How to Use Alerts to Become More Proactive About Security

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We all understand the importance of being proactive about our health. Rather than waiting for symptoms of disease to land us in the ER, we eat healthy, exercise, and see our doctors annually (or at least we know we should!). So why do so many organizations fail to understand the importance of taking a proactive approach to security?

While many companies today are stuck in a mode where they’re continually reacting to alerts, true security maturity means using actionable alerts to proactively become more effective and to reduce risk over time. In this post, we’ll discuss how you can take a more proactive approach to alerting in order to strengthen your overall cloud security posture.

Eliminate Ad Hoc Alert Handling

The reactive monitoring that many organizations employ means that alerts are generated without context and reviewed ad hoc, but this lengthens mean time to know and cuts down on your efficiency when it comes to responding to threats. Instead, alerts should flow through a standardized and automated process for triage and response.

A formal group should handle this initial triage and response, and the team’s processes should be defined by a strong incident response plan. To make sure that all stakeholders are in the know, this group must be well-integrated with engineering and operations teams to handle alerts and minimize risky behavior. Ultimately, discussions between these groups should alter internal employee and system behaviors over time, de-risking the business.

Optimize Alert Management

Alerts are not much help without context, and when it’s time for your security team to triage an alert, it’s vital that they have all the necessary supporting data at their fingertips. This allows the team to move quickly to determine how to respond to an incident.

To accomplish this, your organization will need to integrate its security alerting tools with its incident management and chatops tools, such as Pager Duty and Slack. Once these are integrated, security alerts can flow directly into the tools and workflows that your operations and development teams already use, enabling them to view all the data about a security event in a single place. And, when the time comes to respond to an alert, you won’t have to switch between tools in order to notify the various stakeholders.

Perform a Response Audit

While you can certainly pat yourself on the back once you’ve taken the necessary steps to streamline and automate your alert processes, you still have work ahead of you. The right processes are meaningless if they aren’t being followed, so you’ll need to perform a response audit in order to build a review and analysis trail.

A robust audit trail must enable your security (or compliance) team to later parse actions taken within security tools, including:

  • Who dismissed a particular alert
  • When the alert was dismissed
  • What annotations were made

It’s important to audit how your team responds to alerts on a regular basis to be sure that they are taking the right actions in response to alerts. With the results of an audit in hand, you can improve your strategy and make the entire alerting process more proactive over time, all while reducing your organization’s overall risk.

Don’t Go it Alone

While we’ve laid out the general steps you need to take in order to become proactive about alert management (and, in turn, your organization’s security), it’s understandable if the whole undertaking can seem a bit overwhelming. As we said, we all aim to eat right and exercise, but it’s often easier said than done.

Knowing what you need to do and actually doing it can be two different things, especially when your resources are constrained. So sticking with our health analogy, think of the Threat Stack Cloud SecOps Program as your dietitian and personal trainer. This new co-managed services program includes Threat Stack Oversight℠, which allows you to take advantage of our SecOps experts to help you monitor and triage alerts in a proactive manner in order to stay ahead of threats.

The Threat Stack Insight℠ service goes even farther, using Rapid Baselining to group your alerts into logical subsets based on associated rules. Once a baseline has been established for your organization, you can quickly identify suspicious activity from your grouped alerts, as well as risky behavior patterns from within your own organization.

With both Insight℠ and Oversight℠, you’ll receive five customized reports, each representing a different type of user, system, or file behavior that could signify risky or anomalous behavior. A SecOps expert will then work with you to dig deeper into each of these data sets, enabling you to adjust your alerting processes to continuously improve your security posture over time.

Learn more about the Threat Stack Cloud SecOps Program℠, and contact us to request your trial today.