Strategies to Decrease Alert Fatigue in Your SOC Team

Today, organizations struggle with the increasingly difficult task of trying to protect their widening digital assets from sophisticated cybersecurity threats. This has led to the adoption of highly sensitive systems that trigger warnings at the slightest threat. 70% of IT leaders surveyed revealed that the number of security alerts received by Security Operations Centre (SOC) teams has more than doubled in the past five years. With most of these alerts being false positives, analysts tend to ignore alerts. This is known as Alert Fatigue. This can lead to ignorance of serious threats that can significantly damage the company. Strategies that help SOC teams sort through high volumes of alerts and narrow down to feasible high-fidelity incidents must be integrated to prevent haphazard.

1. Connect the Dots with Machine Learning

Companies that consist of over 1,000 employees maintain about 70 security products from around 35 different vendors. The number of alerts generated by each would be unmanageable. State-of-the-art scalable Machine Learning algorithms can go through millions of lower-risk suspicious activities and segregate them into a manageable number of high-risk incidents. Additionally, ML algorithms can connect the dots between seemingly disparate threat signals. They can consolidate incidents by sorting high-risk alerts from different parts of the digital environment and report them. The better the consolidation of alerts and information, the more SOC teams can reduce the fatigue of sorting through thousands of alerts and their accompanying details.

2. Set Alert Priority Levels

44 percent of security alerts go uninvestigated mainly because of talent scarcity and the sheer number of security solutions creating a huge volume of alerts. The reason for Alert Fatigue is habituation, meaning the more you’re exposed to something, the easier it is for you to become desensitized and ignore it. Moreover, investigating security alerts is like searching for a specific needle in a haystack of needles. In other words, it is highly time-consuming and mentally exhausting. This is where setting up alerts based on priority levels and using watchlists can help. Setting alert priorities and indicating priority with visual, auditory, and sensory cues can significantly reduce alert fatigue. Placing high-risk entities in watchlists ensures high-priority alerts are notified immediately.

3. Alert Reports to Make Lives Easier

As the number of security alerts grows, so does the number of false positives and low-fidelity warnings, lengthening the time it takes to analyze and resolve critical warnings. Most SOC analysts can only address around 7-8 investigations on a single workday. Generating alert reports can make their lives easier. A report should include information about each element in the digital environment and how they associate with each other. This helps the analyst comprehend alerts in a concise yet comprehensive way and determine the next steps on rectifying them. For seamless reporting, analysts can set specific time periods for different alerts and for reporting for tasks that do not come under the critical levels.

4. Alerts with Actionable Plans

Vague alerts demand more focus, attention, and time than precise, actionable alerts. For employees who are already exhausted by the endless number of alerts, demanding more focus and attention is a recipe for disaster. It lowers their productivity and increases missed alerts. Having an alert accompanied by an actionable checklist can significantly reduce missed alerts. For example, in the aviation industry, every kind of alert that turns up on the pilot’s dashboard is accompanied by an actionable checklist that makes it easier to fix issues.

5. Reduce not Just False Positives but also False Negatives

Analysts spend 15% of their productive hours investigating false positives. This translates to almost 7 hours a week per analyst. Moreover, these are hours not spent analyzing actual threats. Integrate solutions that go one step ahead by collecting logs and alerts from all of its connected data entities. This data is then analyzed and used to build an approximate behavioral profile of each of the organization’s entities. This can significantly reduce false positives and false negatives. It can also report security-relevant data to enhance detection efficiency.

6. Real-Time Automation

Automation of mundane tasks that do not require human opinion can have the most profound impact on alert noise reduction. Using real-time automation, responders can greatly reduce their volume of work by fully automating routine responses to recurring types of alerts, allowing SOC teams to concentrate more on distinctive alerts, analyzing trends, or risk monitoring.

7. One-Size-Fits-All Fix is a Myth

Even if you set up high-priority alerts, automated segregations, and ML algorithms to manage the volume of results, it’s essential to review the processes, alerts, and devices periodically. This helps make sure the right balance between ignoring false positives and addressing high-risk alerts is maintained. There’s no one-fix solution. Make it a point to meet with the SOC team and ask for their feedback. Sometimes, making use of a different visual alert and tweaking priority levels, etc maybe some of their concerns. Addressing team concerns can keep alert fatigue low.

By Jayanth Varma, Founder

CEO/Founder of AlertFusion. We aim to improve the productivity of our customers by tackling the challenges faced by their analysts day in and day out. We do this through centralising alerts, eliminating rework, and retaining key knowledge.