Cybersecurity Alert Fatigue

Cybersecurity Alert Fatigue

What It Is, Why It's a Problem, and the Challenge of Combating it

Cyber attacks grow more relentless and sophisticated each year. To defend themselves against threats, organisations typically turn to additional tools for strengthening their security programmes and protecting their attack surface.

While tools can enhance protection and visibility, they also, in turn, generate a massive volume of events and alerts. And therein lies the problem.

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When faced with a deluge of potential attacks, security analysts can quickly become overwhelmed. In fact, many attacks succeed not because a tool failed to raise an alert, but because the alert was missed or ignored by an analyst.

What is Alert Fatigue?

When analysts receive an overwhelming number of alerts from cybersecurity tools and are tasked with spending time reviewing and responding to each one, it can create an environment where it is impossible to distinguish important alerts from the unimportant ones.

Common tools that can trigger additional alerts and contribute to alert fatigue include: but are not limited to

Firewall Icon

Firewalls

Endpoint Security

Endpoint Security

Cloud Security Icon

Cloud Security

This operating environment of all noise and no signal is known as “cybersecurity alert fatigue,” and it has real costs for the professionals and businesses impacted by it.

Alert Fatigue

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A state experienced by security professionals exposed to a high volume of alerts in a brief period, resulting in decreased effectiveness and detection of legitimate threats.

Why Alert Fatigue is a Problem

Alert fatigue is not just an overwhelming annoyance, it can be a major risk for your entire organisation. Alert fatigue has real, quantifiable impacts on an organisation’s finances, staffing, and security.
Climbing Alerts, Climbing Costs
Depending on your industry and the size of your organisation, your daily alert count can climb into the tens or even hundreds of thousands. Each of these alerts has the potential to represent a real threat, but the sheer fire-hose volume of them can quickly overwhelm a security team.
According to IBM’s 2021 Cost of a Data Breach Report, the average cost of a data breach in the US reached $9.05 million in 2021.
THIS MEANS:
Organisations cannot afford to ignore a single alert. Yet, when a security team is impacted by alert fatigue, more than a quarter of alerts get ignored — every week.
Number of alerts received by the average security operations team each day
Number of alerts received by the average security operations team each day
Percentage of IT Teams that admit to ignoring many lower priority alerts
Percentage of IT Teams that admit to ignoring many lower priority alerts.

The Challenges of Staffing

Staffing a cybersecurity team is an expensive (and ongoing) undertaking for any organisation.
It can be difficult to secure enough budget to cover adequate headcount, to say nothing of the challenge in attracting and retaining scarce, sought-after cybersecurity talent.

When these hard-won analysts spend substantial amounts of time reviewing and responding to the deluge of alerts they are being kept from the high-value tasks and strategic initiatives you really need them for.

THIS MEANS:

Your organisation ends up paying top-dollar talent to complete low-skill tasks.

More than 25 percent of false positive security alerts fielded by organizations

Percent of security alerts fielded by organisations that are false positives

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Hours per week the average security analyst spends responding to false positive alerts
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Average median hourly wage for an information security analyst in 2020
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Yearly cost of false positive alerts per analyst

Threats & Concerns

Analyst Burnout
The constant need for alert triage is menial, mundane, and exhausting. Attackers don’t keep business hours, which makes reviewing and responding to alerts a 24×7 task—requiring a large team of analysts to provide round-the-clock coverage.

Constant alert triage takes your team away from the challenging, meaningful work that drew them to the field in the first place.

THIS MEANS:
Security professionals can end up feeling drained and unsatisfied in their roles, leading them to seek out more well-resourced organisations that provide hands-on opportunities with new and emerging technologies, and have a defined career growth trajectory.
Staff Turnaround is Costly
Considering that training an analyst properly is a process that often takes the better part of a year, and that the average analyst changes jobs every two years3, there is a direct—and costly—correlation between alert fatigue and staff attrition.
Percentage of security professionals who claim they are experiencing burnout
Percentage of security professionals who claim they are experiencing burnout

Alert fatigue impedes not only an organisation’s ability to identify the real alerts from the false ones, but also its ability to rapidly react to actual breaches.

THIS MEANS:
When alert fatigue sets in, incidents are improperly investigated or outright ignored, creating a dangerous precedent in your organisation that some alerts don’t need to be reviewed.
Numbed by the Noise
Being slow to respond to—or outright ignoring—cyber alerts can open the door to attackers, allowing them to conduct a wide range of malicious activity from deploying malware to encrypting your files with ransomware, leading to costly, damaging data breaches.
Percentage of IT teams that report manual processes slow down their alert triage
Percentage of IT teams that report manual processes slow down their alert triage
70% of those surveyed rank ransomware as their top security threat concern entering 2022

Percentage of organisations who reported a doubling in their alerts since 2015

Average days elapsed between an attack incident and its detection
Average days elapsed between an attack incident and its detection

Numbed by the Noise

Many of the most high-profile data breaches occurred not because the security tool failed to create an alert, but because the alert was not thoroughly investigated. Take the recent ransomware attack on HSE Ireland, the country’s public-funded healthcare system:

“There were several detections of the attacker’s activity … but these did not result in a cybersecurity incident and investigation initiated by the HSE and as a result opportunities to prevent the successful detonation of the ransomware were missed.”

Independent Post Incident Review
View Source
Percentage of breaches that take months or even years to detect.

Percentage of breaches that take months or even years to detect

Too Many Tools
The size of attack surfaces and the rate of cyber attacks increase each year. To keep pace and stay secure, many organisations have resorted to adding more security tools to defend more systems than ever before. Rather than reducing risk and increasing efficiency, however, the addition of more tools increases complexity and reduces effectiveness.
THIS MEANS:
Organisations using more than 50 tools ranked themselves 8% lower in their ability to detect an attack, and around 7% lower when it comes to responding to an attack.
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Average number of security tools employed by an organisation
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Average number of tools required to respond to a single alert

Why Combating Alert Fatigue is a Challenge

There are steps that can be taken to address alert fatigue and reduce its impact on your team. These steps can cut down on the volume of false positives, reduce instances of duplicate alerts, and increase context around less immediately actionable alerts.
Principally, these steps include fine-tuning the detection alert rules of your tools, better-integrating tools where you are able, and developing adequate workflows and playbooks for analysts. However, none of these are simple set-it-and-forget-it steps.
Detection Alert Tool Management
The detection alert rules on your tools need to be continually re-tuned to reflect changes in an organisation’s IT environments.

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Tool Integration
Properly integrating tools is a time-consuming task that can only be accomplished if your tools are interoperable, and there’s often little incentive for vendors to create tools that integrate and communicate with one another.

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Workflow Development
Playbooks and workflows can add context to help security teams avoid the time-sink of disjointed events but identifying and providing that context is no small task. And, since alerts will change as tools are added and removed, it is a never-ending chore.

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While these steps will provide some relief, the consistent time and effort required makes these options less viable solutions for already small or overextended security teams.

That’s why more organisations are turning to a single, comprehensive solution to the problem of alert fatigue.

The Benefits of Partnering with an MDR Provider

Workload Management

Free-up time for your internal security team to work on business-critical projects.

Talent Retention

Create more opportunities for your team to do meaningful work, increasing the likelihood that you will retain your top security talent.

Security Maturity

Reduce your costs while strengthening your security posture and increasing your security maturity.

Access to Experts

Get access to seasoned cybersecurity specialists with a wide range of skills.

Advanced Tech and Tools

Utilise advanced technology and a comprehensive suite of tools.

Cost Savings

Get a security force multiplier at significant cost savings.

Reporting and Analytics

Gain access to advanced analytics and reporting tools.
Essential Elements of an MDR Provider

Not all managed detection and response services are created equal. Here are the key features your organisation should look for in a potential MDR partner:

Do they provide a team of dedicated security engineers?

Are they available whenever you need them, or is there an hourly cap on how much you can utilise them?

Do they offer 24x7 coverage?

Are they able to work with your existing security tools, or do they need to “rip and replace?”

Do they offer predictable pricing and unlimited log data?

Do they provide posture hardening recommendations to help you mature your security?

Do they provide updates and reports? Which types and how frequently?

Do they collect and retain log sources? Which ones?

Do they support compliance and audit reporting?

How Arctic Wolf Can Help

Arctic Wolf works with your existing tech stack to immediately begin monitoring your environment, ensuring proactive and dynamic detection and response to threats, intrusions, and attacks. Organisations receive timely and actionable intelligence from an always-available team of expert security analysts—without the overwhelming noise of endless false positives.
And we do all that for a predictable monthly cost far below what you would spend to stand up your own in-house security operations center.

Built on an open XDR architecture, the Arctic Wolf® Platform provides real-time, continuous monitoring, and threat hunting on your network.

And our Concierge Security® Team works as an extension of your internal IT team, offering 24×7 access to expert analysts with no cap on hours and providing incident response, vulnerability scans and assessments, compliance management and reporting, and regular reports on the state of your company’s security posture.
Cybersecurity alert fatigue is a problem we can help with
Arctic Wolf partners with you at every step of your security journey, proactively protecting your environment, increasing your security maturity, and providing you and your team with strategic outcomes for hardening your security posture.
Number of security events Arctic Wolf ingests weekly from partners across the globe
Number of security events Arctic Wolf ingests weekly from partners across the globe
Average number of daily incidents escalated to Arctic Wolf customers
Average number of daily incidents escalated to Arctic Wolf customers
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It's Time For A Solution

What is Alert Fatigue Costing Your Organisation?

If you’re ready to reduce your organisation’s alert fatigue, an important first step is to quantify what it is costing you in time and money.

Calculate how much alert fatigue is costing your organisation and, when you’re ready to consider a new solution, contact us for a demonstration of how Arctic Wolf can save time and money while keeping your data safe from cyber attack.

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