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Incident Response A Challenge For 98% Of InfoSec Pros

Too many alerts and too little staff leave security pros swimming in threat intel and begging for automation.

Ninety-eight percent of IT security pros find incident response to be a challenge and 71% say it's grown more difficult over the past two years, according to a new survey by Enterprise Strategy Group, sponsored by Hexadite.

"It's a combination of several different factors, but the main problem is the inability to investigate every alert," says Hexadite’s vice president of marketing Nathan Burke. "The increasing volume of attacks and subsequent alerts simply make it impossible to hire the problem away. It's just not mathematically possible for companies to hire a large enough staff to investigate tens of thousands of alerts per month, nor would it make sense." 

Ninety-one percent of respondents say their incident response efficiency is limited by the time and effort spent on manual processes. Survey respondents, thus, have big plans to increase the use of orchestration and automation for incident response: 97% have either automated/orchestrated some of their IR already, or will do so within the next 18 months. Only one-third of survey respondents consider their automation projects "mature," though.

"Prioritizing threats is just making a conscious decision about what to ignore, and there's no good way to decide what really is low fidelity versus something that should be looked at," Burke says. "The holy grail is the ability to investigate everything without prioritization, and that can only be accomplished through automation."

Organizations are using or considering automation to collect security data, to reduce errors, to automate runbooks/workbooks, to improve triage, or to increase the number of alerts that can be investigated, the survey found.

Forty-six percent of respondents say they can't keep up with the volume of threat intelligence data.

"This may be due to an increase in the amount of threat intelligence they consume/share or problems associated with normalizing this threat intelligence into a useable format," the report stated.

Although 38% reported an increase in the number of hours devoted to incident response, that extra time was spent having to process much more information. Forty-two percent report an increase in the volume of IR data collected, 39% an increase in the volume of security alerts, and 38% an increase in the number of threat detection tools used. 

So is the problem one of too many tools, over-sensitive tools sending up false positives, unskilled humans who don't know what to do with all those tools -- or some combination of the above?

"It's hard to fault detection tools for creating false positives ... they need to be overly sensitive and throw flags for every potential threat," says Burke. "However, when companies lack the capacity to follow up, they often tune the detection systems to match their capacity, and that's a recipe for disaster."

Respondents also reported other factors that drove changes in their IR operations in recent years, including: new IR related to new IT initiatives like IoT (44%); additional IR collaboration between security and IT ops (40%); and increase in staff training needed for IR (38%). Forty-seven percent say they struggle with "monitoring end-to-end IR processes."

The report says that "could be due to a number of factors, including a lack of visibility across technology domains, poor data sharing practices between the IR and IT operations team, or a shortage of skills in areas like cybersecurity analytics and forensic investigations."

Ninety-one percent of respondents also plan to increase their IR spending, and 91% plan to increase their IR staff.  

"In a way, this is all good news," says Burke. "People recognize the problem, and they’re taking the necessary steps to address it."

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Sara Peters is Senior Editor at Dark Reading and formerly the editor-in-chief of Enterprise Efficiency. Prior that she was senior editor for the Computer Security Institute, writing and speaking about virtualization, identity management, cybersecurity law, and a myriad ... View Full Bio

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