Data Breaches & Threats

September 4, 2017

Modern threat prevention technologies only work well in defending against opportunistic attacks. Incorporating Protective Monitoring ensures a more proactive approach. 

How to defend against threats with legitimate access

Once you are targeted, with your information in the sights of an attacker, these countermeasures won’t keep them out for long. Furthermore, most defence-oriented security technologies only provide visibility and awareness relating to the early stages of an attack. Businesses need to consider extending their governance to incorporate incident response in a more proactive approach to threat management.

Most companies focus their security budget on blocking and prevention, using antimalware systems, firewalls and intrusion prevention systems (IPS). There is no denying that these products are required, but they only provide one lens from which to view security, yet other threat actors remain unseen, and attack vectors remain unchecked.

Take, for example, an employee who has legitimate access to your customer database, who is planning to leave your organisation. You don’t know their intentions are malicious when they try to copy all your customer information onto a removable USB thumb drive. Nevertheless, this kind of attack is commonplace, and no antivirus product, firewall or even IPS will identify this as malicious.

The importance of Protective Monitoring

To allow you to detect insider attacks, you need to consider protective monitoring. But before we talk about what it means, it is important to understand that security is a process that requires continual attention from the team responsible for keeping your information safe. You cannot simply throw technology at the problem and consider yourself secure – even the best technology needs continual tuning, tweaking and adjustment to remain appropriate and sufficient to deal with the latest threats. So, this leads us to on to considering protective monitoring in the context of your overall security architecture.

Take a Proactive Approach with SIEM

Unlike the preventative techniques discussed earlier, where each system has a particular purpose, protective monitoring is a pervasive and holistic security capability that applies to any number of attack scenarios across the entire kill chain.

Your SIEM can indeed collect and store event logs from your antivirus technology, firewalls and IPSs, but you can also be smart about using it to detect less-obvious attacks. For example, following on from the insider threat example, there are numerous places where the employee interacts with technology that produce logs.

If you configure your customer relationship management system to generate a log event each time a record is accessed, registering the username, time and IP address where the request came from, you’ll be able to build a picture over time of what looks typical.

If your sales professionals often download one or two records at a time, per customer contact, this is considered standard with the tolerance set as a threshold of five records (just to remove false positives). However, an employee generating 25 records within the space of just ten minutes bucks the trend and may indicate an attack. Using attack indicators, based on unusual user behaviour is the best way of detecting insider attacks. However, you will need to work with your SOC team, so they understand what normal looks like and give them the information they need to think differently about how an attack looks.

Raise Your Organisation’s Situational Awareness

Situational awareness lies at the heart of any proactive security capability. Whilst traditional blocking technologies are still required, actionable intelligence comes from tuning systems and applications to log behaviours, based on deep understanding of how people and systems operate. Using a SIEM, you can prioritise risky behaviours and use thresholds and baselines to offer actionable insight to your SOC team; allowing them to investigate suspicious activity and mitigate your organisation’s time at risk.

Business Value of Monitoring


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