Both first-time and experienced users of file integrity monitoring (FIM) software may not be aware of the full scope of its benefits. For many organizations, file integrity monitoring is initially implemented for compliance. PCI-DSS requirements 10.5.5 and 11.5 call for compliant organizations to monitor critical files at least once per week.


What are Your Information Security Objectives?

As Security Intelligence highlights, "carefully considered and meaningful areas of accomplishment that are documented with deadlines" are critical for elevating your security program and mitigating risk in the real world. Regardless of the security program's maturity, it can be a helpful exercise to determine how your technology portfolio or acquisition plans fit into larger objectives for risk mitigation. Join us as we review some common security goals that have relevance for all organizations and how file integrity monitoring fits in.


1. Maintain a Safe Network

Effective network security is no longer a matter of only protecting your infrastructure with server security and firewalls. Simply applying patch updates isn't enough to protect your network and infrastructure from security breaches. Comprehensive security should include attention to all components, including:

  • Servers
  • Workstations and systems
  • Mobile devices
  • Data (both on-prem and in the cloud)

File integrity monitoring allows security admins to comprehensively monitor the integrity of critical files, directories, configurations, users, groups, and more on all connected devices. Detecting change, the core function of FIM solutions, requires a bit more involvement to determine if the change detected is good or bad. This can be accomplished through both agent and agentless file integrity monitoring. 

For more information: Agent vs. Agentless File Integrity Monitoring: Which is Best?

2. Maintain Vulnerability Management

According to SANS, vulnerability management is the process of identifying vulnerabilities and assessing risk. It's important to understand the difference between vulnerability scanning and management. The two concepts are closely related, but not the same.

  • Vulnerability scanning, using file integrity monitoring software and other tools, allows organizations to categorically discover risks that can be analyzed and evaluated within the framework of vulnerability management.
  • Vulnerability management is the process of using technological tools and other means to automate and increase efficiency in the process of mitigating risks as they are identified.

The complexity of the threat vector, contemporary networks, and other factors demand automation and cutting-edge technologies in the vulnerability management process to eliminate the risk of human error. The right file integrity monitoring solution can elevate your efforts from discrete scanning to total management of risks.


3. Prevent Unauthorized Access

Unauthorized access to your organization's assets can take many forms, presenting varying levels of risk. This can range from unauthorized device sharing between employees to complete assigned job duties to even account hacking. The results of certain types of unauthorized access can include data theft, tampering with critical files, or denial of service.

Oracle recommends a comprehensive approach to this security objective, including each of the following:

  • Authentication
  • Password policies
  • Encryption
  • Access control
  • Account inactivation
  • SSL
  • Auditing

But where does file integrity monitoring fit into Oracle's model for unauthorized access prevention?

It fits in at the end of the process, in the auditing stage. Even with multi-factor authentication, there's a chance your attempts to implement access control can fail. Phishing attacks are still on the rise and employees are not growing wiser about the risks of malicious emails.

If your access control methodologies fail, auditing can allow you to quickly detect unwanted changes resulting from unauthorized access. Security professionals can effectively remediate these changes with the power to identify malicious or circumvented changes in real-time.


4. Ensure Security Flaws are Immediately Reported

Creating a culture of security represents a slow, cultural shift for many organizations. Behaviorally-focused training and ongoing testing can be key to improving employee awareness and knowledge of security best practices. Despite many organizations' efforts to improve knowledge of phishing, employee open rates and clicks have increased slightly over the past year. It's become clear training isn't always enough.

File integrity monitoring cannot remediate a culture of poor knowledge about security, careless behavior, a lack of executive support, or cultural barriers to immediately reporting security flaws. It can't fix employee resistance to change or ineffective training.

However, file integrity monitoring can be a source of support, regardless of where you stand regarding security knowledge maturity. In other cases, for resource-strapped organizations, sophisticated and easy-to-use file monitoring tools can help free up security resources necessary to improve education programs and other tools necessary for full cultural change.


5. Maintain Integrity of Data and Security Assets

Maintaining data integrity requires more than just policy, education, and access governance—although these factors are crucial. It's no longer possible to maintain security on a threat-by-threat basis. Ultimately, this reactive approach will not effectively identify threats such as zero-day attacks. Modern-day FIM solutions are necessary to identify malicious behavior and any circumvented processes/activities and to give your IT team the right tools/data to respond to consistently emerging threats.

File integrity monitoring allows your security program to grow and scale, even as threats change, by eliminating change noise and automating actions, activities, and processes to expand your security capabilities. When your infrastructure and network constantly grow and transform to meet new IT requirements and objectives, the most effective file-monitoring technologies can scale seamlessly along with your needs.


FIM and IT Security

The right file integrity monitoring tool can be an invaluable asset to various aspects of your information security strategy and ability to reduce IT risk. From mitigating human-related and administrative risks to unauthorized access prevention, the most sophisticated file integrity monitoring tools can significantly free security resources and enable immediate detection when your safeguards aren't effective.

If your organization is currently using integrity monitoring software, it is important to evaluate whether or not your current solution supports your goals. If you're struggling through a steep learning curve to making the software work for you or you're unable to immediately distinguish whether reported changes represent "real risk", making a switch could completely change the way you view integrity monitoring.

To discover more about how CimTrak can support your security program's broad objectives and goals in the year to come, get an instant download of the CimTrak Technical Summary!


Lauren Yacono
Post by Lauren Yacono
August 17, 2023
Lauren is an IU graduate and Chicagoland-based Marketing Specialist.

About Cimcor

Cimcor’s File Integrity Monitoring solution, CimTrak, helps enterprise IT and security teams secure critical assets and simplify compliance. Easily identify, prohibit, and remediate unknown or unauthorized changes in real-time