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Telemetry automatically collects, measures and transmits data from remote sources to a central location for monitoring and analysis. It uses sensors, communication systems, and monitoring tools to gather and interpret the data.
The word “telemetry” is derived from the Greek roots “tele”, meaning “remote”, and “metron”, meaning “measure”. More than just a technological buzzword, telemetry has become a standard data collection system for retrieving and analysing information to gain insights into a system’s performance.
Today, telemetry is broadly used across various industries to collect, monitor, and analyse data for decision-making, performance optimisation, and resource management. It plays a vital role in healthcare, logistics, software development, cybersecurity, finance, IoT, transportation, agriculture, manufacturing, and other industry applications.
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How Telemetry Works
Telemetry is a crucial tool for administering and managing various IT infrastructures, as well as for monitoring the performance of different systems and providing actionable insight. Here’s how telemetry works:
- Data Collection: Sensors at the source measure electrical data (such as voltage and current) or physical data (such as temperature and pressure). These sensors are part of a telemeter, which is a tool used to measure various metrics.
- Data Conversion: The measurements taken by the sensors are converted into electrical voltages. This conversion allows for easier transmission and data processing.
- Data Transmission: The converted data and timing information are combined into a data stream for transmission to a remote receiver. Telemetry data can be transferred using analogue or digital electronic devices, as well as various communication systems such as radio, infrared, ultrasonic, GSM, satellite, or cable.
- Data Reception and Processing: The remote receiver separates the data stream into its original components, and the data is displayed and processed according to user specifications. For instance, this processing can involve monitoring the performance of applications and their components in real-time.
Telemetry lets users gather data from any remote location without physical interaction. This provides continuous monitoring of equipment, environments, and vital signs, providing immediate insights into the status of these systems. In turn, the insights gained from telemetry are invaluable for making informed decisions and taking appropriate actions.
Why Is Telemetry Important?
Telemetry is widely used across various industry applications due to its numerous benefits. Here are some of the core reasons why telemetry is important:
Improved Performance and Efficiency
Telemetry allows organisations to gather current data about their systems, processes, and performance. By analysing this information, they can identify areas for improvement, optimise their operations, and enhance overall efficiency.
The insights gained from telemetry data can help organisations make informed decisions. For example, in IT, telemetry provides a deep, detailed view of system performance, enabling IT teams to quickly identify and resolve issues, leading to better overall system stability and performance.
Enhanced Customer Experience
Telemetry can collect and analyse customer data, allowing organisations to better understand customer needs and preferences. This information can inform products and services to meet those needs, resulting in a more personalised and satisfying customer experience.
Telemetry monitoring, such as in healthcare, helps save costs by reducing the need for constant supervision, enabling healthcare professionals to focus on patients who need immediate care. Additionally, early detection of issues through telemetry monitoring helps prevent more serious conditions, leading to long-term cost savings.
Remote Monitoring and Accessibility
Telemetry allows remote monitoring of various systems and processes, making it easier for organisations to access and analyse data from different locations. Remote monitoring is particularly beneficial in industries like security to monitor environments without needing constant physical presence.
Early Detection and Prevention
In cybersecurity, for example, telemetry monitoring helps detect and alert professionals to potential threats, such as unauthorised access attempts or the execution of suspicious processes. This early detection can lead to timely intervention and effective prevention of attacks.
These benefits aren’t limited to one particular industry or another. They’re broadly universal, making telemetry an integral process supporting a range of functions.
Types of Telemetry
Types of telemetry can be categorised based on the data they collect and the systems they monitor. Here are some examples of the different kinds of telemetry:
- Metrics Telemetry: This type involves collecting numerical data to measure over time. Metrics are often used to monitor a system’s performance, such as a server’s CPU usage or an application’s response time.
- Events Telemetry: Events telemetry involves the collection of data about specific incidents that occur within a system. These events could include system errors, user actions, or any other significant event.
- Logs Telemetry: Logs are the oldest and most basic type of telemetry data. They are arbitrary, timestamped text records that provide specific information about the system at a given time. Logs are often used for debugging or understanding specific aspects of a system.
- Traces Telemetry: Traces are the most modern and advanced type of telemetry data. A trace is a collection of hierarchically related spans representing activities within applications. Each span contains timestamps for start and stop times, attributes that describe features of the operation it represents.
- User Telemetry: User telemetry collects data when users engage with product features, such as when a user clicks on a button, logs into the system, views a specific page, or encounters a particular error page.
- Network Telemetry: Network telemetry involves collecting data related to network performance, such as bandwidth capacity and application use.
- Medical Telemetry: Medical telemetry monitors patients at risk of abnormal heart activity, generally in a coronary care unit.
- Aerospace Telemetry: This type monitors the location, performance, and health of satellites, spacecraft, and aircraft.
- Security Telemetry: This form provides essential visibility and information about an organisation’s security posture, enabling security teams to quickly identify emerging vulnerabilities.
Each type of telemetry has its own specific use cases and provides valuable insights into the system or process it is monitoring. The data collected through telemetry can be used to improve system performance, identify and fix issues, and make informed decisions.
Security Telemetry: An In-Depth Look
Security telemetry involves data collection, analysis, and interpretation from various IT infrastructure sources to monitor for suspicious activities, vulnerabilities, or potential breaches. This data-driven approach provides invaluable insights into an organisation’s security posture, enabling swift and informed decision-making.
Benefits of Security Telemetry
Security telemetry offers many advantages in combating the ever-evolving landscape of cybersecurity threats. Some key benefits include:
- Early threat detection: Security telemetry enables the early identification of anomalous or malicious activities within a network. By continuously monitoring data, organisations can detect potential threats before they escalate into full-scale attacks.
- Rapid incident response: Timely access to relevant data allows security teams to respond swiftly to incidents. Security telemetry provides the necessary information to isolate compromised systems and effectively contain threats.
- Enhanced visibility: Security telemetry provides a comprehensive view of an organisation’s digital environment. It offers insights into network traffic, user behaviour, and system performance, aiding in identifying vulnerabilities and potential threat vectors.
- Proactive vulnerability management: With telemetry data, organisations can proactively address vulnerabilities in their systems and applications. By pinpointing weak points, they can implement patches and security updates before they are exploited.
- Compliance and reporting: Many regulatory frameworks require organisations to maintain a robust security posture and report incidents promptly. Security telemetry helps meet these compliance requirements by providing a detailed record of security events.
- Threat intelligence integration: Combine telemetry data with threat intelligence sources to gain insights into the evolving cyber threat landscape, facilitating proactive threat identification and mitigation.
- Forensic analysis: Utilise telemetry data for reconstructing event sequences, root cause analysis of cyber-attacks, and assessing their impact. Telemetry data aids in post-incident investigations and informs strategies for future incident prevention.
- Cyber insurance compliance: Security telemetry provides evidence of compliance with cyber insurance requirements, facilitating the alignment of security controls and policies. Additionally, telemetry data can serve as vital evidence for cyber insurance claims by detailing the incident’s circumstances, causes, and potentially responsible parties.
Challenges in Implementing Security Telemetry
While security telemetry offers substantial advantages, its effective implementation is not without challenges. Some common hurdles include:
- Unencrypted cybersecurity telemetry data: One notable challenge in security telemetry is data transmission without encryption. When telemetry data is sent over networks without encryption, it is susceptible to interception or tampering by cybercriminals, potentially leading to man-in-the-middle attacks.
- Data exposure and leakage: Security telemetry data often contains critical information about an organisation’s IT infrastructure. When this data remains unencrypted, it becomes accessible to malicious actors who can exploit it for unauthorised access to the IT environment or, worse, hold it hostage for ransom.
- Privacy concerns: Collecting telemetry data can raise significant privacy concerns, particularly when monitoring user activities. Striking a balance between security and privacy is essential when implementing security telemetry in an organisation’s network.
- Managing diverse data sources: Organisations can accumulate a vast number of data sources for their security telemetry. Deciding which sources to leverage, how to process this data, and where to store it poses a significant challenge. Maintaining security and accessibility across diverse data sources and processing methods is essential.
- Handling data in high volumes: The sheer volume of structured and unstructured data generated by security telemetry can be overwhelming. Effective systems and processes are necessary to manage this data comprehensively. Simultaneously, continuous monitoring is vital to ensure the proper security, processing, and storage of cybersecurity data around the clock.
- Data governance and quality assurance: Establishing checks and balances to validate data integrity and quality is crucial. In complex IT infrastructures, managing data consistently across operations can prove challenging. Without robust data governance systems, extracting meaningful insights from the data to enhance security posture is formidable.
Security Telemetry Monitoring
Monitoring is a core aspect of security telemetry. It involves continuously observing various data sources to identify security events and potential threats. Key elements of monitoring include:
- Real-time monitoring: Security telemetry often involves real-time monitoring, enabling immediate response to security incidents as they occur.
- Log analysis: Log files generated by systems, applications, and network devices are a rich telemetry data source. Analysing these logs helps identify unusual activities or patterns.
- Network traffic analysis: Monitoring network traffic patterns and anomalies can reveal signs of unauthorised access, data exfiltration, or other malicious activities.
- Endpoint monitoring: Telemetry from individual endpoints, such as computers and mobile devices, provides insights into user behaviour and potential security risks.
Monitoring with security telemetry is a vigilant form of oversight, alerting security teams to potential threats and vulnerabilities.
Security Telemetry Measurement
Measurement in security telemetry involves quantifying various aspects of a system or network’s security posture. This quantification aids in assessing security effectiveness and identifying areas for improvement. Common metrics and measurements include:
- Threat detection rate: This metric assesses the efficiency of a security system in detecting threats. It measures the percentage of actual threats identified out of all potential threats.
- False positive rate: The false positive rate measures the number of false alarms or alerts security systems generate. A high false positive rate leads to alert fatigue and decreased effectiveness.
- Mean Time to Detect (MTTD): MTTD measures the average time it takes to detect a security incident from the moment it occurs. A shorter MTTD indicates a more responsive security system.
- Mean Time to Respond (MTTR): MTTR measures the average time to respond to and mitigate a security incident once detected. A shorter MTTR indicates a more efficient incident response process.
- Coverage ratio: The coverage ratio assesses the extent to which a security system monitors and protects an organisation’s digital assets. A higher coverage ratio implies better security coverage.
Accurate measurement is critical for evaluating the effectiveness of security measures and making data-driven improvements.
Types of Data in Security Telemetry
Security telemetry encompasses various types of data, each providing unique insights into an organisation’s security posture. Some common data types include:
- Network data: Network telemetry data includes information about network traffic, such as packet captures, flow data, and bandwidth utilisation. It helps detect anomalies and potential threats in network activity.
- Log data: Log data consists of records generated by systems, applications, and devices. This data provides a historical record of activities and can be instrumental in identifying security incidents.
- Endpoint data: Endpoint telemetry data comes from individual devices, including workstations, servers, and mobile devices. It offers insights into device behaviour and potential security issues.
- Traces data: These are detailed records that trace the execution path of applications or processes. Traces provide invaluable insights into application behaviour and help identify security-related anomalies or issues within an environment.
- User behaviour data: Understanding user behaviour is crucial for identifying insider threats and anomalies in user activities. User behaviour telemetry tracks actions, access patterns, and account behaviour.
- Application data: Telemetry data from applications helps monitor their performance and detect abnormal activities or vulnerabilities within the applications.
Examples of Security Telemetry
To grasp the practical applications of security telemetry, consider these real-world examples:
- Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS): Intrusion Detection Systems analyse network traffic for signs of suspicious activity, such as unusual patterns or known attack signatures. When anomalies are detected, alerts are generated, allowing rapid response.
- Security Information and Event Management (SIEM): SIEM platforms collect and correlate data from various sources, including logs and network traffic, to identify security events and provide a centralised view of an organisation’s security posture.
- User and Entity Behaviour Analytics (UEBA): UEBA solutions use machine learning to analyse user and entity behaviour, identifying deviations from typical patterns. Security telemetry data in this context helps spot unusual user activities or access patterns, aiding in the detection of insider threats and other security anomalies.
- Cloud security monitoring: As organisations increasingly adopt cloud services, cloud security monitoring becomes paramount. Telemetry data from cloud environments provides insights into user access, resource utilisation, and potential misconfigurations, helping organisations maintain robust cloud security.
- Application Performance Monitoring (APM): APM solutions leverage telemetry data to monitor application performance and behaviour. By analysing application telemetry, organisations can pinpoint performance bottlenecks, troubleshoot issues, and ensure the optimal functioning of critical applications.
- Network traffic analysis: Network traffic analysis solutions rely on telemetry data to scrutinise network traffic patterns and identify suspicious activities, such as data exfiltration or lateral movement by attackers. This insight is critical for early threat detection and rapid response.
- Firewall and Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS): Firewalls and IPS systems utilise telemetry data to monitor network traffic for unauthorised access attempts and potentially malicious activities. They can use telemetry to block or alert suspicious traffic, safeguarding network security.
These examples illustrate the diverse applications of security telemetry across various cybersecurity domains, underscoring its adaptability and indispensability in safeguarding digital environments.
Process for Security Telemetry
By following this process, organisations can effectively implement security telemetry, aligning it with their unique security goals and infrastructure while ensuring data-driven insights contribute to a more robust security posture.
- Define clear objectives: Begin by defining your objectives for implementing Security Telemetry. Determine your goals, whether it’s early threat detection, incident response improvement, or compliance monitoring. Clear objectives provide direction for your telemetry strategy.
- Identify key metrics: Establish the specific metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) you will track to meet your objectives. These metrics will be your yardstick for success and guide your data collection efforts.
- Select relevant data sources: Identify the data sources that will provide the necessary telemetry data. Evaluate each source for relevance, availability, and data quality. Prioritise sources that align with your security goals and provide actionable insights.
- Choose telemetry tools: Select suitable tools and technologies for collecting, processing, and analysing telemetry data. Ensure these tools align with your organisation’s technical infrastructure and meet your data processing needs.
- Implement data pipelines: Set up data pipelines that enable the seamless collection, processing, and storage of telemetry data from multiple sources. Configure these pipelines to ensure data flows efficiently and securely to your chosen destination tools.
- Rigorous testing and iteration: Thoroughly test your data pipelines to verify that they function as expected. Identify any bottlenecks, issues, or gaps in your telemetry process. Continuously iterate and optimise your setup to enhance its efficiency and effectiveness.
How to Use Cybersecurity Telemetry
Cybersecurity Telemetry isn’t just about collecting data; it’s about harnessing it to enhance your security posture, improve performance, and optimise your IT infrastructure. Here’s how you can effectively utilise cybersecurity telemetry:
- Improve your IT infrastructure: Leverage telemetry data to gain a real-time view of your IT infrastructure. Analyse this data to identify and address infrastructure problems, optimise resource allocation, and preemptively detect and mitigate cyber threats. Monitoring your infrastructure with telemetry ensures it operates at peak efficiency and security.
- Monitor IoT device performance: With cybersecurity telemetry data, you can closely track and optimise the performance of your IoT devices. This proactive approach lets you promptly identify and resolve security issues on any IoT device, ensuring their smooth operation and safeguarding your network from potential vulnerabilities.
- User interaction insights: Telemetry data provides valuable insights into how users interact with your IT applications and systems. Analyse this data to gain a deeper understanding of user behaviour and preferences. Use these insights to improve user interface, enhancing user engagement and overall user experience. You’ll have a more user-friendly and efficient IT environment.
- Asset management and optimisation: Security telemetry enables you to identify redundant or unused IT assets, such as cloud servers, that could pose security risks. By removing or consolidating these assets, you not only improve your cybersecurity posture but also optimise costs. Furthermore, telemetry data helps analyse usage trends across your IT infrastructure, allowing you to make informed decisions about resource allocation and future investments to advance it.
- Threat detection and incident response: Use telemetry data to detect cyber threats in real-time or even proactively. Establish automated alerting mechanisms that notify your security team of suspicious activities or anomalies. With this early warning system, you can respond swiftly to security incidents, minimising potential damage and downtime.
- Compliance and reporting: Leverage telemetry data to demonstrate compliance with industry regulations and internal security policies. Generate comprehensive reports based on telemetry insights to provide evidence of your organisation’s adherence to security standards. These reports are particularly valuable for audits or regulatory requirements.
- Continuous improvement: Regularly analyse telemetry data to identify areas for improvement. By continuously refining your security strategy and infrastructure based on telemetry insights, you can adapt to and stay ahead of evolving cyber threats.
Incorporating these practices into your cybersecurity strategy ensures that your organisation not only collects data but also effectively utilises it to strengthen security, streamline operations, and make informed decisions. Cybersecurity telemetry can be a powerful ally in your ongoing efforts to protect your digital assets and maintain a resilient IT environment.
How Proofpoint Uses Telemetry
Telemetry is integral to Proofpoint’s solutions and data collection on user interactions, behaviour, and threats across various channels, including endpoints, email, and the cloud. Proofpoint then uses telemetry data to provide visibility, monitor activity, correlate alerts, manage investigations, hunt for threats, and coordinate incident response. More specifically, Proofpoint uses telemetry with:
- Proofpoint Endpoint Data Loss Prevention (DLP): Proofpoint’s Endpoint DLP solution deploys an endpoint agent that captures metadata recorded from licensed user activities, including telemetry data. This telemetry helps monitor user interactions with data on the endpoint, such as file manipulation, sensitive data movement, and file renaming.
- Proofpoint Track: This solution also captures personal data included in captured content, with associated message telemetry and attachments. It helps customers monitor and manage their DLP incidents across multiple channels, with visibility into content, user behaviour, and threat telemetry.
- Proofpoint Information Protection & Security: Proofpoint’s Information Protection solutions leverage telemetry from email, cloud applications, endpoints, on-premises file shares, and SharePoint to provide complete visibility into data, user behaviour, and threat intelligence. This information helps organisations strengthen data protection against external sources of risk and respond quickly in moments of data exfiltration
- Proofpoint Enterprise DLP: This solution combines threat and behaviour telemetry with content, allowing organisations to focus on real security and compliance issues. The product gathers telemetry from email, cloud, and endpoint DLP channels to address the full spectrum of people-centric data loss scenarios.
By collecting and analysing telemetry data, Proofpoint can offer its customers more comprehensive and effective cybersecurity and compliance solutions. To learn more, contact Proofpoint.