Continuous Monitoring: What You Need to Know and How to Start in 5 Steps
As digital threats become more complex, detecting and defending against these risks early is increasingly essential to keep your organization’s digital environment safe. A good security strategy is crucial not only for stopping cybercrime and data breaches but also for guarding against various new malicious activities. One of the most critical components of these security strategies is continuous monitoring, a crucial part of protecting your IT systems.
In this guide, we’ll explore continuous monitoring and explain why it’s essential for your business’s security. We will also identify key benefits and strategies and how to put them into practice to protect your business’s digital assets.
What is Continuous Monitoring?
Continuous monitoring is an automated surveillance method that provides real-time insights into IT systems and networks. In contrast to periodic assessments, ongoing monitoring makes it possible to access information continuously. Detecting anomalies and potential threats in real time allows immediate response to infrastructure changes that may affect security.
Real-time monitoring can provide valuable insights into network, system, and application performance. This visibility not only allows you to identify potential issues before they cause disruption, but it also offers an opportunity to optimize resources, reduce costs, and increase efficiency. Additionally, monitoring can help your organization comply with industry regulations and standards.
A strategic and all-encompassing approach is vital to monitor and manage an organization’s digital environments effectively. Continuous monitoring incorporates several key types:
Infrastructure monitoring is a crucial aspect of continuous monitoring. It involves collecting and analyzing data from systems, processes, and IT infrastructure to enhance performance, availability, and security. This process relies heavily on automated internal controls testing to identify and address vulnerabilities quickly, ensuring a robust and secure IT environment.
Another critical facet of continuous monitoring is application monitoring. This area focuses on overseeing the performance and security of software applications. Its primary objective is identifying and resolving issues before they affect the applications’ functionality. Consistent and thorough monitoring is critical to maintaining optimal performance and preventing disruptions.
Network monitoring forms the third pillar of continuous monitoring. It targets the performance and security of network components, aiming to spot potential threats early. This process is essential for ensuring smooth operation and seamless communication among networked devices, safeguarding against interruptions and vulnerabilities.
Continuous monitoring is critical for any organization with a digital network. This type of monitoring acts as a guardian, keeping a watchful eye on your organization’s data and offering numerous benefits for your business. Advantages of continuous tracking include:
Enhancing visibility means gaining a complete, real-time understanding of what’s happening in your IT environment. Continuous controls monitoring offers ongoing insights into your systems and operations, allowing you to spot and resolve issues before they become significant problems.
This process plays a crucial role in supporting IT systems. It improves system performance and network activity visibility, leading to more efficient operations. As part of continuous monitoring, risk monitoring helps organizations identify and manage security risks. As a result, system downtime is minimized, resulting in more consistent performance.
Continuous monitoring plays an instrumental role in reducing risk in business operations. It enhances an organization’s overall security posture by:
- Maintaining awareness of potential problems
- Ensuring early threat detection
- Minimizing operational downtime
- Assessing threats based on severity
Implementing monitoring policies and procedures is a vital part of reducing risk. These policies and procedures define alerting and reporting rules, assign monitoring responsibilities, and establish escalation paths for incident response. Clear policies and procedures reduce the risk of security incidents by ensuring accountability and clarity for all parties.
Another critical advantage of ongoing monitoring is responding faster to threats. By enabling early threat detection, continuous monitoring allows proactive security measures that decrease operational downtime and shorten incident resolution times.
This method efficiently tackles various challenges, from vendor risks to security threats in IT systems and networks. When used alongside intrusion detection systems, continuous monitoring significantly cuts down the time needed to address incidents and reinstates normal operations faster.
Continuous monitoring builds customer and partner trust by demonstrating a commitment to security and compliance. Using ongoing monitoring to mitigate risk and maintain a robust security posture signals customers that the company is actively managing risks and operations.
Continuous monitoring also ensures compliance with contractual obligations and compliance with regulations. Ensuring operations align with agreed terms and legal requirements maintains the organization’s credibility and reduces the risk of legal or financial penalties. Additionally, the increased efficiency adds to customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Creating a robust, efficient, aligned continuous monitoring strategy requires a structured approach. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) outlines official processes for monitoring, from which we’ve gathered best practices for an effective strategy. Here are five key steps to ensure your continuous monitoring strategy works.
1. Identify Your Objectives
The foundation of a successful continuous monitoring strategy is defining clear objectives and scope. First, you must understand what to monitor and why. Once you know the importance of your systems, you can align them with your business goals.
At this stage, it’s essential to involve all relevant stakeholders — IT teams, business leaders, and end-users — to ensure everyone understands the monitoring program’s objectives and goals. Setting practical objectives can improve operational visibility, simplify change management, and provide efficient incident response.
2. Establish Policies and Procedures
Once objectives are clear, the next crucial step is developing clear policies and procedures to guide continuous monitoring activities. This phase involves defining the roles and responsibilities across different teams, outlining incident escalation procedures, and setting data collection and reporting standards.
Clear, well-documented policies and procedures are vital for maintaining clarity, accountability, and consistent implementation of the monitoring program across the organization. Organizations can significantly reduce security incidents when everyone understands their responsibilities and is held accountable.
3. Select Your Tools
Selecting appropriate tools and technologies is crucial in crafting your continuous monitoring strategy. Your choices should align with the objectives and policies established in your organization.
Among the various options, consider integrating solutions like Pathlock, which offers advanced capabilities for real-time data analysis and threat detection. Pathlock’s suite of application monitoring tools includes risk quantification, transaction monitoring, configuration change monitoring, process control management, and more.
Remember to consider scalability, flexibility, and cost-effectiveness when evaluating your options. You should choose tools that help you monitor comprehensively, provide crucial insights, and swiftly resolve threats.
4. Integrate Your Existing System and Processes
Integrating your continuous monitoring strategy into existing systems and processes is crucial for seamless operation and successful execution. This step often involves connecting your monitoring setup with existing SIEM systems or aligning it with other security frameworks already in place.
The goal of integration is to strengthen your overall security posture. By ensuring that continuous monitoring efforts work in tandem with your current security strategies, you can significantly enhance the effectiveness of your security measures. Having cohesive security infrastructure components provides a stronger defense.
5. Review, Analyze, and Update
Finally, regularly review, analyze, and update your continuous monitoring strategy. Regular assessments are necessary to gauge the performance and identify areas for improvement. You should conduct this process at least every three years or as dictated by your monitoring plan and regulatory requirements. A thorough review ensures that your strategy stays relevant, effective, and capable of addressing new cyber threats and potential risks.
Experience Best in Class Application Monitoring with Pathlock
Continuous monitoring plays a vital role in maintaining the health of a business’s IT infrastructure, preventing potential issues from escalating and ensuring ongoing compliance with industry regulations and standards. With constant monitoring, your business can proactively identify and address potential risks using real-time insights, enhancing its overall security posture.
Pathlock’s Continuous Controls Monitoring (CCM) product is designed to enhance the monitoring of ERP applications and their processes. It enables monitoring of transactions, changes to master data to ensure data security, and changes in role entitlements to prevent segregation of duties conflicts from creeping in. Pathlock goes a step further to deliver risk identification and assessment capabilities. Customers get detailed reports that enable them to quantify risk and prioritize remediation. Pathlock also integrates and streamlines control mechanisms from various frameworks into a centralized, automated system to reduce manual efforts, and improve operational excellence.
With Pathlock’s continuous compliance solution, businesses can enjoy the benefits of continuous monitoring without the hassle, ensuring a robust and secure application environment. Learn more about our Continuous Controls Monitoring product or request a demo.