What is User Activity Monitoring (UAM)?

Updated On - April 19, 2024

User Activity Monitoring (UAM) is the monitoring and tracking of end user behavior on devices, networks, and other company-owned IT resources. UAM may be deployed for several reasons including assisting in the detection and termination of insider threats, whether unintentional or with malicious intent. The range of monitoring and the methods used depends on the objectives of the company.

The implementation of user activity monitoring ensures that businesses can more easily identify suspicious behavior and mitigate risks before they result in data breaches. User Activity Monitoring, which is sometimes called User Activity Tracking, is a form of surveillance, but provides a proactive view of end user activity to identify any misuse of access privileges or data protection policies either through ignorance or malicious intent.

Learn How Lepide Helps in User Activity Monitoring

How User Activity Monitoring Works

The main objective of user activity monitoring is to ensure that users are acting responsibly with data and reduce the risk of data breaches and compliance fines. Some UAM solutions go as far as to monitor user activity on systems, data, applications, web browsing, file and folder access and more.

The type of user activity monitoring you go for will completely depend on your business objectives and what you’re looking to achieve. If, for example, you’re concerned about what your users are doing during sessions then a UAM solution that records sessions will help you. If you’re looking to ensure that users aren’t attempting to access or modify sensitive files and folders, then a UAM solution that monitors file/folder access will help.

Benefits of User Activity Monitoring

There are many different tools offering different levels of functionality related to user activity monitoring. Privileged Access Management (PAM) tools, User and Entity Behavior Analytics (UEBA) tools and other forms of general security software offer siloed aspects of user activity monitoring.

There is no complete user activity monitoring software. But, if you’re looking for the most value for your money, then I would suggest you look for a data security platform that offers real-time alerting and at least some UEBA functionality.

Data security platforms work to monitor, track and alert on suspicious user behavior on a continuous basis. Users can receive notifications in real time as to anomalous user activity so that they can react in a timely manner.

You do not have to employ a team of people or even one individual to do user activity monitoring. A good data security platform such as the Lepide Data Security Platform will do most of the work for you in this regard.

The Legal and Ethical Aspects of UAM

As User Activity Monitoring is a form of surveillance, it is subject to both legal and ethical considerations.

In most European countries and most US states, it is legal for the entity that owns a network or a device to monitor the activities of individuals using those resources. The same general rule applies to personal devices that have been formally approved for work use within a BYOD (bring your own device) program. The memo on Workplace Privacy and Employee Monitoring maintained by the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse (last revised March 25, 2019) states clearly in its introduction that, “unless company policy specifically states otherwise, your employer may monitor most of your work activity.”

There are, however, wider laws that control the monitoring and storing of electronic communications that need to be considered when implementing user activity monitoring.

In the US, the relevant federal law is the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) of 1986, which also includes the Stored Wire Electronic Communications Act. The ECPA safeguards “wire, oral, and electronic communications while those communications are being made, are in transit; and when they are stored on computers.”

In the European Union, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) enacted in May 2018 includes clauses that restrict when and how personal data can be collected, stored, and used. Since collected UAM data may contain personal data, GDPR requirements are to ensure that care needs to be taken to store it safely, obfuscated and encrypted, and retained only for as long as minimally necessary.

Apart from strict legality, however, there are also ethical considerations that need to be considered regarding user activity monitoring. User activity monitoring should be implemented for legitimate business needs only. For example, monitoring content is not essential to assessing an employee’s performance or risk profile. In such cases, monitoring should be based on open data, such as the website which has been accessed, rather than the actual content viewed within the website. It is also important to ensure that the personnel with access to monitored data is limited and should be on a strict need-to-know basis only.

User Activity Tracking and Monitoring Best Practices

1. Determine What to Watch

As we previously discussed, user activity monitoring involves a variety of things you could potentially prioritize. You need to decide what’s important to you, whether that be session recording, event logging, UEBA and more. What you want to monitor will determine with UAM solution you should go for.

2. Cut Through the Noise

Getting a solution that can sift through the large volumes of data generated by event logs and present the information in a readable and actionable format is going to be key in reducing the time it takes to spot and react to a potential data breach.

3. Monitor Privileged Users as a Priority

The users who have access to your sensitive data (trade secrets, PII, intellectual property etc) are the ones that pose the greatest risk to your data security. As such, you need to be able to identify which users have these permissions and monitor them more closely. You should also keep an eye on permission changes to ensure that permissions don’t escalate.

4. Implementing Policies and Practices

This is where most of your users will switch off and be the cause of unintentional data breaches. No-one likes following strict password policies or attending data security awareness training. But these things are essential when it comes to reducing the risk of insider threats. Your challenge is to find a way to get your users to follow these policies.

5. Perfect Your Incident Response Plan

If you or your UAM solution does detect any anomalous user activity or that a potential data breach is in progress, it’s important that you are able to react quickly and efficiently. To do this you will need to have a well thought out and tested incident response plan. All members of the team and all members of the organization should know what to do in the event of a data breach to mitigate the potential damages.

How Lepide Helps

The Lepide Data Security Platform is an award-winning solution that combines many of the user activity monitoring features that would otherwise be siloed. It enables users to find out where their sensitive data is, see who has access to it, monitor user activity (including anomaly spotting) and ensure that their environment is secure.

It also comes pre-packaged with those all-important real-time alerts and pre-defined reports that will help you save both time and money. Come and see how the Lepide Data Security Platform can help you improve your data security and reduce the risk of compliance penalties.

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