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What Are Indicators Of Compromise? A Complete Guide

Over 62% of businesses experienced phishing and social engineering attacks in 2018, according to market research conducted by Cybint. These businesses include those that maintain robust cybersecurity protocols, yet they still became victims of an attack.

Cybersecurity for your operations is crucial no matter how large or detailed your security system may already be. There are times where you will have to remain vigilant regarding your system integrity, and there are noticeable signs you can watch out for if you are concerned.?

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These warning signs usually come in the form of what we term, indicators of compromise. No matter how secure and careful you have been, a security breach is a serious event that can happen to anyone.?

What are indicators of compromise?


Indicators of compromise are any pieces of data like old log files or system alerts that are indicative of potentially malicious activity on a system or network. Indicators of compromise assist IT, administrators, and owners in identifying the origins of data breaches or infections. Taking indicators of compromise seriously is important if you hope to prevent attacks from happening again.?

Oftentimes, indicators of compromise involve some detective work in identifying exactly where and when the breach occurred; cybersecurity criminals are getting smarter every day, and the breadcrumbs they leave are getting harder to follow. Analysts will usually have to piece together concerning or unfamiliar bits of code and draw conclusions about the nature of the attack. Indicators of compromise are important traces that can help your IT department identify, isolate, and neutralize further attacks to your system.

Related: What Is Application Security: A Beginner?s Guide

What are some common indicators of compromise that I should consider?

Indicators of compromise seem like a broad category of possible scenarios, and that is because they are in many ways. Indicators of compromise can vary in severity and type, such that some are quite obvious to detect, and others are very difficult to do so. Organizations should take care to monitor their systems diligently, as even the slightest lapse in detection can mean a missed indicator and a further attack on your resources.

Ready to learn how to stay vigilant for indicators of compromise? Contact Cyber Security Resource with your questions!?

Luckily, there are quite a few common indicators of compromise that can help narrow your focus, such as:

Unusual outbound activity

This is perhaps the most egregious telltale sign of a security breach when your IT department detects unauthorized traffic away from your network. Many times, analysts mistakenly think malicious inbound content is the main culprit behind breaches, but this leaves your outbound traffic unmonitored. Furthermore, if an attacker was able to infiltrate your system discretely, the detection of unusual outbound traffic may be your last chance to halt the breach.

Irregular geographic patterns?

For the most part, your operations are centralized in one or only a few possible geographical locations; if you do business domestically, an irregular geographic traffic pattern makes no sense and should be flagged immediately. This is also true for logins. If your employees primarily work in two offices in two specific locations, a login IP from another country is a sign of concern.

Login anomalies

This is perhaps the most well-known security breach flag that all readers should be familiar with; log-in anomalies are typically flagged when multiple login attempts fail on the same user account. Google and many email servers will alert users of login failures through a second email. Multiple failed attempts mean an attacker is trying to use an iterative method of accessing your system, and this should be halted as soon as possible.

Suspicious registry?

Malware developers may try to instate their programs within an infected system by changing the registry and records. It is important to maintain a clean template from which to compare how the registry should look.

Unauthorized changes in user privileges

If you are an administrator, you should be aware of what kind of user privileges you have assigned your team members on your database. If you notice all of a sudden everyone you have assigned ?Read-Only? now has ?Read-Write? privileges, this is a cause for concern and may mean an indicator of compromise.?

?Related: Security Risk Assessment

How do I use indicators of compromise to improve security?

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Memorizing and being vigilant for the most common indicators of compromise means great things for your cybersecurity protocol because it becomes less of a shot in the dark, and more of a targeted plan. Indicators of compromise are simply afterimages of an attempted attack, and you need to understand them in order to complete your detective work in finding the source of the breach.?

The most important takeaway from understanding indicators of compromise is that there is usually a pattern to the attacks. This is part of how IT professionals have identified the most common ones. Recognizing this pattern means bolstering your reporting and documentation system for speedy resolution.

Doing this correctly means establishing a reliable system of reporting your analyses in a well-structured format. Automating this process makes much of your job easier. Documenting these attacks as thoroughly as possible assists your group and other companies in improving their responses. Many IT professionals share their findings with each other on forums and open-source communications on the internet.

Related: What is Cloud Computing Security?

Closing Thoughts?

Whether you are a large-scale corporation or a budding startup, robust cybersecurity plans make your life easier. Part of that plan should include a system for detecting, reporting, and documenting indicators of compromise. Being vigilant will mean better security, happier employees, and satisfied clients.?

Are you ready to institute better monitoring for your cybersecurity protocol? Contact Cyber Security Resource with your query!

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