File Integrity Monitoring:

A Huge Step Beyond Legacy FIM

What is File Integrity Monitoring?

File Integrity Monitoring (FIM) is a category of cybersecurity technologies that monitors critical files and detects changes. While legacy tools were limited to monitoring system files, today's Next-Gen FIM tools can detect change to critical data wherever it exists, including:
Dashboard LOG MODE
To detect change, FIM tools compare each file against a known and trusted baseline. If a file has been changed, updated, or compromised, the tool alerts a human analyst to investigate further. Next-Gen FIM tools take this a step further by making it easy to "roll back" files to their trusted state and even block changes to sensitive files.

File Integrity Monitoring Definition

"File Integrity Monitoring is a well-known way to deal with ensuring integrity of sensitive and critical files. The file system is at the heart of any computing system as it stores the data and executable programs. Malicious users or malware might change the content of a sensitive data file or insert malicious payloads in an executable. Hence, monitoring the integrity of files in the file system is of utmost importance."

- Study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Defense

File Integrity Monitoring Use Cases

There are many use cases for File Integrity Monitoring in cybersecurity and IT teams. Some of the most commonly recognized use cases include:
Detect Malicious Activity
Change alerts for critical files help security teams identify and respond to security breaches. 
Identify Accidental Change

Accidental changes to configuration settings and critical files create vulnerabilities. FIM helps security teams identify and roll back dangerous changes. 

Maintain System Integrity
By detecting changes from a trusted baseline, FIM tools help organizations maintain system integrity by preventing or rolling back unwanted changes.
FIM is an accepted requirement for prominent compliance frameworks including PCI-DSS and HIPAA.
Verify Updates
FIM tools make it easy to verify patches have been installed correctly across multiple systems by comparing their file checksum.
Forensic Analysis
FIM tools help security analysts understand the events leading up to an incident by providing a full record of changes over time, including the account used. 

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File Integrity Monitoring Best Practices

There's a big difference between File Integrity Monitoring tools. The table below shows how legacy tools stack up against Next-Gen FIM software.

Basic File Monitoring

  • Lots of noisy alerts
  • Uses a denylist to identify malicious changes
  • Resource-intensive and relies on daily active scans
  • "Shelfware" that's usually only present to satisfy compliance requirements

File and System Integrity Monitoring

  • Cuts irrelevant change noise by 95%
  • Uses denylists, allowlists, and trusted file registry to uncover malicious activity without swamping analysts with alerts
  • Detects change in real-time and barely registers on the resource monitor
  • Fundamental to maintaining real-time system integrity across corporate IT environments

FIM and the Role of
Change Monitoring

Everything that happens in an IT environment starts with change. A file, configuration setting, or device is altered, deleted, added to, or read by a user or service.

Every security incident begins with change, but so does every necessary action. The challenge is determining the difference between good and bad. 

Change management is about monitoring changes against a trusted baseline. Anything not included in the baseline is assumed to be bad until proven otherwise. 

The Change Management Process

Determine what changed in the environment.

Check if authorized under the baseline.

Allow, block, or roll back the change as appropriate.
step 4 (500 × 400 px)
Update the baseline with newly allowed changes.

Why is Change Control Important?

The objective of information security is to protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data throughout its life cycle. Tracking changes against a known, trusted baseline is crucial. It allows security and IT teams to prevent or roll back unwanted changes while allowing necessary changes. 

"Information security hinges on the effectiveness of the change management process. As a result, we need to implement a detective control to verify compliance [with an authoritative baseline] and take decisive action when the process is not followed."

Visible Ops Security, IT Process Institute

What's in a Trusted Baseline?

The baseline for change management includes everything that's allowed to be and happen in an IT environment. It can include:

  • Asset IDs (IP addresses, MAC addresses, URLs, etc.)
  • File hashes
  • Metadata
  • Configuration settings
  • Best practices (e.g., CIS Benchmarks, DISA STIGs)

Legacy FIM Has BIG Problems


Legacy FIM tools create lots of alerts but provide no context, overwhelming security teams.
This is why many security teams consider legacy FIM "shelfware"


Legacy tools provide basic file integrity monitoring, but no integrity verification. 
This leaves security teams unable to distinguish between legitimate and dangerous changes. 


Legacy tools identify change using daily polling scans. This process is hugely resource-intensive, so it usually happens overnight. 
As a result, dangerous changes are often undetected for many hours. 

File Monitoring vs. File Integrity Monitoring

While legacy FIM provides only basic monitoring and alerts, Next-Gen File Integrity Monitoring solutions provide genuine integrity verification. 
Change Monitoring vs Integrity Verification


Integrity: The Missing FIM Ingredient

Integrity is the accuracy and completeness of data throughout its life cycle. No matter what service, device, or user accesses, stores, processes, transmits, or receives data, it must remain accurate and complete. This requires four essential integrity controls. 

The 4 Components of Integrity

  • An authoritative baseline in line with system hardening best practices.
  • A way to protect data from unauthorized change.
  • A way to roll back unauthorized changes not blocked at the source.
  • A way to verify that controls 1-3 are in place and working correctly.

FIM isn't just about file integrity.

It's about data integrity

This includes data held in configuration files, network devices, endpoints, directory services, cloud instances, and more. 

Maintain Integrity in Your IT Environment

Integrity assurance establishes a known, trusted, and authoritative baseline of what is allowed and then prevents, limits, or rolls back everything else. Whenever an unknown change occurs, it's managed by exception. Acceptable changes are added to the baseline, while dangerous changes are prevented. 


8 Steps + NIST


Next-Gen FIM automates the integrity assurance loop, slashing "change noise" common with legacy FIM tools and enforcing integrity across IT environments and the full data lifecycle.

See Next-Gen FIM in Action

Watch Cimcor founder Robert E. Johnson III run through a 10-minute instant preview of CimTrak to see how it can improve your security posture and prevent costly data breaches. 

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What Happened to Integrity?

Most File Integrity Monitoring vendors don't talk about integrity.
Some compliance frameworks "require" integrity but give no guidance on how to achieve it. 
Why? Because it's boring.

It's more exciting (and profitable) to focus on shiny tools than focus on the fundamentals. But this puts the blame on the shoulders of cybersecurity teams—when it should be somewhere else. 

"Cybersecurity has been treated like wizardry. If you treat it like wizardry, the only defense is more wizardry. You need flashy tools and insight into what come hacker is doing in another country. Honestly, most of this stuff is overblown in terms of its value. You can't give a program based on wizardry. You need discipline and management and repeatability and data and science behind it."

— Tony Sagar, SVP & Chief Evangelist at The Center for Internet Security (CIS)

File Integrity Monitoring Tools

Next-Gen File Integrity Monitoring software is a huge step forward from legacy FIM tools. Instead of basic file monitoring, Next-Gen FIM provides genuine file integrity checking, verification, and enforcement for all files and data—without creating unnecessary noise.

Next-Gen File Integrity Monitoring Tools Automate Integrity Verification

legitimate changes without human intervention.
Block or roll back
known dangerous or malicious changes automatically.
ONLY on unexpected, unknown changes. 

This is possible because Next-Gen tools don't rely exclusively on denylists. Instead, they combine three levels of verification to prevent bad changes while cutting out change noise. 

Next-Gen FIM Tools Validate Changes on 3 Levels

  • Complete register of all files, including those held by hardware and software, along with their correct states, configurations, and settings. 

  • Allowlist of trusted file hashes, metadata, and configurations to validate and verify data integrity and authenticity.

  • Denylist of known bad file hashes from external threat feeds, file reputation services, and malware data repositories.

Integrity verification tools enforce integrity while suppressing change noise by 95%

Instead of triaging a torrent of unknown changes, cybersecurity teams only triage a small number of potentially harmful changes. The baseline is automatically updated so the tool can handle future changes without human intervention. 

Integrity Assurance


8 Essential Components of Next-Gen FIM

Change monitoring and detection
to identify all changes within the environment.

(based on allowlists and denylists) of changes as good, bad, or unknown.


of disallowed changes to sensitive assets.

Baseline updates
to include new file hashes and configurations categorized as good.
Collection of forensic details
for every change, including the source IP, user, time, and process.
for unknown changes that require human intervention.
Roll-back and remediation
(A.K.A. 'self-healing') of disallowed changes to other asset groups.
to enable workflow automation and control integration with ITSM tools.

File Monitoring and Integrity Verification
in Real-Time

Legacy FIM tools lack real-time monitoring. This prevents organizations from responding to attacks for up to 24 hours, giving attackers time to cause damage, traverse the network, or steal data. 

Next-Gen File Integrity Monitoring tools monitor for changes and verify file and data integrity in real-time. This provides two huge benefits:

Respond Instantly to Attacks

Known bad changes are prevented or rolled back automatically. E.g., if a configuration setting is changed out of compliance with CIS Benchmarks, the tool can instantly reverse the change. 

Incident responders can triage unknown changes quickly without wasting time on "noisy" false positives. 

Save Network Resources

Next-Gen tools scan the environment once to establish a baseline, then receive change data from agents and modules across the environment. 

This process is highly efficient and barely registers on the resource monitor. 

Identify Changes & Prevent Breaches in Real-Time

Next-Gen FIM Automates
Compliance and System Hardening

Automate compliance with PCI-DSS, HIPAA, NIST 800-171, CMMC, and many more, PLUS system hardening best practice frameworks like CIS Benchmarks and DISA STIGS.

Compliance Automation
in 3 Easy Steps

A Next-Gen FIM tool automates compliance and system hardening by:

1. Building requirements of all applicable frameworks into the trusted baseline.

2. Continually monitoring all files and configurations against the baseline.

3. Raising alerts for issues or misconfiguration and providing clear evidence and guidance to resolve it.

How Next-Gen FIM Maps to
9 Compliance Frameworks

Next-Gen FIM can help your organization reach and maintain compliance with any framework. Just update your trusted baseline to include all relevant compliance requirements and then action a manageable number of alerts. 


Mitigate Security Risks with Next Generation FIM

Through real-time file, system, and data integrity monitoring, Next-Gen FIM provides security functionality that goes far beyond what the industry has come to expect from FIM tools.
  • Block most threats at their source.
  • Instantly 'heal' files and settings to their trusted state.
  • Get deep insight into the state of any asset or system.

  • Cut incident response time with thorough forensic evidence.
  • Reduce remediation time and costs.

What happens if you know every time something changes, you stop anything that isn't authorized...
and you expand this capability across all asset classes?

This approach doesn't solve cybersecurity. But it does mitigate a massive proportion of threats with very little human involvement.

CimTrak is the Ultimate Next-Gen FIM Tool

Next-Gen FIM provides the essential change management and integrity verification capabilities needed to protect IT environments from ever-evolving cyber threats. CimTrak is the industry's only genuine Next-Gen File Integrity Monitoring tool. It provides:

Real-time change monitoring

and detection across your entire IT environment.

Collects forensic details

and evidence for every change.

Alerts only on unknown changes

that require intervention.

Allowlist and denylist

to reduce noise by 95%

Prevent, roll back, and remediate

disallowed changes.

Automatic baseline updates

to automate accepted changes.

Integrated ticketing

to assign and track remediation.

Seamless integration

with leading SIEMs, helpdesk, incident, and ticketing systems. 


of communications, data, and audit logs. 

24/7/365 compliance

enforcement, benchmarks, and reporting. 

Trusted File Registry™

identifies all changes caused by vendor-verified patches and updates.

CimTrak customers include banks, global technology companies, critical infrastructure providers, and other organizations that absolutely must have integrity throughout the IT environment at all times. 

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