Is “Alert Fatigue” Your Biggest Cyber Threat?

Is “Alert Fatigue” Your Biggest Cyber Threat?

22 May. 20
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According to a study done by CRITICALSTART, nearly 38% of SOCs turn off high-volume alerting features when they are inundated with alerts. The study also reported that 78% of IT security professionals stated that it takes, on average, 10 + minutes to investigate each threat.

To thwart the modern-day cyber threats, businesses are increasingly turning to security alarms and softwares. IT security teams repeatedly receive alerts, warning them of anomalies and peculiarities, which allow them to halt the attacks before the hackers get their hands on sensitive data. However, false alarms also do happen from time to time, and over time, the security team gets desensitized to these alerts. Nonetheless, these threat protection solutions have become more bane than boon due to the enormous amounts of false-positive alerts they produce, resulting in “Alert fatigue.”

While it is nearly impossible to chase down every false-positive alarm, the IT security teams can quickly grow numb to a wave of alerts, ending up ignoring warnings with a real intrusion. Although disregarding the alert sources that are high with false-positive ratios may seem unobjectionable, this could give rise to significantly security blind spots.

Insights on Alert Fatigue in Cybersecurity

Alert fatigue is one of the most significant pain points in cybersecurity currently. According to CRITICALSTART, a renowned cyber-security company, nearly 70% of SOC professionals investigate 10+ security threats every day. The study also reported that the IT security team grapples with false positives, with almost half of them saying a false-positive rate of nearly 50% or higher.

  • Too many alerts and too few professionals to handle
  • With nearly 3 million positions open and unfilled around the world, there is a severe lack of IT professionals that the cybersecurity industry is facing today. This massive personnel problem is getting bigger day by day. But does the cybersecurity industry realize that this chasm could create abominable and unsustainable risks?
    DHS (Department of Homeland Security) Official says yes. Speaking at the TechCrunch Disrupt SF, the DHS assistant director, Jeanette Manfra, said that the lack of cybersecurity professionals is a national security threat.

    While for many, it may seem like an overstatement, the threat is true and real. According to an infographic by Bricata on the issue of alert fatigue, large enterprises face up to 1.3 million vulnerabilities every month, while only 36% of them are being addressed every day.

    Then how can technology help? Yes, the answer is Unsupervised Artificial Intelligence or Third Wave AI. Unsupervised Machine Learning can be achieved through Supervised & reinforcement learning and behavioral learning.

  • False positives and true positives
  • Is it a waste of resources or ineffective solutions when the SOC is forced to sift through the mountain of security threats daily to bifurcate false positives from true positives? There are two possible outcomes to this situation. One is to find an alert false positive after putting hours of work that could have been spent on more meaningful tasks. The second outcome is missing true positives when SOCs are not able to spare the resources required to investigate the potential threats.

How to handle false positives and negatives?

  • Analyzing Network Traffic
  • You can analyze the network traffic to spot unfamiliar usernames and connection details, odd trends in the duration and frequency of communication. However, this process is time-consuming and susceptible to human error.

  • Limiting Network Access on IoT Devices
  • IoT devices are the most common targets for hackers to find a way into your systems and to be honest, they don’t need much access to function accurately. So consider limiting network access on IoT devices. And when you do limit the network access, your security systems will have a higher success rate to recognize unusual behavior and send you more potential threat alerts.

  • Deploying Web Application Firewalls
  • 1 in every 4 organizations admitted that most of the breaches are due to the security vulnerability in web applications based on a report. Using a web application firewall can reduce such instances and track network resources to detect false positives and negatives.

The Impact of Alert Fatigue on Industries

Alert fatigue is becoming one of the biggest problems for many industries, including, but not limited to, software, healthcare, and emergency response. The repercussions of the desensitization have a gigantic effect on businesses, and in some worst cases, they cost lives too.

According to a 2010 report, a patient died in a Massachusetts hospital when the alarm signal was overlooked by ten nurses. The officials of the patient safety at the hospital reportedly shared that there were several cases in which the patients died due to malfunctioned alarms, ignored or neglected alarms.

Although the effect of alert fatigue on software companies may not be like life or death scenarios, however, it could result in unhappy clients and customers, lost revenue, waning clients’ trust, etc. The blast radius of missing true positives’ alerts makes a woeful sharing network involving upper management, clients, or whoever is at a loss.

How can we reduce alert fatigue?

Enterprises are significantly required to focus their monitoring efforts on distinguishing potential threats from false positives and reducing the background noise in conventional SOCs that bug analysts. However, this demands an intimate understanding of your threat. Utilizing custom-made intelligence, based on the geographic background and motive of the hacker, considerably increases the chances of detection.

Now, you have copious amounts of information on tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) utilized by the attackers in the recent cybercrime events across the globe. By prioritizing and mapping to the TTP frameworks of recent and familiar hackers, your SOC professionals will be able to build specifically targeted monitoring rules and frequently update them to detect the TTP that are most relevant to your enterprise.

By deploying these strategies, your enterprise will be able to reduce false positive and negative threats markedly. Once the analysts are free from the pile of false positives, it will be easy for them to monitor the traffic and chase down every potential threat. This can enhance the enterprises’ capability to detect the activities of the most sophisticated threats and then contain, eliminate, and fix them.

How Can Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Help Reduce Alert Fatigue and Enhance SOC Analyst Efficiency?

Enterprises are investing in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning applications to enhance their security operations and security automation solutions. A report on Venture Capital Investment in Artificial Intelligence by KPMG says that the health, finance, and automotive sector pulled an investment of US$12 billion in 2017.

Hackers mostly plan new escapades based on their older threats. So enterprises can utilize AI and ML systems to detect Indicators of Compromise (IoC) based on earlier data. The ML can learn the patterns and trends of the hacker and properly scan the environment to detect these threats automatically.

Machine Learning applications in security automation usually comprise self-encrypting, diagnostic and forensic analysis. Enterprises deploy Machine Learning methods to process the massive amounts of data coming in daily via the feeds, detecting, and identifying threats. When combined with security automation, Machine Learning offers an excellent automated response to these threats, which enables enterprises to respond instantly.

Enterprises must consider alert fatigue as a big problem, which can be significantly eradicated via embedding intelligence. Intelligence-driven strategies help focus security efforts where they are most required, which have a greater chance at greatly reducing the time it takes to identify threats and breaches. These kinds of strategies and approaches will also let analysts perform much better, challenging, and high-value security operations such as threat hunting. With the enhancement of the Artificial Intelligence algorithm, experts believe that it could reduce alarm fatigue and the adverse consequences that follow.

Conclusion

What you need to remember is shortcuts and fast fixes can’t solve your alert fatigue problem, only incorporating the above-mentioned methods and approaches help you get to the root of the issue. You can start implementing these new tactics one by one and, after the implementation, frequently review the alert reports and build an active threat alerting culture. Mitigating the problem of alert fatigue cannot be achieved in a day or two. It requires long-term conscious efforts, participation, and consistent learning.

Let’s Nurture has a wide range of IT solutions to meet your business requirements and adapts AI in offering their technology services. If you are a company looking for technology service providers, we are right here to guide you through your prospects. Please feel free to request a quote. Also, you can send us an email at info@letsnurture.com

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Lets Nurture
Posted by Lets Nurture

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