Understanding Indicators of Compromise to Improve Your Cybersecurity


Indicators of compromise, or IOC, are forensic data usually found in system log entries or other files that can help identify potential malicious activities or attacks on a network. Essentially, these aid information security professionals in finding, detecting, and identifying data breaches and malware infections, among other threats. By extensively looking for indicators of compromise, companies can detect attacks and resolve them faster in order to limit potential damages.

Indicators of compromise essentially act as a trail of breadcrumbs that IT security personnel can follow in order to find any malicious activities happening in the early stages. These are unusual activities that raise red flags, indicating a potential or in-progress attack. 

The problem is, indicators of compromise are not always easy to find. They can be anything from a simple metadata element to a complex code. Often, security analysts try to find IOCs that correlate to each other in order to piece them together and identify a threat.

An indicator of attack is similar to an IOC. The main difference is that this one focuses on identifying the attacker activity while it is in progress. IOCs, on the other hand, answer the question of what actually happened and why. Proactive cybersecurity makes use of both these indicators in order to detect and resolve threats fast.

There are many indicators of compromise that should be monitored. Here are common ones:

  • Strange privileged user account activity.
  • Unusual number of outbound network traffic.
  • Log-in red flags.
  • Irregular geographical access.
  • Increase in database read volume.
  • Increased number of requests for the same file.
  • Unusual HTML response sizes.
  • Inhuman-like behavior of web traffic.
  • Strange DNS requests.
  • Mismatched port-application traffic.
  • Unknown patching of systems.
  • Changes to the registry or system files.
  • Finding data in the wrong place.
  • Changes to mobile device profile.
  • DDoS activity.

The best cybersecurity plans involve making use of indicators of compromise to better detect and respond to data breaches and threats. By correlating this data in real time, the organization can identify security concerns faster, which might have gone unnoticed by other tools. Patterns shown by IOCs can be used to update security tools to automatically resolve such incidents in the future.

In the battle against malware attacks and cybersecurity, indicators of compromise are important. While they may be reactive in nature, they can be used to find threats faster and develop defenses for them in the future.

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