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Outsource Your Monitoring To The Business

Don't keep all of the fun to yourself
Weren’t you looking for an excuse to get out of reading logs? Well, here it is. Security monitoring takes many forms, and some of them are more appropriately done directly by the business.

One obvious example of this is Web usage. Department managers will generally know better than you do which kinds of sites are relevant to their work and which ones aren’t. Fantasy baseball league sites are a no-brainer, but what about news sites? If employees are spending a lot of time on The Wall Street Journal pages, they may be doing legitimate research -- or they may be goofing off. Only the supervisor can say for sure how much browsing or emailing is too much when compared to the staff’s actual assigned tasks.

Another aspect to monitoring is looking for violations of corporate policy. As a security professional, you should not be in the position of having to make a judgment call on the appropriateness of, say, political sites. The human resources people should have to do the monitoring; if they want to check out certain URLs that look iffy, they can have arguments among themselves about what constitutes "sexually oriented material" or what postings might reflect poorly on the organization. You should not be acting as the Bad Taste Police.

Executives need to understand traffic patterns on a high level; they should be able to spot anomalous business behavior. They may discover that a department is using data that they never knew it needed to access. And they can be the ones to tell you whether sending large mail attachments is normal, or when they expect heavy server loads because of new sales promotions. Whether it’s finding out who’s really behind the company Twitter account or spotting frequent contact with journalists, there’s business-related information that they should know about contained in the system and security logs.

This isn’t to say you should be redirecting all of your SIEM’s alerts to the reception desk. But you have enough on your plate just dissecting lower-level traffic and spotting malware without trying to interpret monitoring data in the context of the business. If a different team has more reason to react to certain types of events and knows more about them, then you should try to pull them into the monitoring. Data-sharing starts at home.

Wendy Nather is Research Director of the Enterprise Security Practice at the independent analyst firm 451 Research. You can find her on Twitter as @451wendy.

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