE TABLE statements, since only the CREATE TABLE statement requires the CREATE TABLE privilege.

Like statement auditing, privilege auditing can audit the activities of all database users or the activities of only a select list of database users.

Schema Object Auditing

Schema bject auditing is the selective auditing of specific DML statements (including queries) and GRANT and REVOKE statements for specific schema objects. Schema object auditing audits the operations permitted by schema object privileges, such as SELECT or DELETE statements on a given table, as well as the GRANT and REVOKE statements that control those privileges.

You can audit statements that reference tables, views, sequences, standalone stored procedures and functions, and packages (procedures in packages cannot be audited individually).

Statements that reference clusters, database links, indexes, or synonyms are not audited directly. However, you can audit access to these schema objects indirectly by auditing the operations that affect the base table.

Schema object audit options are always set for all users of the database; these options cannot be set for a specific list of users. You can set default schema object audit options for all auditable schema objects.

Additional Information:

See "AUDIT (Schema Objects)" in Oracle8i SQL Reference.  

Schema Object Audit Options for Views and Procedures

Views and procedures (including stored functions, packages, and triggers) reference underlying schema objects in their definition. Therefore, auditing with respect to views and procedures has several unique characteristics. Multiple audit records can be generated as the result of using a view or a procedure: The use of the view or procedure is subject to enabled audit options; and the SQL statements issued as a result of using the view or procedure are subject to the enabled audit options of the base schema objects (including default audit options).

Consider the following series of SQL statements:

CREATE VIEW emp_dept AS 
  SELECT empno, ename, dname 
    FROM emp, dept 
    WHERE emp.deptno = dept.deptno; 
AUDIT SELECT ON emp_dept; 
SELECT * FROM emp_dept; 

As a result of the query on EMP_DEPT, two audit records are generated: one for the query on the EMP_DEPT view and one for the query on the base table EMP (indirectly through the EMP_DEPT view). The query on the base table DEPT does not generate an audit record because the SELECT audit option for this table is not enabled. All audit records pertain to the user that queried the EMP_DEPT view.

The audit options for a view or procedure are determined when the view or procedure is first used and placed in the shared pool. These audit options remain set until the view or procedure is flushed from, and subsequently replaced in, the shared pool. Auditing a schema object invalidates that schema object in the cache and causes it to be reloaded. Any changes to the audit options of base schema objects are not observed by views and procedures in the shared pool.

Continuing with the above example, if auditing of SELECT statements is turned off for the EMP table, use of the EMP_DEPT view would no longer generate an audit record for the EMP table.

Focusing Statement, Privilege, and Schema Object Auditing

Oracle allows you to focus statement, privilege, and schema object auditing in three areas:

Auditing Successful and Unsuccessful Statement Executions

For statement, privilege, and schema object auditing, Oracle allows the selective auditing of successful executions of statements, unsuccessful attempts to execute statements, or both. Therefore, you can monitor actions even if the audited statements do not complete successfully.

You can audit an unsuccessful statement execution only if a valid SQL statement is issued but fails because of lack of proper authorization or because it references a nonexistent schema object. Statements that failed to execute because they simply were not valid cannot be audited. For example, an enabled privilege auditing option set to audit unsuccessful statement executions audits statements that use the target system privilege but have failed for other reasons (such as when CREATE TABLE is set but a CREATE TABLE statement fails due to lack of quota for the specified tablespace).

Using either form of the AUDIT command, you can include

Auditing BY SESSION versus BY ACCESS

Most auditing options can be set to indicate how audit records should be generated if the audited statement is issued multiple times in a single user session. This section describes the distinction between the BY SESSION and BY ACCESS options of the AUDIT command.


For any type of audit (schema object, statement, or privilege), BY SESSION inserts only one audit record in the audit trail, per user and schema object, during the session that includes an audited action.

A session is the time between when a user connects to and disconnects from an Oracle database.

Example 1

Assume the following:

In this case, the audit trail will contain two audit records for the eight SELECT statements (one for each session that issued a SELECT statement).

Example 2

Alternatively, assume the following:

In this case, the audit trail will contain two records (one for each schema object against which the user issued a SELECT statement in a session).


If you use the BY SESSION option when directing audit records to the operating system audit trail, Oracle generates and stores an audit record each time an access is made. Therefore, in this auditing configuration, BY SESSION is equivalent to BY ACCESS.  


Setting audit BY ACCESS inserts one audit record into the audit trail for each execution of an auditable operation within a cursor. Events that cause cursors to be reused include the following:

Note that auditing is NOT affected by whether a cursor is shared; each user creates her or his own audit trail records on first execution of the cursor.


Assume that

The single audit trail contains eight records for the eight SELECT statements.

Defaults and Excluded Operations

The AUDIT command allows you to specify either BY SESSION or BY ACCESS. However, several audit options can be set only BY ACCESS, including

For all other audit options, BY SESSION is used by default.

Auditing By User

Statement and privilege audit options can audit statements issued by any user or statements issued by a specific list of users. By focusing on specific users, you can minimize the number of audit records generated.

Additional Information:

See Oracle8i SQL Reference for more information about auditing by user.  


To audit statements by the users SCOTT and BLAKE that query or update a table or view, issue the following statements:

     BY scott, blake;


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