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Why an Evolved Security Strategy is Critical

Jordan Mauriello, Chief Technology Officer of Critical Start, discusses how the operational model of legacy managed security service providers (MSSPs) can actually leave organizations more vulnerable to cyberattacks, increasing the risk of security breaches and potential compliance issues.

Today’s Security Landscape

Today, the number of cyberattacks is on the rise. According to a 2017 report from Accenture, there are more than 130 large-scale, targeted breaches in the U.S. per year, and the number is growing 27 percent annually. As a result, distributed enterprise IT environments are facing more complex threat landscapes. Threat actors and hackers are continually evolving their techniques and using new machine-generated attacks on a daily basis. With all this change, it can be extremely difficult for small enterprise security teams to keep up with the volume of alerts from their sprawling security infrastructure.

Turning to MSSPs for Help

Securing a company’s IT infrastructure and systems requires 24/7/365 monitoring and expertise. To protect themselves, mid-market business and enterprises often turn to managed security service providers (MSSPs) who are designed to deal with complex and targeted assaults. They can update the technology in an organization to protect against cyberattacks, with the specific talent and skills required to stay ahead of today’s security threats.

How Legacy MSSPs Fall Short, Which Can Increase Your Risk

While MSSPs play an important role in an organization’s security strategy, they can still leave companies exposed to security breaches and compliance issues, putting an enterprise at greater risk. MSSP incident responders are wasting resources and countless hours processing useless security alerts due to the “false-positive” epidemic, a problem that impacts security effectiveness, operational models and staffing.

False Positives and the Flood of Alerts

When various security infrastructure, analytics and threat management tools and products detect something suspicious, they create an alert. Often, this causes a false positive, an error that indicates that a security breach exists when it actually does not. Today, the number of false positives has reached staggering levels. In research conducted by Advanced Threat Analytics that polled nearly 50 MSSPs, 44 percent of respondents reported a 50 percent or higher false-positive rate. In addition, 64 percent reported that, on average, it takes 10 minutes or more to investigate each alert.

The rising number of false positives, redundant and overall security alerts causes significant issues for MSSPs and their customers. Spending so much time and resources investigating alerts that are known good severely compromises security effectiveness, as analysts are distracted from addressing actual threats and incidents. To try to handle this problem, MSSPs often respond in two ways: they either reduce the sensitivity of their security equipment so they issue fewer alerts, or they prioritize alerts and end up ignoring some alerts altogether.

MSSPs are often viewed as an “insurance policy” by enterprises and their executive teams from security breaches and the negative implications they bring to the business and its brand. However, the legacy MSSP approach to managing the overload of alerts also compromises security effectiveness and leaves organizations more vulnerable to cyberattacks, elevating overall exposure and risk. In addition, if a security breach does occur, it could lead to compliance issues or violations if customer data or information was compromised during the attack.

Beyond increased security risks and compliance concerns, the extra time spent processing all these alerts puts an enormous strain on staff. Many MSSPs are expanding their teams in a futile effort to keep up with alert volume, which is not a sustainable model. The cost of qualified security staff is very high, and finding and adding more talent can also be a significant challenge due to the labor shortage in the cybersecurity industry. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that there will be 3.5 million cybersecurity job openings by 2021.

As machine-generated attacks accelerate cybersecurity threats for enterprises, compliance executives need to be aware that while MSSPs play an important role in your security strategy, MSSP teams are just as overwhelmed by alerts as internal security teams. Having an understanding of how an MSSP manages the alert overload problem is becoming an important risk mitigation concern.


Jordan Mauriello

Jordan Mauriello is Chief Technology Officer at Critical Start. Jordan is a visionary leader with a focus on leadership and the engagement of highly technical personnel in the workplace. With a diverse background ranging from penetration testing and malware reverse engineering to physical security, executive protection and training, Jordan possesses a unique understanding of the impact of information security. His deep technical expertise includes security event monitoring and correlation, content and rule development for SIEM tools, vulnerability research and penetration testing.

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