The last thing any company stakeholder wants is to be in the headline of a news story about a security breach. Not only does it do irreparable damage to your reputation, but it could also have a huge monetary impact on both revenue and the overall value of your company. Just ask Yahoo, which, after reports of being hit by two major data breaches last year, had to settle for a $350 million price cut in its sale to Verizon.
In 2016 alone, 1,093 US companies and agencies were breached, a 40% increase from 2015, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. Cyberthreats will continue to expand, whether ransomware, phishing, or a full system takeover. But while cybercrime continues to rise, so does the number of companies and point solutions attempting to keep your system safe. All of these factors are causing security spending to go up, increasing from $68.2 billion in 2015 to $73.7 billion in 2016. Herein lies the problem.
Enterprises are now receiving so much noise from so many point solutions that it's become incredibly difficult to discern the false positives from actionable information. In today's environment, that's exhausting for the security practitioners and can cause them to become apathetic and disillusioned in trying to support too many disparate data sources. In other words, the lack of a solid strategy can lead to security fatigue. This can manifest in the operations environment wherein important alerts are ignored. The objective for a security team is to build programs that deliver actionable intelligence. That doesn't necessarily mean security teams need to build an empire.
The security fatigue phenomenon affects consumers and enterprises alike. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), security fatigue is also causing consumers to make poor security decisions, such as reusing the same password across all online accounts. But what enterprises can glean from this report is NIST's suggestions to combat security fatigue, including limiting the number of security decisions that users need to make; making it simple for users to choose the right security action; and designing for consistent decision making whenever possible.
But up until a few years ago, many enterprise networks in Fortune 500 companies didn't have the ability to identify a compromised network or subnet in a timely manner. Now, the sheer amount of security measures used to detect a network compromise can create this fatigue. Without knowing what to pay attention to, identifying an inside threat is like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
There are two methods to find that needle. The first is to burn the entire haystack and make it so that the only thing left is the needle itself. The second is to correlate the data and identify the needle expeditiously. The average dwell time before identifying a network breach is approximately 200 days; however, with the proper tools it should take only a matter of hours or a few days, depending on the sophistication of the attack.
To identify the correct path, the security team needs to correlate data in a meaningful, actionable way and present the right information to executives and C-suites, such as log files, metadata, and vulnerabilities. Instead of throwing money at a new security service, this allows C-suites and executives to ask the right questions and figure out if new offerings are relevant to their own security program, and how well it will be integrated with their data feeds.
Together, the C-suite and security team should be asking how their security program can determine if someone made it through their security defenses. Breaches are usually found and reported through third-party sources and not the company itself. If security team members are asked these questions and they're left with a blank look on their faces, there are holes in the security program.
In 2013, hackers stole up to 40 million credit and debit card accounts in the now infamous Target breach. After the company's forensic team went in, it also realized that up to 70 million customer names, emails, and phone numbers were stolen. Their ability to go in and find new vulnerabilities after the fact shows that the information was there the whole time, but they may not have been correlating the data/logs to make them useful and actionable.
Some industries do a better job with security than others, but ultimately most enterprise environments should improve their ability to correlate security data in real-time to get actionable insights and have situational awareness. Correlating data means taking a look at everything — from logs to metadata — to find abnormalities and quickly catch potential breaches.
Security fatigue has taken its toll on industries and enterprises, but it's time to create a plan to corral security software and investments and create an environment that will properly protect the crown jewels. If breaches keep slipping through the cracks and customer and company data continues to be stolen, the role of chief security officer could leapfrog the chief information officer in the reporting structure. But in the end, it falls on the company as a whole, and it is time for everyone to start finding the needles in the haystack before everything gets burned down — needles and all.