TechDogs-The Beginner’s Guide To "User Activity Monitoring Software": Part 1

IT Security

The Beginner’s Guide To User Activity Monitoring Software: Part 1

By TechDogs

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User Activity Monitoring (UAM), also known as employee monitoring software, has been around as a concept for hundreds of years. A century or two ago, UAM would have consisted of having staff clock in and out, of watching your apprentices like a hawk and of locking confidential documents in a night safe. Since then, UAM has changed significantly thanks to the digital revolution. With millions of people now online, sending sensitive information as an email attachment isn't just easy - it is the norm. Yes, you might put Private or Confidential in the subject heading like that was going to stop anyone with half a curious bone in their body from peeking. This article discusses UAM Software, how it works, why you need it - and why you shouldn't buy home furniture when you're at work.
TechDogs-Visual Image Of The Eye For The Business - Knows All Sees All- "User Activity Monitoring Software": Part 1
Once upon a time, Susan was remodeling her home. While at work, she used her work-issued laptop to browse home furnishing websites and her work mobile to scroll interior design Instagram accounts. She ordered window blinds and booked her kitchen installation. She willy-nilly clicked on links and entered competitions to win a dream home makeover. Susan also tried to access a discount tile store - not once but three times. Each time, she was denied access, so she did what any logical person would do. She banged her mouse up and down a few times, hammered on the return key and then called IT support to complain that her Internet wasn't working.

The IT support team already knew about Susan's difficulty. The User Activity Monitoring (UAM) Software they had installed on her system had captured her all her surfing activity and also the shopping sprees - all of it - but importantly, it blocked the tile site because it was fraudulent and would have put the organization at grave risk. Without User Activity Monitoring (UAM) tools, the business could have suffered a large-scale data breach, had intellectual property stolen or continued to pay someone to playhouse all morning.

Meanwhile, Susan had a close call. She (just) kept her job but if she had caused a breach, she could have been out of work and even sued by her employer.

UAM saved the day for everyone.

What Is User Activity Monitoring Software?

User Activity Monitoring Software tracks an organization's end-user activity, basically anyone with access to sensitive data even a business's IT resources, including third-party partners and contractors. While you don't want to go all Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy on everyone ("Trust no one, Jim"), no one ever got fired for being cautious.

UAM Software flags unwelcome behaviors and potential insider threats. As we all learned from Bob Dorough, there is a magic number and User Activity Monitoring Software has three components: behavior analytics, visual forensics and activity alerting.

Behavior Analytics monitors a user's pc activity and flags actions that could pose a security risk. What the system deems as high-risk activity depends on your business rules for the user, mainly employee tracking. If you're a crime fiction editor, fact-checking ways to dispose of a body is a perfectly reasonable thing to do and unlikely to raise alarm bells. If you work in a financial institution and google ways to break into a bank vault, your employer will probably want to know.

Visual Forensics is an activity log - a visual output of all the potential risks the User Activity Monitoring Software has identified. It allows an organization for time tracking to pin employee activity as the source of a data breach with evidence of everything the user did up in the lead-up to the incident. As they say in Law and Order, this would allow you to throw the book at 'em (Cue dun-dun sound).

Activity Alerting lets whoever is managing the UAM Software to know that some risk has occurred as soon as it happens with such an employee monitoring tool. An immediate tattletale but one you would want to be friends with!

While you’re right to be concerned that deploying User Activity Monitoring may cause tension within the team, your employees can benefit from it too. Let’s get into it.

What Is The History Of User Activity Monitoring Software?

UAMS, in some sense, existed from before to prevent company secrets from being sold and make sure employees didn't sully their reputation. Back then, Mr. Jones of Jones and Sons would have built his business from scratch. Any underhand suspicious activity could have destroyed his livelihood. So, while remote employee monitoring didn't have a name as such, you can bet your bottom dollar Mr. Jones knew what everyone was doing at all times.

As the world changed, organizations (and headcount) grew. However, User Activity Monitoring was still manageable with insider threat detection. If you wanted to steal company secrets, you had to break into the company safe and smuggle out a file - hardly efficient. Stacy, the head secretary, was the most efficient employee monitoring solution as an effective form of User Activity Monitoring. She kept track of employee behavior along with who was working on what, who came and went and her security system was as complicated as locking the door behind her at lunchtime.

What prompted UAM Software as we know it today was the digital revolution. With millions of people now online, sending sensitive information as an email attachment wasn't just easy - it was the norm. Yes, you might put Private or Confidential in the subject heading, like that was going to stop anyone with half a curious bone in their body from peeking.

With seven in 10 data breaches coming from inside the organization, businesses needed a better grasp of who, what, when, where and how:
  • Who is accessing data?

  • What are they accessing?

  • When are they accessing it?

  • Where are their entry points?

  • How are they getting access?

Today, as more employees work remotely and more people use digital devices generally, User Activity Monitoring has reached its tipping point. To quote 50 Cent, track employee usage or die trying. *

*Maybe don’t die but, you know, try your best.

How Does User Activity Monitoring Software Work?

So, you want to monitor your employee’s online activity because...? Data Security. However, you want to do so with a software tool without getting in the way of them doing their work. Most internal data breaches are accidental. You don't want your employee tracking software for remote work employees to feel uncomfortable or like you're trying to trap them. So, how do you go about it?

Fortunately, UAM software comes with a whole host of features to help you do this.
  • Site Blocking

    You can prevent your staff from accessing insecure sites with remote monitoring, such as sites that look suspicious or even sites that might distract. Binge-watching Stranger Things isn't going to help get that report finished.

  • Screenshots

    UAM tools can capture remote screenshots of a user's screen with session recording, so you can see for yourself what your employee is looking at.

  • Keystroke Logging

    As the name suggests, this computer activity logger with user actions feature tracks every keystroke. Whether you're Ctrl-Atl-Del-ting, cutting and pasting, or merely pounding away at the Return key because the computer isn't doing what you want, UAM Software captures it all.

  • Real-Time Monitoring

    Real-time monitoring is the all-seeing eye of User Activity Monitoring. If UAM software were Middle Earth, real-time monitoring would look like a non-evil Sauron. It tracks every action a user takes and records it all in a log file for data loss prevention - fortunately, it doesn't send wraiths after you if it sees you. Although, CFOs (Chief Financial Officer) can look pretty doom-like on a bad day.

What’s Driving The Need For User Activity Monitoring?

Unfortunately, the greatest driver for User Activity Monitoring is the insider threat. We'd love to believe that everyone turns up for work to the tune of Sunshine and Lollipops but not so. There are three main reasons behind internal data breaches. Imagine three employees in the same company, let's call them Employee A, Employee B and Employee C.

TechDogs-"What’s Driving The Need For User Activity Monitoring?"-Three Employees In The Same Company, Being Monitored To Explain The Need For User Activity Monitoring
Employee A wants to do a good job. They understand the data security and they adhere to the rules. Today they're working on customer data analysis. They open a file and immediately have a question on a column header. They ping the file to their manager to query the rogue title and HOLY SECURITY! An unintentional, accidental, yet potentially devastating data breach has occurred.

Employee B is the worst. Their middle name is Wanton Destruction. Cybercrime? Hell yeah! Do you know how much people pay for customer data or intellectual property? Show me the money!

At last, we have Employee C. Employee C is a decent person and a model team member - until they're not. Their boss repeatedly lets them down, so they apply for a new job and cites a confidential case study in the interview.

Pshaw. Okay but these are hypotheticals, right? Yes, they are. The real examples are worse.

Anthony Levandowski was a lead engineer on Google's self-driving car project, Waymo. In 2016, he left to found Otto, a start-up that developed self-driving trucks. Less than six months later, Uber acquired Otto and, with it, a heap of trade secrets Levandowski had stolen from Google.

It turns out he had begun conversations with Uber five months before leaving Google and, in the month before he left, downloaded a whopping 14,000 files that included source code snippets, videos of test drives and confidential drawings and diagrams. Google had spent $1.1 billion, developing this information.

Not every internal breach is on this scale. Still, all are serious, like the San Francisco city administrator who casually withheld all the system passwords, effectively holding the city hostage, because he didn't trust his supervisors' competency or the disgruntled EnerVest engineer who performed a factory reset on the organization's systems because he learned he was going to be fired.

Even the best employee can have a bad day. You can annoy even the most amiable staff member and some people are just diabolical. All this because guess what? They're humans. Humans are essential to your organization. They're the magic makers, personality, emotion and heart but they're also fallible for those precise reasons.

While User Activity Monitoring Software is ostensibly designed to protect the organization, you also have an opportunity and responsibility to protect your employees - from themselves.

We've looked at User Activity Monitoring Software: what it is, how it works, its history and what's driving its needs. In Part 2 of our User Activity Monitoring Software series, we get into the nitty-gritty of why UAM is so important, its benefits and best practices and delight over the win-win nature of UAM Software's future.

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