7 Benefits of Continuous Monitoring & How Automation Can Maximize Impact

  • March 06, 2024

Emily Bonnie

Senior Content Marketing Manager at Secureframe


Rob Gutierrez

Senior Compliance Manager at Secureframe

Continuous monitoring is essential for information security and risk management.

By allowing organizations to detect and respond to security threats in real time, continuous monitoring enables organizations to proactively manage their security risks and comply with regulatory requirements. It also helps organizations maintain a robust security posture, improving their overall security resilience and reducing the likelihood of cyber attacks.

Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of continuous monitoring, the role of automation, best practices, and more.

What is continuous monitoring in cybersecurity?

Continuous monitoring is a cybersecurity practice that involves ongoing surveillance and analysis of an organization's IT infrastructure, systems, and applications to detect potential security threats and vulnerabilities. The purpose of continuous monitoring is to maintain the security of an organization's assets and ensure that they are protected against potential cyber attacks. 

Just like home security systems that can alert you when a person approaches your home or a smoke detector goes off, continuous monitoring processes are designed to constantly monitor your IT environment for risks and flag anomalies. 

Because continuous monitoring helps organizations identify vulnerabilities and potential threats before they can be exploited, it is a key aspect of vulnerability management. 

Benefits of continuous monitoring

There are several benefits of continuous monitoring for cybersecurity:

  1. Early threat detection: Continuous monitoring allows organizations to detect cyber threats and vulnerabilities in real-time, drastically improving their response times so they can quickly contain a security incident and prevent it from escalating.
  2. Proactive response: Continuous monitoring enables organizations to take a proactive approach to cybersecurity, identifying potential threats before they can cause damage to the organization's information systems, data, or reputation.
  3. More effective risk management: Continuous monitoring helps organizations to identify and prioritize security risks, allowing them to allocate resources effectively and manage their cybersecurity risks more efficiently.
  4. Continuous compliance: Continuous monitoring helps organizations comply with regulatory requirements such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, GDPR, and NIST 800-53.  By continuously monitoring their systems and applications, organizations can ensure that they are continuing to meet the necessary security standards year after year.
  5. Improved incident response: Continuous monitoring allows organizations to respond to security incidents more effectively by providing them with detailed information about the attack, including the origin and type of attack and the extent of the damage.
  6. Enhanced visibility: Continuous monitoring enhances visibility into an organization’s IT environment, allowing them to monitor network security, user activity, and system logs, and identify potential IT security threats or suspicious behavior.
  7. Informed decision making: Continuous monitoring provides organizations with the information needed to support risk response decisions and assess the effectiveness of their security controls. This can ultimately help organizations move from compliance-driven risk management to data-driven risk management.

Continuous monitoring is essential for information security because it allows organizations to detect and respond to security threats in real time. It helps organizations identify vulnerabilities and potential threats before they can be exploited, reducing the risk of data breaches, financial losses, and reputational damage.

By implementing continuous monitoring, organizations can proactively manage their security risks and comply with regulatory requirements such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, and GDPR. It also helps organizations to maintain a robust security posture, improving their overall security resilience and reducing the likelihood of cyberattacks.

Key components of continuous monitoring

Continuous monitoring can involve several techniques, including:

  • Vulnerability scans: Automated tooling periodically scans an organization’s systems to identify and prioritize vulnerabilities. Paired with regular penetration testing, where an ethical hacker finds and exploits deeper vulnerabilities within a system, vulnerability scanning can help organizations identify and respond to potential threats quickly.
  • Intrusion detection systems: Device or application that monitors systems and networks for behavioral anomalies, policy violations, and malicious activity. 
  • Log analysis: Software tools that collect and analyze log data from various sources, such as system logs, application logs, network logs, and security logs.
  • Security information and event management (SIEM) solutions: A specialized type of log analysis solution that collects and analyzes log data across an organization’s digital assets to identify potential security threats and incidents.
  • Network traffic analysis: Monitoring network traffic to identify potential security threats and other IT issues. 
  • Threat intelligence: The practice of collecting and analyzing information about tactics, techniques, and procedures used by cyber criminals as well as indicators of compromise to understand and identify potential cyber threats. 

These techniques are used by security teams to collect as much information as possible about the organization's IT environment, threat landscape, and attack surface. That data is analyzed for potential security risks so the organization can take proactive measures to understand, prevent, and/or mitigate any potential security incidents.

The role of automation in continuous monitoring

Having a comprehensive information security program means that all implemented security controls must be regularly assessed for effectiveness. This can be difficult to do using manual processes alone. 

That’s why NIST Special Publication 800-137 recommends using both manual and automated processes to achieve organization-wide monitoring efficiently. Automated processes, including the use of automated tools like vulnerability scanning tools and network scanning devices, as well as compliance automation tools, such as Secureframe, can make continuous monitoring more cost-effective, consistent, and efficient.

Using automated tools to monitor controls in real time can provide an organization with a much more dynamic view of the effectiveness of those controls and the overall security posture of the organization than manual processes. That is because automating data collection, analysis, and reporting where possible enables organizations to monitor a greater number of security metrics with fewer resources, higher frequencies, and larger sample sizes.

While monitoring of certain controls cannot be automated at all or easily, organizations can look for automated solutions where possible to lower costs, enhance efficiency, and improve the reliability of monitoring security-related information. 

Many organizations are realizing these benefits of automation and AI in information security. According to the Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023 report by IBM and Ponemon Institute, for example, the average cost of a data breach reached a record $4.45 million last year. US businesses saw the highest costs across the globe — an average $9.48 million. Yet the study saw companies with fully deployed security AI and automation tools reduce those costs by over $1.7 million. Those organizations were also able to identify a security breach nearly 70% faster than organizations without security AI and automation in place. 

The survey of Secureframe users conducted by UserEvidence substantiated that automated continuous monitoring was a driving factor for automation and technology adoption. When asked what the most important Secureframe features are to them, 84% of Secureframe users reported continuous monitoring to detect and remediate misconfigurations, making it the top answer. 

As a result of Secureframe’s continuous monitoring and other automation capabilities, Secureframe users reported a range of benefits including:

  • Saved time and resources obtaining and maintaining compliance (95%)
  • Improved visibility into security and compliance posture (71%)
  • Reduced costs associated with a compliance program (50%)

How does automated continuous monitoring work?

Automated continuous monitoring works by using software tools and technologies to collect, analyze, and respond to security threats and vulnerabilities in real time. Automated continuous monitoring typically follows a standard process:

  1. Data collection: Automated tools collect data from various sources, such as system logs, network traffic, and security devices.
  2. Data normalization: The collected data is then organized and formatted to prepare for analysis.
  3. Data analysis: Normalized data is analyzed using techniques such as machine learning and statistical analysis to identify potential security threats and vulnerabilities.
  4. Threat monitoring and detection: Once potential threats are identified, they are classified based on their severity and prioritized for mitigation. Alerts are automatically generated when a security incident is detected.
  5. Response: Automated responses can be initiated based on the severity of the incident. For example, a system can be automatically quarantined or traffic can be automatically blocked.
  6. Remediation: After the incident is contained, remediation steps can be taken automatically to address any security vulnerabilities that were exploited and to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.

By using automated tools to continuously monitor their IT environment, organizations can stay ahead of emerging threats, respond quickly to security incidents, and maintain a strong security posture.

Automated continuous monitoring can be especially beneficial for organizations with large and complex IT environments, as it reduces the risk of human error and enables security personnel to focus on higher-priority tasks.

Best practices for effective cybersecurity monitoring

As with your other security controls and initiatives, it’s important to understand best practices so you can implement continuous monitoring effectively. Here are some guidelines to follow for effective security monitoring:

  1. Define clear security objectives: Define your organization's cybersecurity objectives, including what data and systems need to be protected. It’s also important to reference your risk management and risk assessment methodology to understand which threats carry the greatest likelihood and impact.
  2. Establish metrics: Establish metrics that provide meaningful indications of security status at all organizational tiers, including the organization, mission/business processes, and information system tiers.
  3. Establish a baseline: What constitutes normal network and system behavior? This will help you identify any anomalies or suspicious activity that may indicate a security incident.
  4. Use multiple data sources: Collect data from multiple sources to gain a comprehensive overview of your IT environment and attack surface, including network logs, system logs, and security devices.
  5. Leverage threat intelligence: Use threat intelligence feeds to identify known attack indicators and patterns and stay up-to-date with emerging threats.
  6. Maintain asset inventories: Maintain an asset inventory of authorized hardware assets/devices allowed to connect to a network and approved software, manage their configuration settings, and scan for, identify, and patch any known vulnerabilities. Automated tools can help simplify the management of hardware and software inventories and the security (configuration and vulnerabilities) of the inventoried assets in your organization.
  7. Automate monitoring: Use automation where possible to streamline security monitoring tasks, such as log collection and analysis, and reduce the risk of human error.
  8. Implement manual processes consistently: As mentioned above, monitoring of certain controls cannot be automated easily or at all. Where manual processes are used, make them repeatable and verifiable to ensure these processes are implemented consistently across the organization. 
  9. Get real-time visibility: Use dashboards to monitor your IT environment and compliance status in real time.
  10. Implement anomaly detection: Use anomaly detection tools to identify suspicious behavior or traffic patterns that may indicate a security incident.
  11. Conduct regular internal audits: Periodic internal security audits can ensure that your security monitoring practices are effective and aligned with your organization’s overall security objectives.
  12. Create an incident response plan: Develop an incident response plan that outlines how to respond to various security incidents and ensure that all relevant stakeholders are aware of their roles and responsibilities.
  13. Continuously improve: Continuously improve your security monitoring practices based on feedback, lessons learned from past incidents, and emerging threats. Loop in importance of metrics here too.

How Secureframe’s continuous monitoring tools enhance your cybersecurity program

Continuous monitoring is an essential component of an effective data protection strategy, helping organizations protect their sensitive data, intellectual property, and critical business operations from the growing threat of cyber attacks.

Secureframe’s robust continuous monitoring solution gives you complete visibility and actionable insights into critical security and privacy compliance issues. 

  • Connect to our 150+ integrations to continuously monitor your tech stack
  • Get alerts when tests require attention or test statuses are changed for frameworks such as SOC 2, ISO 27001, PCI DSS, HIPAA, and more.
  • Customize notifications for ongoing tasks such as user access reviews, employee policy acceptance and security awareness training, and annual penetration testing
  • Conduct automatic vulnerability scanning for Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE)

When misconfigurations are detected, you can use Comply AI for Remediation to quickly correct the misconfiguration or underlying issue using the AI-tailored remediation code. Leveraging this AI capability eliminates the manual work of writing code, reducing the risk of human error and improving accuracy when fixing misconfigurations. 

To learn more about Secureframe’s security and privacy compliance automation platform, schedule a demo with a product expert.

About the UserEvidence Survey

The data about Secureframe users was obtained through an online survey conducted by UserEvidence in February 2024. The survey included responses from 44 Secureframe users (the majority of whom were manager-level or above) across the information technology, consumer discretionary, industrials, financial, and healthcare industries.


What is continuous monitoring in cybersecurity?

Continuous monitoring involves ongoing surveillance and analysis of an organization's IT infrastructure, systems, and applications. It's a common cybersecurity practice that helps organizations detect and respond to potential security threats and vulnerabilities.

What is an example of continuous monitoring?

Continuous monitoring involves monitoring systems to detect threats and identify non-compliance issues, such as misconfigurations. An example of continuous monitoring would be analyzing network traffic to flag anomalies or suspicious activity. 

How is continuous monitoring done?

Continuous monitoring can involve several techniques, including vulnerability scanning, intrusion detection systems, log analysis, security information and event management (SIEM) solutions, network traffic analysis, and threat intelligence.

Why is continuous monitoring important?

Continuous monitoring is important for several reasons. It allows for early threat detection, faster incident response, more effective risk management, and continuous compliance with regulatory requirements such as HIPAA, PCI DSS, GDPR, and NIST 800-53.