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To defend against the latest cyber threats, it can be easy to focus your entire IT budget on the latest and greatest technologies.


No organisation investing in cyber security can afford to rely solely on technology, however. The sheer number of alerts generated by security systems demands constant attention, and without people and resources to analyse and manage these outputs, critical alerts may end up being ignored.


What is alert fatigue?


Alert fatigue (or alarm fatigue) occurs when an individual or team is exposed to an overwhelming number of alerts, to the point that it becomes desensitising.

While alarms and alerts are designed to signal a potential problem, they also require further investigation to confirm that they are genuine. The higher the number of false positives, the higher the chance of alert fatigue, resulting in important information being missed or overlooked.


Alert fatigue in cyber security


Modern cybercriminals are stealthy and persistent, using a range of advanced techniques to compromise their targets. This means the security systems designed to stop them need to be able to identify and help prevent early signs of attack.

Threat detection technologies such as Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) and Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) collect, manage and correlate data from a variety of sources to flag anomalous activity. When deployed and managed improperly, these systems have the potential to generate thousands of daily alerts.

With such a broad range of attack vectors exploited by hackers, any unusual network behaviour could indicate a breach, so it is important to ensure any suspicious activity is identified and promptly escalated for human investigation.

A big problem for many organisations is that a large proportion of security alerts are likely to be false positives and identifying a genuine ‘true positive’ can be like finding a needle in a haystack. According to a report from the Ponemon Institute, of the 17,000 malware alerts the average organisation receives weekly, less than a fifth are reliable .

Amongst so many false alarms, it’s easy for in-house teams to grow numb to waves of empty alerts and end up ignoring warnings when there is a real intrusion. While it might be tempting to disregard alert sources with high false positive ratios, this could create significant security blind spots.


The difficulties of in-house monitoring


With security budgets stretched across multiple priorities, it can be difficult to know where to invest. Many organisations, aware of the value of SIEM and IDS, go straight for the technology. Without the resources to properly utilise these systems, however, businesses will fail to reap the benefits.

Organisations without a dedicated security team are particularly vulnerable to alert fatigue. Investigating alarms is a 24/7/365 process that demands a team of dedicated professionals trained to analyse and triage alerts as well as facilitate swift incident response.

In many cases, the security burden often falls on IT personnel, who are forced to balance security considerations with other day-to-day operations and as a result often don’t possess a complete and up-to-date understanding of the security landscape.

Detecting and responding to threats typically involves more than just SIEM and IDS. Endpoint analytics and behavioural monitoring technologies are often used to provide additional context, but these must also be actively monitored and optimised. Managing multiple disparate systems can be extremely time and resource-intensive.


The benefits of outsourced monitoring


A managed detection and response (MDR) service can be a hugely cost-effective option for organisations struggling to overcome alert fatigue.

By combining expertise, technology and intelligence into a flexible subscription service, and removing the burden of 24/7 alert monitoring and investigation, MDR helps to significantly improve organisations’ cyber security posture.

Entrusting cyber security needs to a team of around-the-clock experts that understand how cybercriminals operate helps to ensure that important alerts don’t get missed and, in the event of an incident, that response efforts are swift and effective.


Why choose Redscan?


ThreatDetect™, our flagship and award-winning MDR service, integrates world-class CSOC expertise, cutting-edge detection technologies and Redscan labs intelligence, for a cost-effective monthly fee.

By crafting a threat monitoring solution to suit your organisation’s needs and taking ownership of the full installation and optimisation process of all included technologies, our experts help to maximise cyber security capabilities.

Our experts have a deep understanding of offensive security, and act as a virtual extension of your IT team to monitor your network and endpoints 24/7 and hunt for and respond to threats. All security alerts are triaged by our analysts and delivered via CyberOps, which provides incident reporting and prioritised remediation guidance through a single pane of glass.

Find out more about ThreatDetect


Read more:

Managed Detection & Response: redefining threat monitoring

Cyber Security Explained: What is a Security Operation Centre (SOC)?

The importance of IT Health Checks in the public sector


About the author

The Redscan Marketing and Communications team.