With so many organizations following industry-standard cybersecurity frameworks such as NIST’s Risk Management Framework, continuous monitoring has become a critically important system to have in place. NIST defines Continuous monitoring as the process of ￼maintaining ongoing awareness of information security, vulnerabilities, and threats to support organizational risk management decisions. Continuous monitoring provides critical real-time visibility into organizational risk factors and cybersecurity performance, which while not an easy task, is an approachable one thanks to automated information-gathering tools. Additionally, ￼for businesses that are required to meet certain cybersecurity standards by government regulation, continuous monitoring is crucial in meeting and complying with organizational, governmental, and industry standards. Continuous monitoring goes a long way in documenting evidence of compliance with NIST and CMMC guidelines, as the process typically generates a body of evidence that may prove useful in an audit.
According to a white paper published by Deloitte titled “Continuous Monitoring and Continuous Auditing: From Idea to Implementation,” continuous monitoring enables management to “determine more quickly and accurately where it should be focusing attention and resources in order to improve processes, implement course corrections, address risk, or launch initiatives to better enable the enterprise to achieve its goals.” While this explanation holds true for any organizational goal, it applies especially well in the context of cybersecurity and increasing the efficacy of organizational cybersecurity controls. Continuous Monitoring is important because it provides real-time visibility into organizational risk factors, compliance status, and evaluate cybersecurity performance. The ability for an organization to be proactive in its introspection and self-analysis is important in maintaining a competitive edge not only over the adversary but from a business ROI perspective as well, translating effective business practices into a strong cybersecurity program. Being able to utilize a formal continuous monitoring procedure requires diligence in understanding your current and future organizational risk profile.
However, continuous monitoring is not a simple task. It is time-consuming, resource-intensive, and requires constant work to reap the benefits. Being able to have a strong continuous monitoring program in place requires diligence and investment as it will not be an overnight process. Introspection is a difficult thing; there is no easy way to solve this problem, and it’s not one that can be solved by throwing money at the wall to see what sticks. Thankfully, there are cost-effective tools available that automate the information-gathering process which makes getting started more approachable. Some tools are relatively inexpensive on a small-scale, making it possible to automate the continuous monitoring process in a cost-effective manner. The key is to start small; implement the process on a limited scale, deploy any automation tools required, ensure efficacy of the program, and determine scalability. If the program works in a small-scale environment and it seems like a scalable process, then over time the scope of the process should be expanded to include other organizational systems and procedures. If not, it’s still possible to salvage the process by taking a step back and reevaluating.
Establishing an effective continuous monitoring program is not an overnight task. It requires significant effort, time investment, and a strong team behind the process. But there is hope as there are resources, tools, and frameworks available to help organizations hit the ground running when it matters most. One of the most important principles in determining the success of a cybersecurity program is in the detail and veracity of the knowledge of the company’s digital ecosystem, existing cybersecurity measures, and future cybersecurity goals. Being able to accurately pinpoint strengths and weaknesses in organizational systems is invaluable and having a continuous monitoring process in place provides organizations with the knowledge they need to most efficiently allocate resources for measurable performance improvement.