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What is it?

A form of anomaly detection that analyzes and correlates user activity on a computer or network to identify events and patterns that may require further investigation.

Why is it important?

Behavioral monitoring helps security teams quickly pinpoint unusual activity and act upon it. Also known as user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA), behavioral monitoring gathers data to build profiles for different types of users. It can then use those profiles to identify and flag potential threats. It has the potential to catch emerging threats before traditional, signature-based tools.

Why does a business professional need to know this?

Behavioral monitoring is an increasingly important tool for identifying and defending against cyberattacks that is becoming a larger part of security budgets. Gartner predicts that 60% of enterprise information security budgets will be allocated to rapid detection and response approaches by 2020, up from less than 10% in 2014(Moore 2016).

A behavioral monitoring system collects and uses data to build profiles for particular types of users based on role or location. Once profiles are built and activated, significant deviations from the profiles alert security analysts to the need for further review.

Here are some examples:

A remote employee usually accesses the virtual private network (VPN) from her home and from a nearby coffee shop. In the space of 30 minutes her login credentials are used from two different cities on different continents. Behavioral monitoring tools can detect the credentials being used from two places thousands of miles apart and raise an alert.

An accounts payable clerk usually works in the corporate office between 8 AM and 6 PM, Monday through Friday. As part of his usual work, he accesses the accounting system, a shared finance folder, the company intranet, and the inventory system. On his lunch break, he usually reads political news websites and occasionally listens to streaming news broadcasts during the day. Behavioral monitoring would flag these actions:

  • Logging in from a different location
  • Attempting to access different systems or files (source code, human resources files, or mergers and acquisitions information)
  • Logging in at 1 AM
  • Connecting to servers in China or Russia

Any of these activities taken alone could be legitimate user behavior that a security analyst could verify by talking to the user. Taken together, these events could indicate a security compromise. Behavioral analysis allows companies to move quickly to respond to threats and stop attackers before they can exfiltrate data or cause damage to the company’s systems and data.


About Holli Harrison

Photo of Holli Harrison

Holli Harrison specializes in security controls, risk management and security education. She has helped government agencies, healthcare companies, universities, and technology companies improve their security postures through assessment, education, and consulting.

Term: Behavioral Monitoring

Twitter: @security_person


What is it?

An ongoing process to define an organization’s risk and threat environment as it relates to its people, processes, policies, and technology.

Why is it important?

Situational awareness provides the foundation upon which to build a strategy for all other activities related to safeguarding your information and reducing cybersecurity risks. Every organization is unique in its mission, culture, and function; therefore, effective risk management requires that business professionals maintain situational awareness to ensure proper focus and perspective.

Why does a business professional need to know this?

The success of any cybersecurity risk management program depends on the ability of an organization to protect information and digital assets. In order to define a cybersecurity risk strategy, business professionals and cybersecurity specialists must understand the environment their organization operates in. In other words, they must have good situational awareness of their environment.

The situational awareness process considers all aspects of an organization from supply chain to information technology in relation to potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities and threats. For example, what would be the impact on your organization if you lost critical privacy or intellectual property? Would such a loss require operations to cease for a period of time or even permanently? Can you manage the operational impact?

If you attempt to define a risk management program without good situational awareness, you are likely to waste resources on strategies and safeguards that either do not achieve an optimal Return on Investment (ROI) or are ineffective.

2013, the danger of losing situational awareness became clear to the department store chain Target when the company’s vendor system was breached, costing the retailer millions of dollars and damaging its reputation(Abrams 2017)(Kassner 2015). Vendors often have access rights to intellectual property, privacy data, and information systems across multiple business units and functions. Understanding their role in your environment is key to developing an effective strategy to manage cybersecurity risks.


About Danyetta Fleming Magana

Photo of Danyetta Fleming Magana

Danyetta Fleming Magana founded Covenant Security Solutions in 2003. Her goal is to change how we think about our information and find new and innovative ways to secure our digital assets. Danyetta is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), a globally recognized certification in the information security arena. In 2011, 2012, and 2014, her company was recognized by Diversity Business as one of the “Top 500 African-American Owned Businesses in the US.” She is a graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign with a bachelor's degree in engineering.

Term: Situational Awareness



Twitter: @fleming_magana



What is it?

A state of understanding current security issues.

Why is it important?

Security awareness is important because employee mistakes are the number one cause of data breaches. Therefore, it is important to educate staff on security risks to help prevent cybersecurity incidents.

Why does a business professional need to know this?

Every business today needs to combat cybersecurity risks and, as such, must educate their employees and customers about the risks associated with their business.

Employees are primary targets for cybercriminals, and they need to understand how their actions can expose the business to a loss. Whether it is the risk of financial loss, loss of data, loss of privacy, or loss of confidential customer information, security awareness helps employees understand how to protect data.

Because employees are the first line of defense, they need to have a basic understanding of security risks. If employees have a baseline understanding of security issues, the business can be more agile combatting threats.

You can raise employee security awareness through effective training, but your efforts should not stop at training. Security awareness training is just one component of an overall security awareness program. Other components in such a program include newsletters, blogs, posters, teachable moments, computer-based training, security portals, and more.

Together, all of these elements can be the ingredients for a successful security awareness program. Although security specialists can create and deliver some aspects of a security awareness program, all business professionals are responsible for maintaining an awareness of potential vulnerabilities and the steps they can take to mitigate risk.

In addition to being a best practice, security awareness training is required to be in compliance with industry and governmental standards, including the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), which is a global standard, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)(HIPAA) in the US.


  • (Knowbe) Knowbe4: Library of best practices, white papers, and free tools to help those attempting to develop cybersecurity awareness training programs.
  • (Sans 2017) SANS 2017 Security Awareness Report: SANS Institute (2017). PDF. Registration required.
  • (Amoroso) NIST Framework Overview: Amoroso, Edward G. New York University Tandon School of Engineering. Video. An introduction to the NIST framework and to many practical aspects of modern cybersecurity including awareness, compliance, assessments, and risk management. Registration required for the full course on Coursera.
  • (Mediapro 2016) NIST Cybersecurity Framework Improves Security Awareness: Mediapro (2016). PDF. Registration required.

About Justin Orcutt

Photo of Justin Orcutt

Justin Orcutt has worked with Fortune 500 companies to address information security and compliance concerns. Justin has supported incident response projects that investigated large-scale breaches. An active member of several organizations, including the Technology Association of Georgia, ISACA, and the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA), Justin is on the Gwinnett Tech Cybersecurity Program Advisory Board.

Term: Security Awareness


Twitter: @jtech2014