An excess of endpoint security tools in organizations is driving "information security debt," according to a new study.
The "Voice of the Enterprise" report by 451 Research and Digital Guardian on the use and consolidation of endpoint security tools found that the more endpoint security systems an enterprise has, the greater the cost of managing them. Security teams are struggling with inefficiency because they're moving from dashboard to dashboard all day.
Eric Ogren, senior analyst with 451 Research's information security team, says having more endpoint security tools doesn't necessarily provide better endpoint protection.
Overall spending on endpoint systems rose from 26.3% in 2015 to 29.4% in 2016, according to the study. The focus on risk was aligned with addressing an overall need for more skilled security professionals.
"We hear so much about the labor shortage; how hard it is for security teams to hire and retain people," says Ogren. "The problem's not so much a people problem, but a technology one. Every time you tie an endpoint product to a workstation, it's going to be noisy."
Researchers found two-thirds of larger businesses juggle up to five endpoint security tools; about one in ten respondents handle as many as ten. The surplus is leading to greater operational overhead and additional steps to learn about data generated about users, applications, and OS activity. As a result, infosec teams are overwhelmed and ultimately fail to protect against data loss.
Endpoint security has traditionally been very threat- and exploit-oriented, and businesses invest in point products when new risks appear. These tools stay put for a long time because each was bought for a particular need. As a result, enterprises have accumulated several solutions for data loss prevention, data encryption, access controls, intrusion detection, and firewalls.
Every endpoint tool produces a lot of events and a lot of data, Ogren explains, and "most of it is just junk." Security pros spend much of their time digging into, and clearing, endless alerts. They want to get trained on security and handling the business but don’t have time.
A data-focused approach
Researchers discovered a broad shift towards the consolidation of endpoint tools. Capabilities like disk encryption and host firewall/IDS, previously offered in individual products, are being incorporated into product suites or built into operating systems. The goal isn't only to remove silos between tools, but to create a more immediate view of threats to business data.
By consolidating endpoint systems, businesses can consistently collect accurate data and gain a broader view of their security posture without switching consoles. Leveraging analytics across large datasets can help monitor and prevent threats throughout an organization.
"It tackles information debt straightaway," says Ogren of consolidation. "Products have been a bit more comprehensive about their approach to security and what they import. What does get reported tends to be a lot more meaningful and a lot richer, with more analysis behind it."
The cloud is driving this trend, he notes, as businesses shift away from hardware-based products and toward cloud services. Hardware security tools made up 20% of security budgets one year ago compared with 17.9% today, and a predicted 17.1% in 2018, researchers found.
Bumps in the road
The shift to consolidation will have its obstacles, Ogren predicts. It will be difficult for security leaders to "de-commit" to a security problem by saying the business no longer needs a tool.
"Some CISOs put their credibility and integrity on the line, and it takes maturity to say 'the world has moved on, this is how we need to approach security now,'" he explains.
Many will also face the challenge of moving from a threat-centric approach to endpoint security, and towards a data-centric approach. Security teams will have to look at how their resources are being used before they address threats.
451 Research's Voice of the Enterprise study found the top three security pain points for the 12 months ending in June 2018 include user behavior (30.4%), accurate and timely monitoring of security events (21.8%), and staffing information security teams (20.7%).
Kelly Sheridan is the Staff Editor at Dark Reading, where she focuses on cybersecurity news and analysis. She is a business technology journalist who previously reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft, and Insurance & Technology, where she covered financial ... View Full Bio