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What is Threat Monitoring?

by Nate Lord on Monday December 19, 2016

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Learn about threat monitoring solutions in Data Protection 101, our series on the fundamentals of information security.

A Definition of Threat Monitoring

Threat monitoring refers to a type of solution or process dedicated to continuously monitoring across networks and/or endpoints for signs of security threats such as attempts at intrusions or data exfiltration. Threat monitoring gives technology professionals visibility into the network and the actions of the users who access it, enabling stronger data protection as well as preventing or lessening of the damages caused by breaches. Today companies employ independent contractors, remote workers, and staff who use their own devices for work, posing additional risk to the company’s data and sensitive information and driving the need for threat monitoring at enterprises.

How Threat Monitoring Works

Threat monitoring involves continually analyzing and evaluating security data in order to identify cyber attacks and data breaches. Threat monitoring solutions collect and correlate information from network sensors and appliances as well as endpoint agents and other security technologies to identify patterns indicative of a potential threat or security incident. Once a threat is identified an alert is issued to the security team for mitigation or incident response.

The Benefits of Threat Monitoring

Using threat monitoring enables organizations to identify previously undetected threats such as outsiders connecting to or exploring networks and compromised or unauthorized internal accounts. It can be difficult to detect these activities otherwise, but threat monitoring solutions correlate information about network and endpoint activity with contextual factors such as IP addresses, URLs, and file and application details to provide more accurate identification of anomalies indicative of threat activity.

Threat monitoring reduces insider threat risks and maximizes data protection capabilities. Organizations are in a better position to defend against insider and outsider threats when they have full visibility into data access and usage and can enforce data protection policies to prevent sensitive data loss. Specifically, threat monitoring brings several benefits by helping security professionals:

  • Learn what is happening on networks, who is using them, and whether or not they are at risk
  • Understand how well network usage aligns with policy requirements
  • Meet the standards of regulatory compliance or business partner agreements that require monitoring of sensitive data types
  • Find vulnerabilities in networks, applications, and security architecture and understand how to fix them

The Need for Threat Monitoring

IT and infosec professionals work under increased pressure and in a threat environment in which cybercriminals’ tactics evolve rapidly to stay ahead of traditional detection methods and defenses. Monitoring for insider threats is equally important, as insider incidents often involve the theft of intellectual property, unauthorized access to or use of information, systems, and networks, or unintentional exposure of sensitive data. As a result many security teams rely on threat monitoring solutions as a tool for staying on top of the threats facing their systems, both internally and from the outside.

There are many options for threat monitoring, from dedicated threat monitoring solutions to full suite data protection platforms that include threat monitoring capabilities. Many data loss prevention solutions provide threat monitoring capabilities combined with policy-based controls that can automate response to detected threats. However an organization decides to handle threat monitoring, it remains an important and necessary step to defend against cyberattacks and insider threats as they continue to become increasingly sophisticated and damaging.

Tags:  Data Protection 101

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