Building a basic File Integrity Monitor

File Integrity Monitoring systems are great for notifying users when important files are being changed, and can even prevent the changes from sticking. In this post, I’ll show you how to build your own basic FIM using Python, alerting on changes by sending messages to the console.

Note: I’ve created a new directory for this project, and added a few junk files in addition to my BasicFIM.py script. You can add any files you want.

Getting the files to monitor

The first step we’ll take, is to gather up all the files in our script’s directory. After all, we need something to monitor, right?

import os

for file in [item for item in os.listdir('.') if os.path.isfile(item)]:
print file


Walk-through:

• Line 1: We start by adding import os to the top of our script, giving us access to Python’s built-in OS module. We’ll need this for tasks like grabbing directories and determining their contents.
• Line 3: This line has a lot going on, so I’ll break it down into pieces
• for item in os.listdir('.'): The os module’s listdir() function is used to retrieve all items found in a given path. Here, we use '.', which is the string constant for the current working directory.
• if os.path.isfile(item): Utilizing the os module again, the isFile() function of os.path returns a boolean after determining whether or not our item is a file.
• [item for item in os.listdir('.') if os.path.isfile(item)]: Just one of the many ways to use List Comprehensions in Python, this code reads out as “For each of the items in the directory, add it to the list if it’s a file”.
• Line 4: A simple printing of the filename to the console

Calculating the hash

There are many different types of hashes to chose from, all with varying speeds and levels of security. In a production-level FIM, you’ll want to take things like calculation speed and collisions into account, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll use MD5.

import os,hashlib

for file in [item for item in os.listdir('.') if os.path.isfile(item)]:
hash = hashlib.md5()
with open(file) as f:
for chunk in iter(lambda: f.read(2048), ""):
hash.update(chunk)
md5 = hash.hexdigest()
print file,md5


Walk-through:

• Line 1: Here, we add the hashlib module so we can access the hashing functions we’ll need later.
• Line 4: Creates a new instance of hashlib’s md5() class.
• Line 6: Because we may be monitoring files larger than our available memory, we need to break them into chunks to keep the system from halting. The iter() function allows us to repeatedly perform a task until certain criteria is met. In this case, we are using a lambda to read out 2048 bytes at a time, and will stop once the file reaches its end, returning ''. (Note: The reason behind 2048 is that MD5 uses a block size of 128. By using a multiple of that, we can not only read the file faster, but help to calculate the hash faster as well.)
• Line 7: Using the byte chunks gathered from the previous line, we use the hash’s update() function to push the new chunk into the hash object.
• Line 8: Generates the MD5 hash in hexadecimal format.

Storing Hashes

So now that you’ve got your files hashed, it’s time to put them some place where you can access them later.

import os,hashlib

files={}
for file in [item for item in os.listdir('.') if os.path.isfile(item)]:
hash = hashlib.md5()
with open(file) as f:
for chunk in iter(lambda: f.read(2048), ""):
hash.update(chunk)
md5 = hash.hexdigest()
files[file]=md5
print files


Walk-through:

• Line 3: Start by declaring a new variable, files, as an empty dictionary.
• Line 10: Python loves to make things easy. This line is actually doing two things depending on whether or not the file has already been seen. If file is not currently a key in files, it is added with its value set to md5. If file does exist in the keys, its value is updated to the new hash.

Output:

Here’s where you get to be creative! When it comes to alerting, you have a number of options to choose from. Customize the format, come up with a creative message, write to the console, send an email or text message, the possibilities are endless!

import os,hashlib,time

files={}
for file in [item for item in os.listdir('.') if os.path.isfile(item)]:
hash = hashlib.md5()
with open(file) as f:
for chunk in iter(lambda: f.read(2048), ""):
hash.update(chunk)
md5 = hash.hexdigest()
print '%s\t%s has been changed!'%(time.strftime("%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S") , file)
files[file]=md5


Walk-through:

• Line 1: We need to import the time module in order to access some date/time information.
• Line 10: To simplify this line, I’ll break it down into pieces
• time.strftime("%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S"): Using the time module’s strftime() function, we can pass it a string format for it to output. If you want to make your own format, or just learn more about strftime(), check this out
• '%s\t%s has been changed!'%(string, string): This is just one of Python’s many ways to format a string. By replacing %s with string variables (%d for numbers), you can create strings cleanly (‘no need’+’ for ‘+’this’).

Detecting the change

Because we trust the baseline hashes and only want to be alerted when they change, we need to add some sort of check to prevent our alert from always going off.

import os,hashlib,time

files={}
for file in [item for item in os.listdir('.') if os.path.isfile(item)]:
hash = hashlib.md5()
with open(file) as f:
for chunk in iter(lambda: f.read(2048), ""):
hash.update(chunk)
md5 = hash.hexdigest()
if file in files and md5 <> files[file]:
print '%s\t%s has been changed!'%(time.strftime("%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S") , file)
files[file]=md5


Walk-through:

• Line 10: If file exists in the keys of files (preventing alerts on the first run), and md5 is not the same as files[file]’s value (the file has been changed), the alert will be triggered.

Output:

After this step, you shouldn’t see anything! But that will change shortly…

Continuously Monitor

So far, you’ve scanned your directory, picked out the files, collected their hashes, and added alerts. For this final step, we’ll throw it all in a loop to keep the code running and start the monitoring.

import os,hashlib,time

files={}
while True:
for file in [item for item in os.listdir('.') if os.path.isfile(item)]:
hash = hashlib.md5()
with open(file) as f:
for chunk in iter(lambda: f.read(2048), ""):
hash.update(chunk)
md5 = hash.hexdigest()
if file in files and md5 <> files[file]:
print '%s\t%s has been changed!'%(time.strftime("%Y-%m-%d %H:%M:%S") , file)
files[file]=md5
time.sleep(1)


Walk-through:

• Line 4: Creates a never-ending loop, rechecking our files with each iteration.
• Line 14: After each iteration, we want to make sure to pause our monitoring. Without this pause, we would occasionally run into permission issues and crash the script.

Conclusion

Congratulations! You’ve built your very own File Integrity Monitor. Even though it’s very basic, all the core fundamentals are there for you to build off of. If you are interested in learning more, check back for future posts on building a more advanced FIM (along with other security related goodies).