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Overcoming Security Overload

You have to be reactive and proactive when it comes to IT security. There is always some vendor or service that states that they have a different, better, more inclusive security solution. You buy these solutions to protect your organization against security breaches. You install firewalls, SBCs, and other perimeter solutions, but a new threat seems to emerge every day. You invest in training your users, but they still cause the majority of security headaches. The CISO and staff are on overload.

You install the proper security tools, but is this enough? Should you work with a cloud service that has more resources and staff than you, or implement DIY solutions? There appears to be no absolute answer to these security questions. If you have the budget, you could duplicate what the cloud service offers, but that is assuming the cloud security service is invulnerable -- not likely.

Cloud Security Alliance surveyed more than 200 IT/IT security professionals, and the resulting report, "IT Security in the Age of Cloud," explores how recent trends in IT management and security are shaping IT security budgets and talent acquisition. The charts in this article are taken from the report.

About 20% of organizations have more than 10 security tools in use that generate alerts. As more security tools generate more alerts, it is becoming increasingly challenging for IT organizations to keep up. The fact that so many tools are installed demonstrates that no single or multiple tool set is enough. The more tools an organization has, the harder it is to justify the procurement of additional solutions even when those tools can demonstrate value.

The following chart from the survey shows that 50% of the respondents have six or more tools in place. One out of eight organizations have more than 20 tools installed.

Did you know there is such a thing as security alert fatigue? IT workers say they ignore security alerts 31.9% of the time because they receive so many alerts that turn out to be false positives, according to the report.

When the retail company Target was famously hacked in 2013, it turned out that there was a security alert that went ignored by IT security staff, for example.

Security alert fatigue is a top complaint of IT security professionals. Of those surveyed, 40.4% said that posted alerts do not deliver actionable information needed to investigate. Those receiving the alerts have lost confidence, and 31.9% ignore alerts. There are so many false positives that flag threat behavior, which discourages action. Further, 27.7% indicated that their organization experiences incidents missed by the security tool. And to top that off, the report also showed that 25.9% receive alerts that they simply do not have time to investigate.

A report from the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology, "CISO Solution Fatigue - Overcoming the Challenges of Cybersecurity Solution Overload," may be helping in providing insight into the security overload problem.

Security managers, such as CISOs, have encountered unrealistic expectations. They are expected to prevent every breach with a finite budget. And with ROI being challenging to justify, how does security management convince the business that they need more funding? Today's CISOs function more as Chief Information Risk Officers. Since it is impossible to predict and prevent all attacks, the CISO has to balance risk against their budget. The difficulty of this job contributes to an average turnover rate of 17 months.

A major reason for the rapid turnover is the solution overload, or the abundance of vendor solutions CISOs are faced with as they deal with the pressure to find comprehensive solutions. CISOs may hear hundreds of security tool presentations in one year.

These presentations and their evaluation often distracts CISOs, their staff, and solution developers from the risks and threats in their environment. Vendor solutions should solve an actual problem instead of a hypothetical or market-perceived problem.

A lack of understanding on both sides -- the vendor not understanding business needs and the business not understanding the capabilities of a vendor solution proposal -- either results in overlapping, redundant, unintegrated solutions, or produces gaps in the security solutions installed. CISOs need to focus on their business requirements, rather than just selecting from a menu of tools. The CISO has the responsibility to decline promising solutions when they do not satisfy the current needs of the organization.

Solution overload can be overcome by changing the business model from short-term potential gains to long-term stability. The CISO is the team leader, and therefore, should be thinking strategically and not performing work that can be assigned to the security staff. Here are three main points to keep in mind: