5 Ways for Cybersecurity Teams to Work Smarter, Not Harder

Burnout is real and pervasive, but some common sense tools and techniques can help mitigate all that.

Theresa Lanowitz, Head of Evangelism, AT&T Cybersecurity

September 3, 2020

5 Min Read

A career in cybersecurity is extremely rewarding. It also comes with its challenges, including last-minute fire drills, understaffed teams, and overworked employees — all while protecting the company's most valuable assets, its intellectual property, employee, and customer data. 

These factors can generate immense stress for cybersecurity professionals, causing them to quit their job or completely leave the field. In fact, a recent report by the Chartered Institute of Information Security (CIISec) found that more than half (54%) of IT security professionals have either left a security job due to overwork or burnout, or worked with someone who did. 

Making matters worse, security budgets are not keeping pace with the rising threat level brought on by COVID-19. Gartner predicts cybersecurity leaders should expect budget decreases over the next year. Hiring additional headcount to support cybersecurity teams is no longer a feasible option – but putting more people on a problem is rarely, if ever, the solution. CIISec also found that when security teams are stretched during busy periods, 64% said their businesses simply "hope to cope" with fewer resources, while 51% would let routine or non-critical tasks slip.

Solving the burnout problem requires a new way of examining the situation -- it's time to work smarter, not harder. Here's how.

Understand the Business
The current pandemic has demonstrated that businesses need to be able to transform and adapt quickly, whether in response to a crisis, customer demands, or technology. This need for speed is putting IT security front and center, to the point where cybersecurity is no longer a technology problem, it's a business problem.

Moving forward, organizations should make cybersecurity a part of the overall business strategy. This includes leading with a security first mindset to provide that security is engrained in organizational culture. 

Acknowledge Complexity
COVID-19 has created new, challenging factors for organizations to address, which only adds to the level of business complexity. This increased complexity has also impacted cybersecurity, causing organizations to closely monitor the following industry trends:

  • Accelerated digital and cloud transformation because of a suddenly remote workforce

  • Cybersecurity skills gap

  • A complex regulatory environment featuring various data handling protocols based on geography

  • Increased cybercrime and threats by determined adversaries

The need for organizations to manage these trends, and the associated complexity they bring, leads many to realize that fighting cybercrime is not the core competency of their business. And, if it's not their core business, it's often too complex to manage. The end goal for organizations should be to acknowledge the complexity brought on by the pandemic, innovate and invest in their core competencies, and know they are highly protected from cyber threats beyond their control -- requiring a more proactive, resilient approach to cybersecurity. 

Reassess Business Models
A natural side effect brought on by the pandemic is the reassessment of business models and practices. This analysis should also factor in how cybersecurity should be approached as the business moves forward.

During the reassessment, it's important to evaluate the current arsenal of cybersecurity tools. Are they all being put to good use? Do you have redundant tool sets? Is it just too many bells and whistles? Do you have the right staff with the right skills to take advantage of the tooling? Could the budget spent on legacy solutions be put towards outsourcing, expanding a short-staffed security team to provide complementary people, process and technology? Would managed security services alleviate the burden of the current team?

It's important to thoroughly examine an organization's cybersecurity tool box for a few essentials, such as continuous monitoring and up-to-date threat intelligence for proactive responses. If it doesn't have these factors, it's time for a change. 

Commit to Automation 
The silver lining for many security teams is the fact that there has been significant advancement in cybersecurity technologies in the past several years. However, many organizations have not fully committed to using automation as a way to achieve scale in cybersecurity. 

With the advent of 5G, more devices than ever will connect to the network. 5G is architected to provide more protection than any previous network, but an expanded attack surface still offers the possibility of new threats. Cybersecurity organizations relying on manual changes and processes will face challenges in keeping up. At a large scale, cybersecurity needs to be dynamic and automated in order to accommodate the scope and speeds of new network architectures.

Know the Adversary
The concept of "hope to cope" with cyber attacks that may occur outside of the traditional workday is what adversaries are indeed hoping for. However, this should not be the strategy of a business. Today's adversary is determined and understands the path of least resistance. If organizations take the approach of guarding digital assets during business hours only, adversaries will quickly figure this out.

Today's business is global, which means there is no down time for business or adversaries. The protection offered by cybersecurity is needed around the clock, regardless of the geographic location or time zone of the business. Understanding this 'round-the-clock' mentality will help allocate the right resources, at the right time, to bolster security across the organization.

It's time to acknowledge the immense workloads and stress on the shoulders of today's cybersecurity professionals. Together, with a security-first mindset and the right resources at hand, security teams can work smarter, not harder, and get some well-deserved peace of mind back in their lives. 

About the Author(s)

Theresa Lanowitz

Head of Evangelism, AT&T Cybersecurity

Theresa Lanowitz is a proven global influencer and speaks around the world on trends and emerging technology poised to help today's IT organizations flourish. Prior to joining AT&T Cybersecurity, she founded industry analyst firm voke, to highlight emerging technologies and the benefits of adoption ahead of legacy analyst firms. Theresa was also an industry analyst at Gartner where she spearheaded the application quality ecosystem, championed application security technology, and created the successful Application Development conference. Throughout her career, Theresa has been a trusted advisor to some of the most innovative and influential companies and executives in the world.

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