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Indicator: How Reliable Can It Be In Predicting Attacks?

Indicator: How Reliable Can It Be In Predicting Attacks?

 By Charles Joseph | Cybersecurity Researcher
 Published on August 1st, 2023
This post was updated on November 25th, 2023

An indicator, often referred to as an Indicator of Compromise (IoC), is a piece of data or evidence that suggests a system or network might have been breached. Examples of indicators could be unusual network traffic, changes in file integrity, or unrecognized IP addresses. It’s a warning sign that something might be wrong and needs further investigation.

Indicator Examples

1. Unexpected Network Traffic

Network traffic naturally has peak and off-peak hours, much like rush hour for traffic on the road. Regular office hours typically see higher data transfer rates as people communicate, share files, or hold online meetings. That’s normal.

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But when you’re seeing a high amount of data transfer during off-peak hours, like late at night or early in the morning when few people are working, it can be a cause for concern. This could be an indicator of a cyber threat, such as data breach or unauthorized access.

Consistent monitoring of network traffic can help you identify these unexpected changes. If discovered, you should investigate promptly to ensure your network is secure and your data is protected.

2. New Admin Accounts

In any secure system, administrative accounts are typically limited and strictly managed. These accounts have access to sensitive areas and can make important changes to the system. So, it’s usually a clear record of who has admin privileges and why.

If suddenly a new administrative account pops up and no one knows why or who created it, this could be a serious red flag. It might mean that an unauthorized user now has access to privileged systems, an indicator of a potential security breach.

This situation calls for immediate investigation. The status of all admin accounts should be checked and any suspicious activity should be probed. Fast and decisive action can prevent further compromise of your system’s security.

3. Unusually Slow Systems

Computers and networks often become slow when they’re overworked. For example, if you’re running several high-memory programs simultaneously, you may notice a decrease in speed. That’s normal. But if your system operations start to run slower than usual for no known reason, it might be time to get suspicious.

Unusually slow systems could indicate that someone else is using your resources improperly. For example, a cybercriminal might be controlling part of your system for a botnet or maliciously mining cryptocurrency. This slows down your operations, and it’s a clear sign – an indicator – of compromise.

If you experience a sudden and unexplained slow down, immediate investigation is required. This might include checking for abnormal resource usage, investigating active connections, or running a full anti-malware scan. Quick response can help mitigate damage and restore normal system operations.


Understanding indicators in cybersecurity is crucial to recognizing potential threats and taking action swiftly. By looking out for signals such as unexpected network traffic, creation of new admin accounts, or unexplainable slow systems, you can identify and address potential issues before they escalate.

Key Takeaways

  • Indicators in cybersecurity are pieces of data or evidence suggesting a possible system breach.
  • Examples of indicators include unexpected network traffic, new admin accounts, and unusually slow systems.
  • Constant monitoring and regular system checks can help detect these indicators early.
  • It’s essential to act promptly and investigate further when indicators of compromise are detected to prevent further damage.
  • Ensuring your data security and system integrity starts with the clear understanding and recognition of these indicators.

Related Questions

1. What can be done to prevent these indicators?

Regular system checks, constant network monitoring, and following best security practices such as strong passwords and two-factor authentication can minimize the potential for these indicators.

2. What should I do if I detect an indicator of compromise?

Once an indicator is identified, the first step should be to isolate the compromised system or user to prevent further damage. Then, you should initiate a full system investigation to identify the problem’s source and extent. Consider working with cybersecurity professionals for best results.

3. How often should I perform system checks?

The frequency of system checks depends on the sensitivity of your data and the potential risk of compromise. However, for most businesses, weekly or monthly checks are usually sufficient. Immediate checks should also be run if you suspect a compromise.

4. Can antivirus software detect these indicators?

Antivirus software can often detect some indicators, such as malicious programs or unusual system behavior. However, they might not pick up all types of threats, so manual checks are also advised.

5. Can I train my employees to recognize these indicators?

Yes, training employees to spot signs of potential breach can be a crucial part of your cybersecurity strategy. With more eyes on the lookout, the chances of early detection and response increase significantly.

"Amateurs hack systems, professionals hack people."
-- Bruce Schneier, a renown computer security professional
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