why is continuous monitoring an important element of security

Why Is Continuous Monitoring an Important Element of Security?

Continuous security monitoring is a type of security solution that automates security monitoring across various security information sources. 

Constant security monitoring solutions provide real-time visibility into an organisation’s security posture, constantly monitoring for cyber threats, security misconfigurations, or other vulnerabilities.

Continuous security monitoring is essential today because organisations depend on technology and data to complete critical business processes and transactions. 

Companies also have a more significant number of independent contractors and remote workers on staff, increasing their attack surface and adding channels for data loss. 

Companies may have strict policies in place, but employees continue to use applications and devices that are not approved and put data at risk.

What Is Continuous Security Monitoring?

CSM refers to a threat intelligence technology that provides real-time visibility and feedback from an organisation’s digital environment. 

To protect your data from external threats, this security process uses automated scanning to speed up remediation.

Networks, servers, applications, and databases across almost every industry can be compromised due to breaches and other cyber attacks, so CSM offers a transformative solution. 

As one of the most effective and efficient security tools available today, it is frequently used in risk management decisions across many sectors.

Some examples of CSM include continuous attack surface management, vulnerability scanning, and asset discovery.

Attack Surface Management

The attack surface is the sum of all possible risk exposures such as known, unknown, potential vulnerabilities or misconfigurations within hardware, software, and networks. 

Attack surface management, therefore, refers to the continuous detection, inventory, classification, prioritisation, and monitoring of external digital assets that contain, transmit, or process sensitive information.

Because attack surfaces are constantly evolving, the uninterrupted analysis provided by CSM offers a level of surveillance that more traditional security solutions can’t compete with. 

Vulnerability Scanning And Asset Discovery

Continuous vulnerability scanning and asset discovery allow you to map your external perimeter. 

The features inform you of what the components of your attack surface are (including known and unknown assets), where the attack vectors and exposures are located, and how to shield your organisation from future data breaches and cyberattacks. Such insight is invaluable for an organisation’s threat response. 

Why Is Continuous Security Monitoring Necessary? 

As attackers become more sophisticated and hacking more lucrative, businesses must implement appropriate proactive (rather than reactive) security practices. IT specialists must be prepared, minimise the numerous emerging threats, and effectively secure their digital infrastructure. 

Faster Remediation Of Vulnerabilities

CSM is a highly beneficial approach to threat detection. The constant monitoring of a security environment allows security specialists to immediately remediate issues that could be exploited in a cyber attack. 

CSM is often used and is strongly encouraged in risk management processes as a pre-emptive measure.

Visibility Of Your Attack Surface

With more devices used than ever, more business being conducted online, and more outsourcing, vast amounts of data are being transferred digitally. 

To protect your digital environment from a cyber attack, complete visibility of your digital architecture is vital. You need to know what your assets are. 

Adhere To Mandated Compliance Requirements

While helping organisations maintain good cyber hygiene, it is also vital to remain compliant with data security protection regulations. 

CSM can help detect compliance issues, so it is increasingly considered an essential part of cybersecurity.

How Continuous Security Monitoring Works

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Continuous security monitoring provides real-time visibility of users and their devices when they attempt to connect to or work on an enterprise network. All device types may be monitored. 

Continuous security monitoring gives organisations the ability to constantly look over their network to stay one step ahead of cyber threats. 

With constant security monitoring, IT professionals can monitor and verify security and compliance requirements regardless of whether data resides locally or in a data centre, virtual environment, or the cloud.

Benefits of Continuous Security Monitoring

Continuous security monitoring solutions give organisations the visibility they need to identify vulnerabilities and attacks. 

They provide real-time views to help IT professionals respond proactively and quickly to threats and compromises. 

Top continuous security monitoring solutions give companies complete end-to-end visibility to identify security misconfigurations or vulnerabilities and help them to meet regulatory information security compliance full with analytics and reports.

Top continuous security monitoring solutions integrate with organisations’ infrastructure and detect devices as soon as they attempt to connect to the network, thereby helping to thwart cyber threats introduced by unauthorised or risky devices. 

Continuous security monitoring solutions classify devices by type, ownership, and operating system to deliver insights and visibility that enable preventive and reactive actions when the network is at risk.

Organisations of all sizes must take steps to secure their data and systems in the ever-growing threat landscape. 

Continuous security monitoring enables organisations to gauge their security posture in real-time to identify weaknesses or potential compromises and mitigate them quickly.

Why Is Continuous Monitoring Essential for Your Business?

Technology today has become an integral part of all business processes, but the ever-increasing threats to cybersecurity have given rise to the importance of a foolproof Continuous Monitoring Program.

Talking about IT, things happen, and changes occur in the blink of an eye. Companies have to continuously implement updated security measures and identify the loopholes in the existing standards, which may arise because of unexpected changes to the firmware, software and even hardware.

Continuous monitoring is essential because the process is sceptical about potential threats. An excellent continuous monitoring program is flexible and features highly reliable, relevant and effective controls to deal with the potential dangers.

Finding the Right Tools for a Continuous Monitoring Program

It was a challenging task to find the right tools for a CM program in the past, but things have improved these days, suggests Voodoo Security Founder and Principal Consultant Dave Shackleford. 

More and more vendors are now developing the tools to support the continuous monitoring strategy. This provides relief for the security teams looking to implement more secure methods for data collection and information sharing.

  • At a network configuration level, the management platforms serve with better centralisation, policies and change management.
  • In addition, there are scanning tools for the evaluation of vulnerability at the enterprise level.
  • These scanning tools serve with both authentication and authenticated scans. In addition, there are scanning tools to check database issues and the coding of the websites and databases.
  • Even some minor modifications to the already-installed antimalware tools support the continuous monitoring program.

Make sure that:

  • The program supports central data collection as well as the ability to integrate GRC and SIEM tools
  • The program includes SCAP from MITRE and NIST

Networking Configuration Management Tools for Continuous Monitoring

These tools mainly deal with the network configuration assessment, including the scripts, networking policies and inventories, and auditing and changes in network monitoring processes.

Authenticated Versus Unauthenticated Vulnerability Scanners

Unauthenticated scans probe the system and tell you about the operating system in general: for instance, the difference between XP and NT4. But the accuracy level is low. The problem is that the unauthenticated scan identifies some vulnerabilities but doesn’t hit the target with 100% accuracy.

Authenticated scans require credentials, but the data accurately shows how well the patch CM program is working against the potential vulnerabilities. It is much more customized.

These scans highlight the vulnerabilities mainly in the following areas:

  • OS policy
  • Installed patches
  • Missing patches
  • User accounts
  • Group accounts
  • Existing configuration items
  • Missing configuration items
  • Openness to the local systems
  • Service policies
  • Service banners
  • Ports
  • Protocols
  • Known threats

These tools not only update you about the working networking systems, but they also update you about the available and running services and detect vulnerabilities.

The Importance of Continuous Monitoring in Cyber Threat Intelligence

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The more complex technology becomes, the more vulnerabilities it has. Even if you have continuous maintenance on your systems, updating them as soon as patches and updates are available, your plans are still vulnerable to malicious hackers. 

Your projects are far more secure than servers and networks that are not kept current, but that doesn’t mean your systems are impenetrable. 

Continuous monitoring is one of the best ways to detect a malicious user early in an attack. From administrative accounts to attachments, there are many things on your system that malicious hackers can use against your plan. 

Monitoring access to different areas and documents can give you a way of tracking potential issues before they become serious breaches.

The Types Of Risks

Monitoring is critical for several reasons, but your administrator accounts are easily the area that is the most susceptible to being compromised on your system. These accounts can be precarious if you are not able to track who uses them and when.

One of the most dangerous types of malware in recent years has been ransomware, with Microsoft Word being one of the primary ways malicious hackers target a system. Word is particularly vulnerable because it has so many features that carry over from release to release, and these features typically are not all updated at the same time. 

This means that some vulnerabilities are carried over from one out of the software to the next. In some cases, the older features make your system an easy target for ransomware. 

This kind of problem is not solely a problem with Word, but as one of the most popular word processing applications, it is one of the easiest ways for black hat hackers to reuse their attacks against many targets with little to no changes in their approach.

Two Types Of Lazy Yet Effective Ransomware Attacks

The WannaCry virus was a cruel introduction to the relatively new malicious attack called ransomware. It was a rather sophisticated type of attack, the kind of attack that many malicious hackers are not going to take the time to create in most cases. 

Software like Word makes it easy for malicious hackers to do very little to no work to exploit vulnerabilities for a vast audience – nearly anyone who uses Microsoft Word. Then there are older networks or smaller networks that use third parties to manage access. 

These frequently have less security, and passwords are reused for the sake of simplicity. However, the easier it is for you, your staff, or paid third parties to access your server or network, the easier it is for black hats to gain access, too.

One of the most concerning elements of Microsoft Word is the sub doc function. This function intends to make it easy for you to update multiple documents simultaneously, making it easier to keep your documentation consistent. 

You can have one document load into another document, and it will update every time you refresh the secondary copy. This function can be fantastic until you learn that with a few changes, a malicious hacker can print a document to one of theirs in a remote location. If they can access one of your Word files, they can then turn this function on and point to a malicious document that will then infect your system. 

From there, the attack could go to several targets at a time. Computers that support SMB are susceptible to this particular type of attack that can be used to add ransomware to your system.

Remember, Microsoft Word is not the only application that has this problem. Any application that is popular and common in a lot of businesses is an appealing application to malicious hackers. The more often they can reuse code with only a few changes, the less work they have to do to gain access to your system and do a lot of damage.

Another easy way to initiate existing ransomware attacks is to look for a small company that uses a third party to secure its network. When these companies use generic passwords or provide minimal services, the small company’s data is very vulnerable to attacks. The black hats then use a brute force tactic to gain access through a Remote Desktop Protocol. Then access privilege escalation exploits to make themselves administrators. From there, they can do anything they want within a relatively short time.

Monitoring - Your Best Line Of Defense

Both of the lazy, effective ways of installing ransomware could be easily detected through monitoring. If you set up your system to see access from outside sources, you will be able to act as soon as those malicious hackers enter your network. 

With immediate notification, you will be able to kick out those trespassing on your network before they can do much harm. 

You can also more easily see what they did and undo their work faster. Because they are going for the most straightforward score, it is unlikely there will be much for you to clean up on the network.

What will be time-consuming is fixing the vulnerabilities that allowed them to access your network in the first place. 

Monitoring is meant as a way of stopping an active hacker, but the best way to ward them off is to keep them out. If someone can access your data, monitoring lets you know where you are vulnerable to fix it going forward.

Taking Action

There are many things you can do both to prevent an attack and to neutralise one. Establishing a more robust method of managing administrative access can minimise or eliminate attacks used against generic administrative accounts. 

They also give you a way of tracking who accessed different areas and limit what users have access to based on their roles.

If you don’t have monitoring tools in place, or if you have them but haven’t implemented them, make it a high priority. 

There will always be vulnerabilities that malicious users will exploit to start exploring your servers and networks. Monitoring access to them is the best way to minimise the time they have on your tools.

In addition to monitoring, ensuring your restrictions are robust and robust firewall protection against remote access can significantly reduce the ability of malicious hackers to look for an easy target. They will not keep attacking you if you have support and restrictions because many other marks will require less time and work to shoot.

Risk Management for a Successful CM Strategy

When building a successful Continuous Monitoring Program, the tools and strategies are useless in the absence of a practical risk management analysis. 

This is why developers must empower a CM program with a flawless assessment of compliance systems, governance and risk. 

For instance, SCAP is a promising format that allows the program to perform risk analysis by analyzing the information collected by analytic engines.

The selection of the correct tools and strategies is the real challenge because the importance of each device and its specific effectiveness is different for each company. For government organisations, risk management is very different from that of a private company.

This is why the security teams have to work hard on defining the right metrics for the evaluation of risk. For example:

  • To what extent can your company tolerate a particular risk?
  • What are the essential risk-scoring values?
  • How confidential is the information that your company collects?
  • What are the consequences if precise information is compromised?

It would be best to ask all these questions of your company’s security team when building a CM program.

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