Why continuous monitoring is like observing your teenager

What is continuous monitoring?

For many parents, keeping an eye on your teenagers is a critical activity. You worry about all the bad things that could happen and try to prevent this from occurring.

There are technologies in the market for the nervous parent, such as TempTraq – which provides a 24-hour intelligent thermometer. It continuously senses and records your child’s temperature and can send alerts to your mobile device.

The problem in enterprises is that we have, metaphorically, a bunch of teenagers working for us and we have no choice but to ‘trust but verify’. These teenagers want to work with corporate data on their mobile devices from every airport and locations that are uncontrolled.

Enter continuous monitoring

Continuous monitoring is on the brink of doing to cyber security what cloud deployment did for global productivity.The definition:“Continuous monitoring is the process and technology used to detect compliance and risk issues associated with an organisation's financial and operational environment”

Every good CIO and CISO has this on his or her watch list of new technologies to, er, monitor. Continuous monitoring has a role to play to prevent data breaches and also assist enterprises to achieve compliance.

The old-fashioned password, even the strong ones are usually insufficient.We witnessed LastPass get hacked recently, and, as suspected, this is about the human element and tricking someone.

Biometrics only take you part of the way

Most banks have been quick to embrace biometrics – finger, face, voice or iris.These are good 2nd factor authentication approaches and can bolster the security that is already in place.

Biometric authentication technologies can lock things down “using something we are rather than just something we know”. But there are issues with adopting this approach.What happens when there is an accident or a person is sick – then the finger is injured or voice different to normal. You are locked out of the account.

What is continuous monitoring?

This is all about watching multiple factors to constantly validate who you are.Yes you got the right password from an IP address that is recognized. Then you are also accessing the same applications that you normally use at the business hours that you usually keep.

But it just goes deeper.

The best way to introduce this concept is to look at a few examples.


Darktrace is a startup that is based on the biological principles of the human immune system and uses advanced machine-learning technology to analyse raw network traffic. This startup has already raised $110 million in VC funding.

There are no signatures or patterns that are predefined; instead Darktrace’s machine learning technology “allows it to learn what is normal for a company’s network environment, so that it can then determine if any behavior is abnormal”.


Biocatch is another startup that has a unique approach to continuous monitoring and it is a little spooky. It is watching you and how you interact with the technology.

It uses all the data from the accelerometers that are built into modern smartphones.BioCatch records comprehensive data on all of these movements, acting as a sort of seismograph.

“We can not only detect it, we can try to see if it is consistent, because if it is and you don’t look like other people, that is a very good way to analyse your behaviour and see if it is you operating within your account,” the company says.

A great mobile banking example

Turn it on and you will be observing very subtle things like the angle you hold a device and to the way you browse around an app. How hard you are tapping on the phone and the speed that you type.

This is all based around building an individual profile for you; you yourself are unaware of these small idiosyncrasies. Once this pattern is established it operates as a background tasks, always watching – when something unusual occurs then you may be flagged for closer monitoring.

We all use the keyboard differently, including commonly used keys. A small example —I never use the numeric keypad but I know that my wife will routinely use it. Continuous monitoring software can measure hundreds of these parameters.

Biocatch will build a profile after 10 visits of around 500 parameters — ‘physiological’ from your smartphone and ‘cognitive’ from how you use your PC.

Maybe I was right - it’s just like watching your teenager?

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