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Continuous Monitoring - Part I

‎07-23-2013 11:56 AM - edited ‎09-30-2015 06:57 AM

Continuous monitoring has become a major focus area in cybersecurity. From customers to experts to standards bodies, they claim that continuous monitoring will vastly improve the security of our networks and critical infrastructure.


So what is it?!


We can provide a simple explanation by using a physical security example. Let’s suppose that you want to protect the perimeter of your building or compound, but you only have single-shot cameras to monitor who’s going in and out. You set them up to take photographs every 15 minutes, and you analyze them at the end of the day to look for breaches or irregularities. Of course, you miss a lot of activity!


To start implementing continuous monitoring in our example, you swap out the single-shot cameras for video cameras. Now you have a continuous view, in real time, of what’s occurring in and around your physical enterprise. You have all the information you need to secure your compound, but do you have the resources to monitor and analyze the information in real time?


That’s the same issue with monitoring the security of cyberspace, except the amount of information you collected can be significantly greater. A typical enterprise can collect logs and events from firewalls, routers, servers, PCs, and more.  You can also include physical security data – video, badge machines, motion detectors, etc. In addition, you have to know, and continually update, your asset inventory – both hardware and software. Based on that inventory, the next step is to evaluate the configuration of each asset to ensure it complies to secure configuration standards and guidelines. That inventory also needs to be continually scanned against known vulnerabilities and threats. Vulnerabilities can be based on the asset configuration or the network upon which it resides. As you can see, continuous monitoring is a complex process with a lot of moving parts – and that’s just deploying a basic capability! The eventual goals of developing this capability are to:

  • Put in place a better (defined, repeatable) process for detecting and remediating security issues
  • Create a way to score an organization’s security risk
  • Leverage the insight gained to institute a process of continual improvement towards a more secure enterprise

Regardless of the size of an enterprise, collecting and analyzing this information is daunting. You must first determine what sensors (products) you have and what data are you collecting. There are a wide variety of products in the market that perform the functions described above. HP has a set of products that can provide the core functionality: Enterprise Service Management suite (uCMDB and related products), ArcSight, EnterpriseView, TippingPoint, and Fortify/WebInspect. Other functions and capabilities are provided by third party products. The heavy lifting for continuous monitoring is in the integration of the products and information into a stable infrastructure that ensures the continuous flow of data and analysis that represents the overall security posture of an organization. The Cybersecurity Solutions Group (CSG) Engineering & Architecture team is currently performing the integration of the proposed DHS continuous monitoring solution in the CSG eLab.


In following blog posts, I’ll delve into the other functional areas that define a full continuous monitoring solution and how that aligns with a comprehensive enterprise security reference architecture.

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About the Author


Seasoned executive technologist, manager, and business developer with government, corporate, and start-up experience.

on ‎04-15-2014 02:36 PM

Great intro and very passionate around this topic. You mention " Other functions and capabilities are provided by third party products" - I would like to point out that core functionalities are also provided by HP Solutions such as our Data Center Automation tools - think in this case on not just providing compliance date, but also enforcing compliance leveraging target state management. Further more there is the data analytics components provided by vertics.

As Continuous Monitoring addresses the full services lifecycle starting at capturing the non functional requirements (which security provides) the ALM suite of tools would in conjunction manage these requirements in the development and test phase of a new or modified service.

Commercial customers are now embracing the idea of CDM and I agree; knowing what you have (Asset and Services Discovery and UCMDB) are a good first step to start enriching the SOC with, making tools such as ArcSight more content aware, but also finding potential IP ranges and assets which are currently not under security controls! (yikes)

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