How File Monitoring Can Detect Data Incidents as They Happen

Breaches are an extremely common occurrence for companies, especially if they are large businesses. Even though not all data breaches are cyber-attacks, valuable data is exposed to outsiders or lost in all cases.

An example of a data incident is an employee copying data to their personal device, violating the company policies. Sending documents by email to an outsider, by mistake, can compromise sensitive aspects of a business. Another common problem consists of applications (including malware) getting unauthorized access to documents and so on.

While companies spend significant amount of money to prevent such problems, the reality shows that the number of data incidents is actually growing. Furthermore, companies usually realize they are victims when it’s too late.

In this context, beside prevention, it is also important for companies to be able to detect data breaches as soon as possible. More exactly, while they are happening.

File monitoring solutions can be efficient to detect and sometimes even prevent data incidents in real-time, containing damage.

Using File Monitoring Tools to Track Data

There are many ways in which users and applications can interact with data and a good monitoring solution can track this activity and detect unusual actions or patterns which are often associated with security incidents. Here are a few examples:

Detecting Attempts to Access Multiple Documents in a Short Amount of Time

A possible sign of a data breach is when a user or application tries to access multiple files in a short period. When this happens, one needs to assess the purpose of the action quickly. For example:

  • The simplest thing to examine is to check if the access has succeeded or failed. Any case of multiple failed attempts to access files is a red flag. It must be investigated accordingly.
  • In case of successful access to multiple files, more related activities must be correlated to find out the purpose of that access. For example, if files have been read and written or replaced this might indicate malware activity (e.g. ransomware). If files have been archived, someone might want to grab a lot of data.
  • When a browser reads multiple documents, it might be related to a data exfiltration activity.

All these activities must be examined. Advanced data monitoring tools offer automatic means to analyze these actions. They also raise alerts in real-time when a threatening situation is detected.

Identifying Important File Movement across Different Locations

Similar to the previous example, such activities are usually accompanied by other related operations. The vast majority of them concerns data movement in different forms. The most common means of data transfer involve:

  • File copy operations
  • File upload operations
  • Attaching files to emails

Also, very often, a file transfer is preceded by a data archiving operation.

Tracking these actions can give an accurate picture of what happens with files inside a company, which can help spot data breaches quickly.

For example, let’s imagine an HR company employee wants to steal valuable resumes and other important files. She might copy those documents from the storage location to their local computer on a USB stick. Alternatively, instead of copying, they could zip the files and then take them away. An excellent file monitoring tool deployed on that system will catch this activity in real-time.

Detecting Data Integrity Changes

There are various sensitive system files on a computer. Only the IT administrator should have access to them. For instance, many configuration files control different applications or operating system components. Altering those files might compromise the functionality of the whole system. It can also open a door for hackers to hijack those systems.

A simple scenario would be to modify the hosts file on a Windows machine. It will then associate a valid web domain to a rogue IP address hosting a phishing website resembling the original. Such change must be detected quickly and the IT admins notified. This way, they can assess the risk and take appropriate actions.

Conclusion

File monitoring solutions can be very helpful to detect data incidents especially if they are capable to analyze in real time complex file operations and automatically raise alerts when suspicious activities are detected.

TEMASOFT FileMonitor is an advanced agent-based monitoring solution for Windows and Linux. It tracks and alerts on basic and complex file activities in real time.

Try the free evaluation to learn how TEMASOFT FileMonitor can help you.

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