The importance of safeguarding and maintaining the integrity of your infrastructure cannot be overstated. One of the tools that organizations rely on to achieve this is File Integrity Monitoring (FIM). FIM is a crucial component of cybersecurity, helping detect unauthorized changes to files and ensuring data remains secure. However, FIM is not without its problems and shortcomings. Detecting change doesn’t guarantee your infrastructure is trustworthy and in a state of expected integrity. It simply alerts you that a baseline of monitored file(s) has been altered in some way, shape, or form.
Traditional tools like Tripwire, OSSEC, and others fit the bill if you need to know if a file or baseline has changed. But what value is it if you have no context of whether that change is good or bad (authorized or unauthorized)? Change is expected and occurs routinely every day. The number of alerts associated with changes can be overwhelming and is cause for turning FIM off entirely and becoming shelfware.
System Integrity Assurance is the next generation of FIM that can provide visibility throughout your infrastructure where traditional FIM falls short.
Common issues and pitfalls associated with Traditional File Integrity Monitoring1. False Positives
One of the primary challenges of traditional FIM is dealing with false positives. False positives occur when the monitoring system incorrectly identifies a legitimate change to a file as a security threat. This can be frustrating for IT teams, resulting in wasted time and resources investigating non-existent threats. False positives can occur for various reasons, such as software updates or legitimate user actions. Tuning FIM systems to reduce false positives without compromising security can be a delicate balancing act.2. Scalability
As organizations grow, the volume of files and data they need to monitor also increases. FIM solutions can struggle to keep up with the scale of modern enterprises. Scalability issues can delay detecting and responding to file integrity incidents, leaving organizations vulnerable to data breaches. Ensuring that your FIM system can scale to meet the demands of your organization is crucial.3. Complex Environments
In complex IT environments, especially those involving hybrid cloud and multi-platform deployments, FIM can become more challenging to implement effectively. Different operating systems, file systems, and configurations can complicate the monitoring process. Finding a single FIM solution that works seamlessly across all platforms can be challenging, leading to potential blind spots in security.4. Performance Overhead
Implementing traditional FIM can introduce performance overhead, especially on high-traffic systems. Continuously monitoring file changes consumes system resources, potentially affecting the performance of critical applications. IT teams must carefully balance security needs with system performance to avoid negative impacts on business operations.5. Insider Threats
While traditional FIM is an effective tool for detecting external threats and unauthorized access, it is less effective at identifying insider threats. Malicious insiders often have legitimate access to files, making their actions more difficult to distinguish from legitimate operations. Traditional FIM alone may not be sufficient to address this complex issue, requiring organizations to implement additional security measures and monitoring tools.6. Regulatory Compliance
Many industries and organizations are subject to strict regulatory compliance requirements, such as HIPAA, FFIEC, or PCI-DSS. Traditional FIM can help organizations meet these requirements by providing audit trails and evidence of file integrity. However, configuring FIM to align with specific compliance standards can be a complex and time-consuming process, and failing to do so can result in penalties and legal consequences.7. Alert Fatigue
Constant alerts from a traditional FIM system can lead to alert fatigue among IT and security teams. When overwhelmed by a high volume of alerts, analysts may overlook critical security incidents or become desensitized to alerts, making it challenging to prioritize and respond to real threats effectively.8. Professional Services
One critical element of designing, deploying, and operating a traditional FIM is the professional services required to get it operational. If professional services are required to design, build, and deploy a FIM, it will likely be challenging to operate and maintain.
Next-Gen FIM – System Integrity Assurance
System Integrity Assurance (SIA) is built on the premise that security isn’t a product; it’s a process. The process is initiated by detecting a change and determining if that change was good or bad by understanding if the change was authorized and expected. SIA includes approximately a dozen controls assembled into a workflow and ticketing process to create a closed-loop process for integrity management. SIA embraces the basic concepts of file integrity monitoring of “detecting change” as the trigger to kick off a process that includes several other detective controls. Assembled correctly, organizations will have a unique ability to:
- Provide unprecedented visibility and control
- Identify zero-day breaches
- Ensure operational integrity
- Enable enterprise resiliency
To better understand the differences between traditional FIM and SIA, the following table highlights the basic functionality differences.
CimTrak Stands Out Against Traditional FIM
By implementing SIA, an organization can ensure its infrastructure is trusted, secure, and compliant without the costs and headaches observed from traditional FIM products. CimTrak benefits include:
- No False Positives – CimTrak alerts are binary. When an alert is generated, it is important!
- Scalable – CimTrak can scale to some of the most demanding environments of hundreds of thousands of servers and devices.
- More Than Just Servers – CimTrak can monitor files, directories, configurations, users, groups, policies, active directories, database schemas, cloud configurations, containers, hypervisors, network devices, and more.
- Performance Optimization – CimTrak is optimized to perform with minimal processor utilization as it resides dormant at the kernel level until a change occurs.
- Insider or Outsider Threats – CimTrak can identify unauthorized changes in real-time resulting from either a circumvented or malicious change.
- Integrity is Compliance – On average, 30% of compliance mandates are integrity controls. Integrity controls ensure that the controls are in place and demonstrate they are operating as expected.
- Eliminates Unnecessary Noise & Alerts – CimTrak can eliminate more than 95% of change noise and alerts by suppressing authorized and expected changes, leaving only those alerts that matter.
- NO Professional Services Required – CimTrak simplifies, automates, and auto-detects environmental settings and considerations to streamline installation and operational setup.
At What Cost Are You Not Using CimTrak?
- CimTrak is typically less than 1% of your overall IT budget or 4% of your cybersecurity budget.
- CimTrak, on average, crosswalks 30% of all compliance mandates and best practice controls.
- CimTrak can autodetect 91% of all security issues at the workload layer.
- CimTrak requires NO professional services or installation fees.
- CimTrak can scale to the most demanding environments with a single console.
- CimTrak does not require full-time security personnel to manage and operate.
- CimTrak has its own workflow and ticketing system to approve and monitor change activities.
- CimTrak system hardening functionality is based on the best practices of the Center for Internet Security and Defense Information Systems Agency.
File Integrity Monitoring is a crucial tool in the cybersecurity arsenal, helping organizations protect their data and systems from unauthorized changes and breaches. However, it is essential to be aware of the challenges and pitfalls associated with traditional FIM to maximize its effectiveness. Organizations must carefully configure and manage their FIM systems, consider the scalability and complexity of their environment, and address the issues of false positives and insider threats to maintain the integrity of their data and systems while minimizing risks. Additionally, combining FIM with other security solutions and best practices is key to building a robust and comprehensive cybersecurity strategy.
September 12, 2023