Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM): What is it, & How does it help improve my Cyber Defenses?

Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM)
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Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM): Protecting your business data and assets in today’s digital landscape is like playing a game of chess with an opponent that gets smarter with each move.

In this case, cybercriminals and malicious actors are the opponents, and businesses need to stay ahead of their opponents to win the game. The stakes are high, with your entire business and reputation at risk.

Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM) is an effective way of monitoring cybersecurity risks within the IT infrastructure. This article tries to understand CSM and how it can improve your security against cyber threats.

What is Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM)?

CSM (Continuous Security Monitoring) is a strategy that automates monitoring information security, cyber threats, and vulnerabilities to help organizations make informed risk management decisions.

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In simple words, CSM can be described as the uninterrupted monitoring of primary business assets like network endpoints to identify and address potential threats in real-time.

This system focuses on automatically checking and evaluating the operational security of your business to enable you to spot vulnerabilities and resolve them before cyberattackers can exploit them.

As weaknesses can emerge at any time or place in the network, continuous monitoring is a great way to identify them on time. Moreover, automating the monitoring process reduces the chance of human error.

Why Continuous Security Monitoring is Important

A CSM solution enables organizations to assess their security architecture continuously to check whether they regularly comply with the internal security policies and when changes occur.

As most organizations today rely on technology to perform their critical business operations, the ability to manage the technology and ensure its availability, integrity, and confidentiality is also vital.

Let us talk about a few trends that increase the importance of continuous security monitoring.

  • Digitization of critical data: Businesses around the globe continue to digitize sensitive data related to customers, employees, and finances
  • Data protection laws: Following the GDPR of the European Union, governments of different countries have introduced general data protection laws that organizations must follow to ensure security compliance
  • Data breach notification laws: Governments are mandating data breach reporting, which increases the impact of security-related events on business reputation
  • Outsourcing and contracting: Businesses are looking to outsource their processes to third parties who can outsource to their providers, thereby increasing your attack surface and third and fourth-party risks

How does Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM) Work?

Continuous Security Monitoring provides real-time information about an organization’s security posture.

A CSM tool gathers information from all the devices, user activity, tools, and processes based on established metrics across the organization. It utilizes automated scanning techniques and security controls to collect data in real-time.

The information collected by the tool is continuously compared to thresholds, and any deviations are detected instantly. These tools also have an automated response system that alerts the administrator of identified threats and initiates a response.

In short, a CSM program helps businesses shift to data-driven risk management by delivering information required to support security status data, risk response decisions, and regular insights into the effectiveness of security controls.

According to NIST, CSM works by maintaining ongoing awareness of information security, vulnerabilities, and threats to an organization to help the management respond to risk. To do this, you should:

  • Establish security metrics throughout your cyber ecosystem
  • Collect information according to your metrics
  • Use available information to assess your security threats
  • Monitor your strategy regularly to ensure effectiveness

The NIST Cybersecurity Framework breaks down the entire process into the following core components:

  • Identification
  • Protection
  • Detection
  • Response
  • Recovery

RELATED: Threat Detection and Response: Best Practices

Benefits of Continuous Security Monitoring (CSM)

The cyber threat landscape has evolved significantly over the past few years; traditional security measures like anti-malware tools and firewalls can no longer protect against elite cybercriminals.

Even if an organization prioritizes data security, the steps may not be sufficient to combat modern cyber threats. Today, businesses must identify an attack before it breaches the system.

This is where continuous security monitoring proves to be useful.

Implementing a CSM into the cybersecurity strategy helps lower the risks and potential damage from cyberattacks and breaches if they occur. Here are some of the advantages offered by continuous security monitoring.

  • Real-time visibility into the IT infrastructure and applications
  • Identifying vulnerabilities before they convert into an issue
  • Support for internal auditing, budgeting, and planning
  • Classification of devices for implementing preventative measures
  • Compliance with regulatory requirements
  • Monitoring continuous effectiveness of security controls
  • Improved awareness of vulnerabilities and threats
  • Assessment of security state at different levels

In short, CSM helps protect digital assets and sensitive corporate information against cybersecurity threats.

Best Practices for Continuous Security Monitoring

A continuous security monitoring strategy focuses on lowering cyber risks and staying on top of cyber threats. Here are the best practices businesses can follow to enhance the system’s effectiveness.

Understand your Data

An effective way to implement a robust CSM solution is understanding how your data can be compromised. Threats can arise from malicious internal actors or external criminals.

Knowing which actors are more likely to breach your data helps devise a plan to protect it.

Identify User Behavior

The CSM strategy you implement must include employees and their behavior to protect the organization from insider threats.

Such measures also prevent any unauthorized access to corporate assets and resources.

RELATED: 10 Steps to prevent data misuse and theft

Setup Automation

Technologies like artificial intelligence can be used to discover new devices, IP addresses, and domains automatically.

An auto-discovery process can detect and block any malicious software from suspected sources.

Implement Patch Management Processes

Finally, you must create a process that checks whether all the devices connected to the organizational network are up to date.

An ideal way to ensure this is to use patch management tools that automatically check, download and install patches on devices.

The use of such a tool helps prevent vulnerabilities originating from external software.

Monitor Endpoints

Monitoring endpoints is an additional essential best practice for any CSM approach.

Continuously monitor your endpoints and devices to prevent phishing attempts from granting attackers access to these devices.

Train Employees on Cybersecurity

Cyber-aware employees are more inclined to update their systems and apps regularly, enhancing your organization’s overall cybersecurity.

Depending on their degree of experience, workers can also assist in identifying possible system vulnerabilities. It is advised, therefore, that you establish a program for staff cybersecurity education.

Unfortunately, no continuous security monitoring method can be guaranteed to be 100 percent successful. However, a cyber-aware staff may ensure that low-level threats are effectively addressed.

RELATED: Improving Cyber Security Awareness amongst your employees

Next Steps

Continuous monitoring of security risks and compliance breaches is crucial to cyber resilience for every organization.

Several approaches to continuous monitoring are executed by an in-house SecOps team or a Managed Security Service Provider via a 24x7x365 Security Operations Centre (SOC).

An excellent continuous security monitoring system can recognize new security risks as early as feasible in the data breach or cyber attack lifecycle. Such a preventive approach can reduce data loss and financial loss.

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