The Importance of Monitoring Access Patterns and User Behavior

Monitor behavior for security

At the most rudimentary level, security is the concept of protecting information or items from those who are not allowed to have it. As the concept is applied to various situations, it can change in details but remain remarkably similar in the underlying goal. For computer and data systems, the concept of security is applied through a variety of means including physically isolating the database, encrypting data feeds, and monitoring data endpoints. One of the most vital areas of security is monitoring access to data, including patterns of behavior. Doing so allows a security system or specialist to understand what is nominal, and what is suspect.

Appropriate application of security

Data is useless unless used. Having the information is not nearly as important as using it effectively. As such, any business needs to have a system in place that allows for access and application of the stored data. Each user and program that accesses that information needs to be authorized to use it, and a method in place to block or encrypt the data for any unauthorized individual. As such, programs often are set to work within a local network, or require access codes such as a password. These protocols do more than restrict access or prevent breaches. The same systems can also be used to keep a log of who access that information, how such is done, and when. Over time, a set of normal behaviors is created and can be monitored. Similar to the access restrictions, behavior can be integral to security.

The three main areas of any system are the database, methods of transit, and endpoints. For the database, it would be the main point of security concerning physical access. Restricting the ability to physically reach the drives can keep the information safe. Behavior applies to this area by knowing what people are allowed to reach that point, and when to expect them. Unfamiliar individuals can be spotted and stopped before a breach. Of course, this is the simplest part of that equation. Information in transit can include through any method a network uses. Modern technology frequently uses a wifi signal, meaning the information is typically encrypted. While some may be able to intercept the data stream and copy the information, without the proper key or program, it is junk information and unusable. Monitoring who attempts to breach and when in transit is not as effective.

Endpoints in this situation are the key components. An endpoint can be any program or device that is used to access the system and has the ability to locate information. From dedicated terminals, to handheld devices, or even offsite systems with appropriate access codes. Most security systems will allow a device to access the information as long as the proper passwords and codes are used. However, the same information can be requested via various applications and methods. For instance, whenever you connect a new service in social media, it asks permission to use aspects of your profile. This is the system requesting permission to use the same information with a new application.

In some cases, programs can attempt to access data that is not needed or restricted through a virtual back door. The concept is not unlike that of a Trojan Horse. Attempts are made to obtain information in unconventional ways. Another danger is to have the access codes or passwords of a valid user accessing information in the right way- but in a radically different time or location. A decent analogy could be when somebody attempts to use a debit card from another country. In order to prevent loss, the card is shut down immediately, and the card owner is notified. Both of these types of breach can be detected and stopped by monitoring behavior. Not in the sense of 1984, though that level of detail is preferred within your own network. Understanding how information is accessed and when creates a profile of behavior that is expected and normal.

Complete security involves behavior

Most automated security systems are able to notice when requests for information are made in novel or unexpected ways. However, without monitoring behavior, security cannot stop an individual from attempting to breach security using valid information at the wrong time. More advanced systems understand that if a person normally tries to pull up marketing information between 9am and 6pm, an attempt to access at 11:35 at night is suspicious. In equal terms, if internal computers are primarily used, a sudden attempt to pull up information from a phone or home computer is suspect enough to raise an alarm. The concept is to be aware of what is using your information and when in such a way as to prevent breach.

Despite the Orwellian overtones of a security system that monitors behavior, the benefits of such security within a company are vital. Having a comprehensive security system is far more than a rotating password. A fully-capable security system is one that is able to monitor how data is accessed and when to understand the nuances of what is expected. Data being accessed from an unconventional location, an odd time, or in a novel way should be suspect and shut down until verified. The alternative is to leave an opportunity for others to breach your security and steal your information, change it to their own needs, insert some corrupting force into your database, or any combination of the three.

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