Continuous Control Monitoring: Why is it So Important?

Security teams are tasked with the job of assuring that business risks are securely managed and that appropriate security controls are in place and functioning well. 

Monitoring controls tends to become extremely time-consuming as enterprises grow and implement more and more controls to keep up with regulatory requirements and third-party vendors. As a company’s infrastructure expands in size and complexity, control management becomes a significant challenge. But it’s a challenge that cannot be disregarded: security controls are the foundation of an information security management system (ISMS).

Security teams often lack the resources for rigorous control management.  Often, control testing is limited to just satisfying regulatory compliance standards and preparing for the next audit. But when an organization takes such a fragmented approach to control testing, they’re likely to overlook flaws in their control management that can expose them to risk. 

For instance, the 2022 IT Benchmark Compliance Survey found that most participants had gaps in their vendor risk management system. Is it surprising that a whopping 90% of the survey respondents also reported that they had been impacted by a third-party security incident in the last year? 

One method to maintain efficiency in managing security controls is applying technology to allow continual (or at least high-frequency) monitoring of control functionality, also known as Continuous Controls Monitoring (CCM). The ultimate objective of a continuous control monitoring framework is to determine if the security and privacy controls implemented by an organization continue to be effective over time. CCM also replaces manual control management with automated detection solutions that can monitor a complete system in a single dashboard.

Continuous Control Monitoring: Why is it So Important?

How Does a CCM Work?

Continuous control monitoring tools test data output for any indications that the controls are not working properly.  When key controls are functioning, they should produce certain data outputs. Analyzing these output logs for potential errors gives security teams insight into the performance of key controls.

Why is a CCM So Important?

Continuous monitoring software is an excellent assessment mechanism that repeatedly validates that system configurations are working as expected. 

Planning and implementing excellent security configurations and then manually managing controls undermines a system and does not guarantee that controls remain configured as expected over time. Even periodic or annual control assessments and audits are not sufficient to address the dynamic nature of today’s business environment because:

  • they capture a static snapshot of a single point in time. This means that in between periodic checks, major security incidents may have happened without our knowledge.
  • The quality of these assessments is decreased if it is prone to human error or mismanagement.
  • They are costly and time-consuming.

These insufficiencies can have a serious impact on business operations and information security programs. Lags in control assessments hamper critical processes and expose the organization as a target for new threats.

Robust risk management is nearly impossible without a continuous control monitoring system that uses automated tools. Using automation, organizations can identify when the system is not up to par to meet security and privacy standards. It can then react appropriately to remediate the security concern. Continuous monitoring identifies hidden system components, misconfigurations, vulnerabilities, and unauthorized actions. The provision of data-driven updates enhances a culture of proactive risk management. 

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A CCM Solution should:

  • Include configuration management and access controls for organizational systems
  • Use a risk-based approach to prioritize control assessments 
  • Map risks to relevant controls based on a continuous monitoring strategy.
  • Provide data-driven reports to appropriate organizational officials
  • Involve executive-level ongoing oversight of security and privacy risks.

Benefits of a Continuous Control Monitoring Platform

CCMs are a profitable investment in terms of improved compliance, risk management, and ability to achieve business goals.

Continuous control monitoring can enable an enterprise to:

  • Accelerate reporting capabilities to facilitate corporate decision-making
  • Detect exceptions and anomalies in real-time to enable real-time responses
  • Reduce ongoing compliance costs
  • Replace reactive controls with automated proactive controls
  • Highlight competitive edge and increase value to investors
  • Streamline core business processes
  • With a CCM, audit preparation and periodic assessments of controls are a breeze

How To Implement CCM

To deploy a CCM system that monitors a wide range of controls across a business domain, an organization needs to have a single repository that documents and manages its controls and gathers evidence of their effectiveness. 

A CCM has connectors to common business applications across IT, development, security, HR, sales, and finance and can pull pertinent data about many types of controls into its platform for streamlined controls assessment and validation. CCMs make it easy to simplify workflows that manage alarms, communicate to the board, investigate alerts, and remediate or mitigate the control weaknesses.

Challenges in CCM Implementation

Problem #1: Data Access

A common roadblock to continuous control monitoring is obtaining data access.  IT departments that protect data like crown jewels are understandably reluctant to release datasets to be monitored regularly. Even if access is achieved temporarily, regularly accessing and downloading the data can pose a technical and integral challenge. Continuous control monitoring is worthless without access to data.

Problem #2: Standardized Solutions

The simplest approach to CCM implementation is to buy an off-the-shelf solution that will do everything a CCM should do. In reality, though, every organization’s systems are unique and there will always be differences in configuration. Pre-packaged solutions may run their standard outputs, but results can be unspecific and lacking in relevance. Look for a customizable, scalable solution that can be tailor-fit to your needs.

Problem #3: Cost Prohibitive 

Costs of implementation seem prohibitive because people think that every control needs to be monitored. To be fair, addressing all controls would be quite a challenge and it would take years to see ROI. Successful implementations use an agile strategy to focus on areas that will show value quickly. The focus should be on achieving smaller results in areas that are both high risk and high value. By undertaking an assessment, prioritizing and narrowing the scope, it’s easier to focus on designing a workflow template that can be replicated as you add new deployments. 

The road to a CCM solution is a process to proactive security monitoring, and like most security solutions, will have some curves in the road. The Centraleyes Risk and Compliance Management platform provides automated solutions for monitoring and updating security controls, undertaking risk assessments and prioritizing with ease. Most importantly, the Centraleyes platform is fully customizable and will scale up or down with you as you grow. 

If you’d like to see the great value of our automated risk and compliance management solution firsthand, why don’t you schedule a demo and try it out for yourself?

Start Getting Value With
Centraleyes for Free

See for yourself how the Centraleyes platform exceeds anything an old GRC
system does and eliminates the need for manual processes and spreadsheets
to give you immediate value and run a full risk assessment in less than 30 days

See Centraleyes’s Continuous Control Monitoring in action
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