What is a File Integrity Monitor?

Technology-focused organizations typically have a heavy reliance on IT environments. Whether it’s the use of expensive software, complicated hardware configurations or large business networks, it’s vital to utilize technology in order to become a more efficient business.

However, many of these services are typically outsourced to experts that are far more knowledgeable and experienced than your existing staff members. One of the tools that a managed security service provider (MSSP) can offer to keep your technology secure is File Integrity Monitoring (FIM).

Coping With the Growth of Your Business’s Technology

An MSSP is constantly looking for ways to secure your technology environment. This can mean configuring and monitoring firewalls to prevent unwanted network traffic from entering the local network, it could mean preventing viruses from affecting your computers, and it could mean managing virtual private networks for remote working purposes.

In addition to an MSSP helping you to secure your network and technology systems, you’ll also have employees accessing files on your network, getting their work done and generally putting a strain on your network. When they modify files for work purposes, it’s generally picked up by a security information and event management (SIEM) system that will alert your security specialists when a potential threat is detected. However, a SIEM focuses on user and entity behavior analytics so it often doesn’t directly intervene if it detects a change it perceives as regular.

This is where a File Integrity Monitor (FIM) can help you ensure that your files are not accidentally or maliciously modified.

What Does FIM Involve?

File integrity monitoring, or change monitoring, is a system that involves examining files for changes and logging said changes. It tracks changes, who has made those changes, what the changes are made for, and whether they were even authorized in the first place.

This type of feature already exists in certain programs, such as word processing software, which can help users revert changes. It’s also in programming services such as Git, which already have systems in place to log codebase changes before they are submitted.

However, regular files on a system, such as configuration and initialization files, do not have that kind of protection. They must be safeguarded using a FIM system.

Companies can take advantage of a FIM to see when unauthorized changes are made, to automatically make backups of important files, and to alert the relevant people when a change is made.

FIM starts with setting up a policy. This policy governs which files should be protected and monitored. This often involves important configuration files that can completely change the way software works.

Next, a baseline is set for the file. This is often the default or most useful state of the file- and variables, such as the creation date and version, are often taken into consideration. This data will be used in the event that the file was modified or changed.

Once a baseline is established, changes on the file are monitored and compared with the baseline. A FIM system will automatically accept changes that have been anticipated.

This type of FIM feature can be integrated with a SIEM system to provide your business with another layer of protection from file changes, and also reduce the number of potential false positives. Once the SIEM has built up an understanding of when and why the file changes, it can greatly reduce the number of false positives given by the FIM system and also help your specialists react faster to real threats… such as a cyber attack by a criminal hacker that attempts to gain access to the FIM-protected files.

Alerts are also sent out when an unauthorized change is made, and the responsible members of staff should ideally alert relevant specialists of the change so that they can remedy the problem or flag it as a false positive. Reports can also be generated should the company need to for the sake of compliance, such as for GDPR reporting or PCI DSS compliance.

Integrating FIM into SIEM and MSSP

FIM is a system that helps to protect your business-critical data and files that are essential for the efficient operation of your business. When merged with SIEM and deployed by a trusted MSSP, it helps to create a more secure system for your business.

One of the biggest reasons for merging a FIM with your SIEM: the danger of internal threats. Many people look at external threats, such as cybercriminals, and believe that they’re the biggest danger to their digital infrastructure. However, their attempts to break into your system can potentially be limited by proactive measures such as firewalls and properly configured security systems.

A potentially greater danger lies with internal threats, such as a disgruntled employee or even a potential corporate spy. Since these people have access to your system from the inside, they can wreak havoc and completely destroy your business if you don’t have countermeasures in place.

This is where a FIM integrated with a SIEM can help protect you.

It offers another secure layer of protection that protects your business-critical files from being changed through unauthorized access. With the increased power and accessibility that an employee has, they could potentially make changes to these important files for malicious reasons and they may even be authorized. However, a SIEM and FIM system will not only record the change and potentially notice that it was a malicious change, but it will also alert the relevant people immediately so they can take swift action against the employee.

When FIM and SIEM work together, especially when managed by a professional MSSP, it offers you and your business unparalleled security to ensure that your business runs efficiently and is free from the threat of malicious interference.

If you’re looking for the most mature FIM and SIEM solutions for your security infrastructure, you can rely on Bitlyft. We have the tools and expertise to secure your environment for a fraction of the cost of an in-house team.

Give us a call. We’d love to have a short conversation about how we can help secure your business’ technology interests.

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