Cybercrime is more rampant and diverse in the new, highly mobile, and cloud-based landscape. And as work-from-home options continue, there are more ways for hackers to compromise companies’ files. One essential part of any effective cyberdefense architecture is file integrity monitoring (FIM), a suite of programs and practices that ensure files aren’t tampered with in ways that can harm a business or its clients.
Do I Need File Integrity Monitoring Software?
The most critical measure to maintaining file integrity is visibility. You need to ensure that all changes or deletions that occur are authorized and documented accordingly. This level of documentation is why most companies benefit from file integrity monitoring, whether or not they need it for legal or compliance reasons.
This blog will break down everything you need to know about file integrity monitoring tools:
- What file integrity monitoring software is and its capabilities
- Why all businesses need file integrity monitoring solutions
- How to implement the most efficient file integrity monitoring for your business
By the end of this blog, you’ll be well equipped to establish your FIM solution on your own or with the help of a qualified cybersecurity provider like RSI Security.
What Are File Integrity Monitoring Solutions?
File integrity monitoring is focused on monitoring and preserving files’ integrity. These files include documents, images, and other digital resources trafficked on private or public networks within or adjacent to your company. It also includes files stored within physical storage media or in cloud networks hosted by your company or service provider.
File integrity monitoring solutions aim to provide scanning, detection, and alerting of changes across all files. In particular, FIM solutions prioritize modifications to the most security-relevant elements in files. These alerts may include content therein or even metadata related to users’ account information or access privileges. They may also include seemingly innocuous details, such as specific file locations or sizes, information that can invite later theft or other attacks.
Effective Approaches to File Integrity Monitoring
Companies take various and often disparate measures to ensure seamless integrity across their files. However, most file integrity monitoring solutions fall into one of four general categories:
- Agented – An agented file integrity monitoring capacity requires a targeted agent installation on every hardware and software element containing files to monitor.
- Agentless – An agentless file integrity monitoring solution does not require agented installation, making for more straightforward implementation and providing less powerful insights.
- Standalone – A standalone file integrity monitoring system operates separately from other security systems and procedures, meaning it does not monitor risks.
- Integrated – An integrated file integrity monitoring tool is combined with other vulnerability, threat, and risk scanning or management systems company-wide.
Between these categories, there are also several combinations or hybrids that companies may develop. For example, an integrated monitoring system may be agented for maximum visibility.
Why You Need File Integrity Monitoring Software
File integrity monitoring tools and solutions must scale up with the amount, variety, and sensitivity of data the company processes. If your company regularly stores, translates, transmits, or otherwise comes into contact with many files it must protect, you need to monitor the integrity. The only way to ensure your security and any stakeholders connected to these files is to ensure that none are changed, moved, or deleted in unauthorized ways.
The age and size of the company are two more critical considerations concerning file integrity monitoring. Businesses that have been around for longer or are larger in scale irrespective of age tend to accumulate large volumes of data. Over time, file integrity monitoring becomes even more essential.
Beyond these baseline concerns that apply unilaterally to all companies, some companies need file integrity monitoring for specific legal reasons. One critical component of regulatory compliance is protecting specific classes of data. These include files pertinent to protected health and payment information or files connected to critical national security matters.
File Integrity Monitoring Compliance Requirements By Industry
Two regulatory frameworks require a form of file integrity monitoring or another capacity to ensure sensitive information isn’t deleted or changed inappropriately. They apply to the healthcare and critical power industries, respectively, and break down as follows:
- HIPAA and HITECH – Covered entities in and around the healthcare industry must monitor “protected health information” (PHI) per the Privacy and Security rules of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Any breach of integrity requires notification to impacted parties, per the Breach Notification Rule.
- NERC CIP framework – The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC)’s Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Standards require Bulk Power System (BPS) businesses to monitor file integrity. CIP-010-2, Configuration Change Management, and Vulnerability Assessments specifically require file integrity monitoring software or tools.
If your company is directly involved in these industries or a business associate of companies in them (for HIPAA), you may be legally required to have file integrity monitoring.
Other File Integrity Monitoring Compliance Requirements
Another compliance framework that requires file integrity monitoring in one form or another is the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS). The PCI-DSS is published by the Security Standards Council (SSC) of the PCI, which comprises major stakeholders in the industry such as Mastercard, AmEx, Visa, JCB International, and Discover. It applies to all companies that process payments by credit card, debit card, and online payment platforms.
The PCI-DSS comprises 12 requirements, and they all relate to file integrity monitoring. One, in particular, Requirement 11, specifically identifies file integrity monitoring software as a preferred testing methodology for its required “change detection mechanism.” Beyond Requirement 11, file integrity monitoring also facilitates all but two Requirements (R1 and R4). PCI compliance is technically possible without file integrity monitoring, but implementing it simplifies the process.
How to Implement File Integrity Monitoring Tools
As noted above, most file integrity monitoring systems operate on two axes: they’re agented or agentless and standalone or integrated. Three file integrity monitoring solutions to consider are:
- Vulnerability management – An integrated solution that can be agented or agentless comes in the form of company-wide risk management. Programs on individual endpoints or system scanners can monitor for changes alongside other vulnerabilities and threats.
- Cloud computing security – A solution that can operate integrated or standalone, likely through an agent, is a cloud monitoring capacity trained on files stored on cloud servers or transmitted across cloud networks and platforms. This solution can also work without agents.
- PII or PAN scanners – A standalone solution that works equally well agented or agentless is a Personally Identifiable Information (PII) scanner or Primary Account Number (PAN) scanner. These tools monitor for and report on changes to PII or PAN in all files.
The best way to implement these file integrity monitoring software and tools is with the help of a managed security services provider (MSSP).
Professional File Integrity Monitoring Solutions
All companies can benefit from integrating file integrity monitoring. You may consider agented or agentless solutions, and these may be standalone systems, or they may integrate with other comprehensive security capacities. These also might be required by compliance frameworks or client expectations. No matter what file integrity monitoring is best for you, contact RSI Security today to implement a tailored solution for your company.