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5 Best File Integrity Monitoring Tools

Best File Integrity Monitoring Tools

John Cirelly

File integrity monitoring tools work to protect systems safe after an intrusion. Let’s take a look at some of the best tools for the job.

Even with the best firewalls and security policies in place, files can still be lost or damaged. Whether that’s from a ransomware attack or simply an accidental deletion, file integrity monitoring can help save the day in a pinch.

Here is our list of the five best File Integrity Monitoring (FIM) tools:

  1. SolarWinds Security Event Manager – FREE TRIAL Offers forensic level auditing, automated file restoration, and compliance reports for all major standards
  2. DataDog Security and Compliance Monitoring Offers a flexible cloud-based monitoring system that can encompass files, infrastructure, applications, and servers
  3. ManageEngine EventLog Analyzer Monitor both files, as well as end-user behavior to detect compromised accounts proactively
  4. OSSEC An open-source HIDS and file integrity monitoring system
  5. Netwrix Auditor Can monitor files for changes as well as assist admins in demonstrating compliance and auditing access controls internally

How does file integrity monitoring work?

File Integrity Monitoring (FIM) software protects files from accidental changes, deletion, or attack by monitoring their state consistently for any changes you specify. As you can imagine, this can have a range of benefits in helping avoid downtime from lost or damaged files.

On a technical level, this is achieved by either calculating a checksum for each file or storing and comparing a live backup of the file to the current file in real-time. Both techniques work and can help networks fortify themselves against both internal and external threats.

FIM tools can be configured to detect many different changes, not just deletions. For instance, you can configure the FIM tool to automatically detect when a file is being encrypted and then tie that alert to a series of escalations and proactive countermeasures to remediate the attack automatically.

File integrity monitoring can also treat different types of files differently, which is helpful for organizations that adhere to compliance standards such as HIPAA or PCI DSS. Individual files or entire directories can be monitored for unauthorized access and help ensure those files do not leave certain areas of the network.

One of the most powerful features of file integrity monitoring is the automatic restore feature. This immediately can recover the last known ‘good’ state of a file before it was tampered with. On an enterprise level, this can help save sysadmins tons of time manually recovering files. Some FIM tools can even save different incremental backups that reflect changes of a document over a longer time.

If nothing else, file integrity monitoring can be an early warning system that something is amiss in your network. When you combine alert notifications with an automatic file restore policy, you can simultaneously escalate the issues internally and prevent end-user downtime at the same time.

What to look for in a file integrity monitoring tool

Not all FIM tools are created equal. The best FIM tools will be able to send alerts across various channels and to explore and utilize fully restored files automatically when they are changed or deleted. This proactive feature is one of the essential features you’ll want to keep in mind when looking for the best file integrity monitoring tool for your organization.

If your organization follows compliance guidelines, make sure that your FIM tool supports the level of monitoring needed to help aid in compliance. Some FIM tools can detect when unauthorized access is attempted internally. Logging this information can help paint whether inappropriate access was an accident or intentional.

Many tools nowadays offer more than one method of protection. When looking for an FIM tool, keep an eye out for a tool that can do more. For example, many monitoring solutions can now monitor multiple environments, servers, and applications all under one tool.

File integrity monitoring tools can be resource-intensive, meaning their logs can take up a lot of disk space, especially on more extensive networks. Think about where you want your FIM tool to live. If you have servers with adequate space, the solution can be hosted on-site. If you lack server infrastructure or simply want to take advantage of a more scalable solution, a cloud-based FIM tool will be a better choice.

The best file integrity monitoring tools

Now that we’ve explored how FIM tools work and what they can do. Let’s look at our top picks for the best file integrity monitoring tools on the market.

1. SolarWinds Security Event Manager – FREE TRIAL

SolarWinds Security Event Manager

SolarWinds Security Event Manager (SEM) is a SIEM tool that leverages file integrity monitoring as a core feature to help secure data. SEM does much more than just file integrity monitoring, making it a more powerful tool to help keep your files safe. FIM tools act as an early warning system that something is wrong; this tool takes that a step further by monitoring both the integrity of your files, along with the syslogs of every server and network device on the network.

A minor agent can be installed in every environment that you wish to monitor. That agent reads the security logs of that application or server and then forwards them to a centralized dashboard for review. This allows organizations to monitor both their files and unauthorized attempts at accessing the network, allowing you to be even more proactive in stopping attacks.

Events for all of these logs can be searched within a single dashboard, making it a scalable option no matter how extensive your network is. Events can be analyzed in real-time and historically, allowing you to keep track of security events for months or even years. One of the most potent parts of the solution is the ability for automatic remediation.

Automated incident response is at the heart of the system and gives sysadmins a wide range of options for responding to specific events. This works not just for file integrity monitoring but also unauthorized access, failed login attempts, and more. The platform does an excellent job of giving administrators the freedom to build their solutions while also providing a helpful library of templates that allows the product to be used out-of-box for immediate results.

SolarWinds Security Event Manager can monitor the integrity of files and other areas of the network, including servers, applications, and infrastructure. This flexibility, along with its easy-to-implement agents for data collection, secures its spot at number one on our list.

You can test out SolarWinds Security Event Manager completely free for yourself through a 30-day trial.

Pros

  • File integrity monitoring tool that supports log monitoring for a more holistic approach to network security
  • Offers highly configurable automated remediation with detailed documentation and templates
  • Offers quick compliance checks, as well as templates for detailed reporting for PCI DSS, HIPAA, SOX, and more
  • Can automatically restore files, as well as track their changes over time
  • Offers forensic-level auditing to aid in legal cases or in-depth investigations

Cons

  • SEM is an advanced platform with many different tools that can take time to fully explore and utilize

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2. Datadog Security and Compliance Monitoring

Datadog App Performance

Datadog Security and Compliance Monitoring is a cloud-based set of monitoring tools that can aid in monitoring files, as well as monitoring servers, applications, and infrastructure. By offering this monitoring in the cloud, it allows organizations who don’t have the infrastructure to support heavy monitoring a chance to leverage file integrity monitoring that was once only available to the enterprise.

Where Datadog shines is in the user interface. Even when monitoring thousands of applications or files, the Datadog dashboard can be fully customized and easy to view for live and historical data analysis.

Like SolarWinds Security Event Manager, the platform monitors syslog files of different applications and servers to detect threats early on and ideally before impacting the network's performance. Upon installation, there are a series of detection rules that are designed to work immediately, so you won’t have to spend a ton of time configuring basic monitoring features.

For more customized alerts and automated incident response, users can use the ruleset editor to build their series or triggers, conditions, and actions based on event log data. This rule editor is surprisingly easy to use, especially compared to other SIEM tools on the market.

For organizations who think they want to expand their monitoring capabilities beyond just files, Datadog has over 450 integrations into different applications and tools that can help support a monitoring strategy with omnipresence.

You can test out Datadog utterly free through a 14-day trial.

Pros

  • Has one of the best interfaces for file/application monitoring
  • Uses live network mapping to pull in new devices and reflects changes in the network in real-time
  • Offers a large number of templates and out of the box features alongside more advanced tools
  • Subscription model makes Datadog accessible to any size business

Cons

  • I would like to see a more extended 30-day trial period.

3. ManageEngine EventLog Analyzer

ManageEngine OpManager Uptime Monitoring

ManageEngine EventLog Analyzer is another SIEM tool that uses file integrity monitoring as its cornerstone feature. The platform can automatically protect files, audit their access, and monitor permission changes that have taken place on that file.

The tool uses two primary features to keep track of file integrity. It first takes a snapshot of files in their ideal state if changes to explore and utilize entirely need to be reversed. Alerts can then be configured to trigger when changes are made and offer a side-by-side before and after look.

Included in the file monitoring is a series of compliance auditing tools and reports that can aid in adhering to standards such as FISMA, SOX, HIPAA, or PCI DSS. Reports can be run via one of the templates provided or customized to your liking. Export options include both PDF and CSV, allowing reports to be used for presentations as well as spreadsheets.

On top of file integrity monitoring, the system goes a bit deeper and provides an extra layer of monitoring on the end-user level. This is called User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) and helps sysadmins identify insider attacks and compromised accounts. This feature goes beyond file or log monitoring by understanding how users behave daily and then alerting them to strange behavior when detected.

The platform comes in three different pricing options, Free, Premium, and Distributed. The free tier allows companies to monitor up to five log files but does not include file integrity monitoring. The tool is available for Windows and Linux and can be tested for free through a 30-day trial.

Pros

  • Customizable dashboards that work great for network operation centers
  • Multiple alert channels ensure teams are notified across SMS, email, or app integration
  • Uses anomaly detection to assist technicians in their day-to-day operations
  • Supports file integrity monitoring that can act as an early warning system for ransomware, data theft, and permission access issues
  • Forensic log audit features enable admins to create reports for legal cases or investigations

Cons

  • Does not have a mobile app
  • Could use a more intuitive interface
  • Has a steep learning curve, can be intimidating during setup

4. OSSEC

Open Source Security (OSSEC)

OSSEC is a free and open-source Host-based Intrusion Detection (HIDS) tool with a dedicated community of users who continuously provide configuration settings, scanning templates, and bug fixes to the platform. File integrity monitoring is a core feature of OSSEC, making it a solution for FIM.

The platform collects log data, and file integrity metrics from the network in real-time and analyzes that data for any attacks or attempted attacks. The file integrity monitoring feature in this tool is called Syscheck, and it's just a tiny part of what the entire platform is capable of monitoring.

The FIM features scans on a cycle, checking for changes every six hours by default. This is done intentionally to limit the size of the logs generated and reduce the number of system resources consistently being used. While there is a tradeoff between real-time monitoring and this delay, sysadmins can customize this option to monitor more sensitive files in a short time.

OSSEC can be run on Windows, Linux, Mac, and Unix.

Pros

  • It can be used on a wide range of operating systems, Linux, Windows, Unix, and Mac
  • Can function as a combination of SIEM and HIDS
  • The interface is easy to customize and highly visual
  • Community-built templates allow administrators to get started quickly

Cons

  • Requires secondary tools like Graylog and Kibana for further analysis
  • The open-source version lacks paid support

5. Netwrix Auditor

netwrix auditor for siem

Netwrix Auditor was designed to monitor files and help sysadmin maintain compliance on their networks through a series of reports, audits, and tools. The platform can monitor and report changes to files, with countermeasures including new files created, permission changes, modifications, and deletions.

The tool cannot restore files in real-time, but it can help organizations demonstrate compliance by offering a detailed log of file changes and access attempts. Rather than monitoring all the files on a network, Netwrix Auditor can detect sensitive files or be told exactly what to watch. This helps safeguard your most sensitive files while also protecting system resources.

The auditing functionality can help assist administrators in internal audits of permissions by displaying a simple side-by-side look at permissions and offering a more visual look into file access rights and permissions. Netwrix Auditor is available for free through a 20-day trial.

Pros

  • Offers detailed auditing and reporting that helps maintain chain of custody for sensitive files
  • Offers hardware and device monitoring to track device health alongside security
  • Allows sysadmin to implement automated remediation via scripts
  • Integrates with popular help desk platforms for automatic ticket creation

Cons

  • The trial could be a bit longer
  • Can have issues supporting Cisco network devices
  • Alerting could be made more intuitive

Which file integrity monitoring tool is best for you?

We’ve listed our top five picks for best integrity monitoring tools, but which one is best for you?

In almost all cases, SolarWinds Security Event Manager will be the best choice for both medium and large-size networks that need a customizable FIM tool that will help demonstrate compliance, as well as offering automatic remediation. The tool can automatically restore files and provide an audit trail of changes, making it both a proactive and reactive solution to file security.

Datadog offers an excellent cloud-based solution that doesn’t require any server hardware or compliance onboarding procedure for businesses who want file integrity monitoring but don’t have the infrastructure or in-house IT staff.

Lastly, for small businesses that can’t budget for an enterprise FIM tool, OSSEC offers a free and open-source HIDS/FIM tool that can be used to monitor file access and proactively identify network intrusion attempts. Just make sure you have a strong team of talented technicians to configure and manage the tool.

Do you have a favorite file integrity monitoring tool? Tell us about it in the comments below.