For any online business's success, the website owner must be aware of the site’s user experience and its ease of navigation. The only way to track user experience and behaviors is to implement end user monitoring. End user monitoring in a web application tracks the way users interact with a site and uses this logged information to display analytics. This behavior could be clicking links, opening a web page directly in the browser or finding the page via a search engine, buying a product, abandoning a shopping cart, and any other user activity. While tracking user actions is invaluable for marketing efforts, it can also help administrators identify and detect fraudulent activity and stop it.
How Does End User Monitoring Work?
Monitoring user behavior also helps administrators responsible for site performance add resources to handle traffic spikes. Site performance affects user retention and bounce rates. A slow-loading site loses users as they wait for pages to display. Search engines also rank sites based on page speed metrics. If pages load at a snail's pace, administrators and developers can analyze the root cause and optimize code or add resources to the environment.
In threat monitoring, logged user actions can detect fraud. Suppose that a threat actor has a list of usernames and passwords for the web application. The attacker could have obtained these credentials through phished emails or a data breach. Typically, the attacker scripts authentication to run through thousands of credentials to weed out the ones that match a positive authentication request. To do this, however, the attacker will also receive several negative results from authentication requests where the username and password do not match. Site administrators monitoring user behavior can detect this suspicious activity and send alerts for further analysis. It could indicate an unknown data breach or provide an opportunity to alert site users that their credentials have been stolen.
Types of End User Monitoring
Site traffic isn’t always from real users. Bots and other devices also send requests to web servers. The three most common types of end user monitoring are:
- Synthetic monitoring
- Real user monitoring
- Device-based end user monitoring
Organizations can have just one monitoring type or all three. In combination, all three monitoring types can be powerful tools for better marketing, website design, and fraud detection. To determine which one is right for the site, it’s essential to understand the metrics that differentiate the three types.
Synthetic monitoring is common in testing production websites for performance and errors. When logging user actions, synthetic traffic is any request from bots or user scripts. Interaction with site components in synthetic monitoring is never from actual humans, so this traffic is sometimes filtered out of reports. It’s useful for detecting bots such as search engine bots and scanners, but actions from synthetic user behavior are filtered out to avoid affecting analytics. Cybersecurity analysts can use it to detect an ongoing scripted attack, such as a brute force scan of user credentials.
Websites usually contain hundreds of pages and thousands of elements, so using bots helps identify issues more quickly and accurately instead of relying on human reviewers who need days to test all elements. Bot traffic performs thousands of requests rapidly to collect data for metrics on performance and stability of the site, so they are used for quick testing and human reviewers to identify design elements that could negatively affect user experiences.
Real User Monitoring
Unlike synthetic monitoring, real user monitoring collects data from human users and their browser interactions. It logs actual user activity based on user interaction with elements on the page. For example, when users click a link to navigate to a new page, real user monitoring logs an event for further analysis. This type of monitoring provides organizations actual human user input that enables better site design and functionality to meet user expectations.
Real user monitoring helps organizations determine where revenue is lost, mainly as users navigate the shopping cart and checkout experience. It can also determine which products are best linked together for upselling and additional revenue from product suggestions. Real user monitoring drives better marketing and website design from human user metrics using logged events from every click, page abandonment, purchased product, and other input.
In fraud prevention, real user monitoring detects failed authentication attempts to stop brute-force attacks. Failed authentication attempts could be from bots and synthetic traffic, but it’s also possible for human users to attempt authentication into the system from stolen credentials. Real user monitoring (RUM) identifies authentication attempts and alerts administrators to suspicious behavior. The user account can be locked to avoid fraud, protect account information, and notify the user of suspicious activity.
Device-Based End User Monitoring
Code developed for the web might not be optimized for mobile devices, and mobile sites could run poorly in web browsers. Device-based end user monitoring detects site issues using metrics collected from user desktops, mobile devices, and laptops. This method of user monitoring is useful for site performance metrics, identifying the common ways users connect to the site, and finding errors from different screen sizes or operating systems.
Why Companies Use End User Monitoring
Aside from ongoing data collection, end user monitoring is used in several scenarios but mainly for testing. For example, after deploying a new site design, organizations use end user monitoring to collect information to determine if the site design improves user experiences or makes it worse. In this case, monitoring can assess whether or not users appreciate new controls and layouts.
In threat monitoring, end user monitoring identifies code errors that may contribute to vulnerabilities in the application. Administrators can use it to automate penetration testing and find common vulnerabilities. After detecting vulnerabilities, developers can then release patches to fix the vulnerable code.