Strategies to Reduce Alert Fatigue in Your SOC Team


In a SOC (security operations center), alerts originating from hundreds of systems compete to get attention. What ensues is a security analyst’s battle to beat alert fatigue while effectively defending their organization from cybersecurity threats. 

Alert fatigue is a major challenge faced by security operations center (SOC) teams. The stakes are even higher since they take on the enormous responsibility of maintaining networks and data systems. One small, fatigue-induced negligence can compromise an organization’s IT infrastructure. 

In this blog, we’ll take a look at key strategies that can be implemented by SOC teams to combat alert fatigue, improve security alert visibility and drive faster resolution to vulnerabilities.    

What’s a SOC?

A SOC is the central nervous system to an organization’s security processes and provides detailed visibility into end-to-end IT infrastructures. It allows you to monitor, evaluate, and respond to cybersecurity threats across your organization with increased efficacy. A SOC ecosystem ingests telemetric data from information systems and continuously monitors for threats.

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SOC Organizations

SOC organizations consist of analysts, incident responders and threat hunters. Team members work collaboratively to prevent potential threats and neutralize cyberattacks. Teams are led by SOC managers that consistently monitor, detect and remediate security vulnerabilities.

Organizations have well-defined hierarchies, escalation policies and fallback systems in place. SOC level 1 analysts monitor security information and event management (SIEM) systems. They will triage and alert level 2 colleagues if a real, time-sensitive incident is identified.

Remediation is generally carried out by level 2 analysts. SOC level 3 members operate on a more strategic level, identifying system vulnerabilities and security gaps.   

Cybersecurity Tools for SOC teams

SIEM systems aggregate telemetry data in a single pane of glass with real-time analysis. SOC teams utilize SIEM platforms to gain detailed observability into critical infrastructures. SIEM improves visibility and accelerates security investigations. 

A SIEM system collects logs and event data from applications and IT infrastructures, enabling SOC teams to gain a holistic view of the system. When a metric falls outside of a specified range, these systems create an incident and trigger an email notification. 

Next-gen SIEM systems dig through large amounts of data in milliseconds and generate actionable insights into suspected intrusions. They’re also able to store and manage log data to meet auditing compliance. 

Challenges Faced by SOC Teams

SOC teams are measured by how swiftly they’re able to detect and contain a cybersecurity incident. To effectively do their jobs, teams must keep up with the evolving threat landscape and expanding digital assets. 

Two major impediments for teams in responding to threats include:

  • Alert Fatigue and Missed Alerts: As mentioned earlier, organizations use a diverse portfolio of security systems to protect large digital estates. This results in a vast number of alerts that contend with each other to catch the attention of SOC teams. This may result in missed alerts and alert fatigue. 
  • Shortage of Cybersecurity Skills: Per the ISC, there is a global shortage of skilled workers needed to protect critical infrastructures. As of 2019, 65 percent of organizations reported a shortage of cybersecurity staff. 

Strategies to Address Alert Fatigue

Addressing talent scarcity requires more strategic intervention. For instance, organizations can invest in training and talent development programs to attract and retain top cybersecurity talent. 

Strategies that organizations can adopt to reduce alert fatigue include:

    1. Maintaining Monitoring System Hygiene: Cybersecurity monitoring systems provide a bird’s-eye view into all activities in your network. The systems monitor for anomalies and trigger email notifications. SOC teams get alerted when pre-configured criteria are met. SOC teams become desensitized to real alerts if they continuously receive non-urgent notifications. Teams must clean up their monitoring systems periodically. Feedback loops can decouple unnecessary alerts and adjusting alerting conditions ensures only critical notifications are received.
    2. Adjusting Alert Thresholds, Avoiding Unactionable Alerts: Configuring monitoring alerts is an iterative process that requires full commitment from those at the frontlines. Alert analysts must be encouraged to provide feedback on white noise to optimize alerts. Watchlists can be created and used to suppress false-positive alerts.
    3. Enabling Severity-Based Alerting: Not all alerts are created equal. Some alerts can wait for a few hours until someone addresses the issue. These notifications are low-priority alerts and are not considered “white noise.” Severity-based alerting helps distinguish between high-priority and low-priority alerts. It further refines and enhances alerting workflows. This is a progressive step toward addressing alert fatigue issues.
    4. Creating Enriched Alerts: Notifications without contextual information prolongs the remediation process and further aggravates team fatigue. To address this, system administrators must configure cybersecurity solutions to trigger detailed notifications.
    5. Creating Equitable On-Call Schedules for After-Hours: Cybersecurity threats can happen at any time. Organizations must have established protocols and effective incident processes to manage after-hour operations. Organizations can adopt digital on-call schedules to distribute work equitably and minimize work fatigue. Based on schedule configurations, the system alerts the assigned or tasked on-call engineer.
    6. Eliminating the Need to Constantly Monitor Emails: Organizations invest in security alert management systems to control alert fatigue. These solutions sit at the center of cybersecurity ecosystems and deliver real-time alerts to the right SOC team members. Engineers receive alerts regardless of their geographic location.

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How OnPage Helps SOC Teams 

Modern alerting solutions, such as OnPage’s incident management platform, eliminates the need for constant monitoring of security systems and emails. OnPage provides an “Alert-Until-Read” mobile application that triggers loud, intrusive push notifications to an engineer’s smartphone. OnPage alerts can also be sent to email, SMS and phone call.

By following the strategies discussed in this post and complementing them with a powerful alerting solution, SOC teams can improve security alert visibility and team collaboration to drive faster incident resolution.

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