The key challenges to timely incident response

Security professionals are inundated with security incidents, averaging 78 investigations per organization in the last year, with 28 percent of those incidents involving targeted attacks – one of the most dangerous and potentially damaging forms of cyber-attacks.

According to the IT and security professionals surveyed by ESG, better detection tools, better analysis tools, and more training on how to deal with incident response issues are the top ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the information security staff.

“When it comes to incident detection and response, time has an ominous correlation to potential damage,” said Jon Oltsik, senior principal analyst at ESG. “The longer it takes an organization to identify, investigate and respond to a cyber-attack, the more likely it is that their actions won’t be enough to preclude a costly breach of sensitive data. With this in mind, CISOs should remember that collecting and processing attack data is a means toward action — improving threat detection and response effectiveness and efficiency.”

Nearly 80 percent of the people surveyed believe the lack of integration and communication between security tools creates bottlenecks and interferes with their ability to detect and respond to security threats. Real-time, comprehensive visibility is especially important for rapid response to targeted attacks, and 37 percent called for tighter integration between security intelligence and IT operations tools.

The top time-consuming tasks involved scoping and taking action to minimize the impact of an attack, activities that can be accelerated by integration of tools. These responses suggest that the very common patchwork architectures of dozens of individual security products have created numerous silos of tools, consoles, processes and reports that prove very time consuming to use. These architectures are creating ever greater volumes of attack data that drown out relevant indicators of attack.

Security professionals surveyed claim that real-time security visibility suffers from limited understanding of user behavior and network, application and host behavior. While the top four types of data collected are network-related, and 30 percent collect user activity data, it’s clear that data capture isn’t sufficient. Users need more help to contextualize the data to understand what behavior is worrisome. This gap may explain why nearly half (47 percent) of organizations said determining the impact or scope of a security incident was particularly time consuming.

Users understand they need help to evolve from simply collecting volumes of security event and threat intelligence data to more effectively making sense of the data and using it to detect and assess incidents. Fifty-eight percent said they need better detection tools, (such as static and dynamic analysis tools with cloud-based intelligence to analyze files for intent). Fifty-three percent say they need better analysis tools for turning security data into actionable intelligence. One-third (33 percent) called for better tools to baseline normal system behavior so teams can detect variances faster.

People who took the survey admitted to a lack of knowledge of the threat landscape and security investigation skills, suggesting that even better visibility through technical integration or analytical capabilities will be inadequate if incident response teams cannot make sense of the information they see. For instance, only 45 percent of respondents consider themselves very knowledgeable about malware obfuscation techniques, and 40 percent called for more training to improve cybersecurity knowledge and skills.

The volume of investigations and limited resources and skills contributed to a strong desire among respondents for help with incident detection and response. Forty-two percent reported that taking action to minimize the impact of an attack was one of their most time-consuming tasks. Twenty-seven percent would like better automated analytics from security intelligence tools to speed real-time comprehension; while 15 percent want automation of processes to free up staff for more important duties.

“Just as the medical profession must deliver heart-attack patients to the hospital within a “golden hour’ to maximize likelihood of survival, the security industry must work towards reducing the time it takes organizations to detect and deflect attacks, before damage is inflicted,” said Chris Young, General Manager at Intel Security. “This requires that we ask and answer tough questions on what is failing us, and evolve our thinking around how we do security.”

The ESG believes that there is a hidden story within the Intel Security research that hints at best practices and lessons learned. This data strongly suggests that CISOs:

Create a tightly-integrated enterprise security technology architecture: CISOs must replace individual security point tools with an integrated security architecture. This strategy works to improve the sharing of attack information and cross-enterprise visibility into user, endpoint and network behavior, not to mention more effective, coordinated responses.

Anchor their cybersecurity strategy with strong analytics, moving from volume to value: Cybersecurity strategies must be based upon strong security analytics. This means collecting, processing and analyzing massive amounts of internal (i.e., logs, flows, packets, endpoint forensics, static/dynamic malware analysis, organizational intelligence [i.e., user behavior, business behavior, etc.]) and external data (i.e., threat intelligence, vulnerability notifications, etc.).

Automate incident detection and response whenever possible: Because organizations will always struggle to keep up with the most recent attack techniques, CISOs must commit to more automation such as advanced malware analytics, intelligent algorithms, machine learning and the consumption of threat intelligence to compare internal behavior with incidents of compromise (IoCs) and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) used by cyber-adversaries.

Commit to continuous cybersecurity education: CISOs should require ongoing cyber-education for their security teams, including an annual series of courses that provide individual professionals more depth of understanding of threats and best practices for efficient and effective incident response.

The complete survey is available here.

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