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Half of Security Pros Ignore Some Important Alerts

Short-staffed, more than half of organizations admit they ignore alerts that should be investigated because they lack resources to handle the overflow.

Strained by the cybersecurity skills shortage, 54 percent of respondents to a new survey say they are forced to ignore security alerts worthy of further investigation, because they don't have the staff and expertise to handle them

The Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) surveyed 150 IT and cybersecurity pros with knowledge of, or responsibility for, enterprise security. In the study, released today, they discovered security operations has become a "bottleneck" as challenges in people, processes, and technology limit organizations' ability to handle threats.

More than one-third (35%) of respondents found it tough to keep up with the volume of alerts, and nearly 30% struggled because security operations tools weren't well-integrated. One-quarter say processes are too informal and rely on the skills of a handful of employees.

"They're vulnerable in more places," explains Siemplify CEO Amos Stern, noting how the rise of tech like mobile, cloud, and IoT will complicate the problem. "While their digital footprint is growing, the surface of attack is growing, and more tools are needed to detect threats."

Each of these tools focuses on a different aspect of security. Businesses that previously needed only a few security systems can now have up to 50 or 70, all of which work independently and address different functions: endpoint security, mobile, cloud, web app security.  The tools each provide a piece of the puzzle, but it's still up to the security expert to decide how events are related and initiate a response.

"Being alerted to more potential threats doesn't necessarily mean better security," says Stern. "Half of respondents said they have to ignore alerts that need to be investigated." 

Respondents were primarily concerned with the steps that come after the alert: prioritizing the threats and determining how to approach each one. 

ESG's research found gathering data related to an alert is the most time-consuming task for 35% of respondents. Malware analysis and analyzing log repositories fell second; each were top among 31% of respondents.

The threat overload isn't a problem that can be solved by throwing more people at it, says Stern, because there are not enough people available to be thrown. Security teams are often understaffed or lack expertise to face today's threats. Previous ESG research found only 17% of businesses say the size of their security operations team is always sufficient.

Processes are also chaotic because most security operations teams "invent their own wheel," says Stern. "There's no centralized platform for running security operations," as there is in other departments like sales, marketing, and human resources.

Stern explains how businesses are turning to orchestration to tie together different systems and better coordinate incident response. Orchestration structures threat detection and response to help manage the process so security teams don't have the rely on myriad tools.

When asked about their security priorities for 2017, 39% of respondents in ESG's survey said they plan to invest in processes and technologies to automate security operations related to incident response. More than one-third (35%) plan to invest in threat detection technologies.

"The idea is to find the balance between automating wherever possible and empowering the human analyst where needed," he says. "No security manager would say they want to fully automate their incident response."

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Kelly Sheridan is Associate Editor at Dark Reading. She started her career in business tech journalism at Insurance & Technology and most recently reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft and business IT. Sheridan earned her BA at Villanova University. View Full Bio

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Ryanology
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Ryanology,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/27/2017 | 2:40:36 PM
Is this a "lack of skilled people" issue, or a budget / priority issue?
I totally agree with the findings of the article. As a long-time industry pro, i can testify that many security alerts often go unaddressed and uninvestigated. But I dont think the reason is a lack of qualfiied people out in the world. The root cause is the budgets are not created to hire enough people. Coupled with a lack of vision" to train people "internally".

Case in point: have you ever seen an I.T. job description that (after the last of skills required) said something like "Or someone capable of learning these skills rapidly".  Nope. Hiring managers and recruiters tend to look for a very specific set of skills, which is severely limiting their candidate pool. 

There is no shortage of smart people with I.T. backgrounds who could do security analysis if given the opportunity, and they probably already exist in your department.

So, because of a lack of initiative / concern/ and vision, these positions continue to go unfulfilled. Heck, even if I am wrong, the Pros are out there to be hired if you pay them what the market demands. If you arent willing to do that, then you cant blame a lack of security pros. Instead you must blame your own priority list not being ordered properly.
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