Blog
May 21, 2024

What is Alert Fatigue in Cyber Security, How to Avoid It and Reduce False Positives?

Security tools create alert overload for cybersecurity teams. Learn how to prioritise threats, automate tasks & reduce fatigue to stop missing breaches.

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Key Points:

  • Alert fatigue is a major problem in cybersecurity caused by an overwhelming number of alerts from security tools. This can lead to missed threats, delayed responses, and burnout for security professionals.
  • To reduce alert fatigue, security teams need to use tools that prioritise real threats and automate repetitive tasks. They should also receive proper training and have clear communication channels with HR.
  • HR teams can help by ensuring workloads are distributed fairly, offering mental health support, and hiring additional staff if needed. They should also review security tools and workflows regularly to make sure they are effective.
  • Metomic offers a low-noise data security solution for your data security needs, allowing you to track sensitive data across SaaS, cloud, and GenAI tools and avoid alert fatigue.

Security teams are spoilt for choice when it comes to cybersecurity and data security tools that can help them identify risks within their ecosystem.

But with this comes an increase in notifications and alerts that can be overwhelming for any team member.

What is alert fatigue in cybersecurity?

Alert fatigue occurs when cybersecurity professionals are bombarded with alerts, to the point that they become overwhelmed. Due to the nature of their role, they may have multiple security tools in place which can exacerbate the amount of notifications they receive, leaving them feeling anxious, tired, and potentially unable to deal effectively with the alerts coming through.

As a result of the excessive noise, security teams may struggle to identify genuine threats when they arise. To combat this, it’s crucial that security tools are primed to be accurate, limiting the number of false positives, and prioritising the alerts that individuals should be aware of.

What causes it?

Alert fatigue can be caused by a number of factors. Firstly, the security tools on hand may not be set up to triage risks for security teams, making it difficult to distinguish between real threats, and false positives. On top of this, the complex setup of the IT environment with limited holistic tools to help consolidate alerts, leaves security professionals overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information they need to process every day.

With 59% of security teams understaffed, there are less people to handle persistent incoming alerts, leading to fatigue and potential burnout for individuals who may be working with limited resources. Stretched budgets can also result in inadequate training when it comes to configuring security tools in the first instance, or interpreting alerts when they appear.

Limited automated processes can also cause alert fatigue to be exacerbated, particularly when it comes to daily alerts for the same issue. Security professionals may find their time is taken up responding to alerts that have no real consequence, rather than dealing with more serious incidents.

What is an example of alert fatigue?

One example of alert fatigue could be a security professional utilising a data security platform to scan for sensitive data in SaaS applications like Slack. The tool may be configured to send alerts whenever any piece of sensitive data is shared in any channel across the platform.

A tool such as Metomic would make this easy for them, by triaging risks and alerting them to only the highest priorities that need attention. However, if our security professional was using another data security tool, they may struggle to see the wood for the trees.

They could be inundated with notifications about every sensitive data point, even those which would be deemed a low priority within the business. This could lead to the security team missing genuine risks within the ecosystem, and becoming desensitised when real danger is involved.

What are the potential implications and risks of alert fatigue?

There are many risks associated with alert fatigue, including:

  1. Missed Threats: Perhaps the biggest risk posed by alert fatigue is the possibility of missed genuine threats. Overwhelmed security professionals, drowning in notifications, can find themselves wading through plenty of alerts without understanding which to prioritise.
  2. Delayed Emergency Response: Without any urgency behind specific alerts, security professionals may not be able to respond quickly to genuine emergencies, allowing bad actors the opportunity to infiltrate systems, and an increased attack surface for them to penetrate.
  3. Increased Chance of Burnout: Overwhelmed security teams can suffer burnout as a result of alert fatigue, leaving a sometimes already small workforce to manage with a stretched team.
  4. Compliance Problems: Without a timely response to certain issues, companies may find themselves not complying with industry regulations that mandate a set time for issues to be resolved.
  5. Loss of Trust in Security Tools: Consistent false positives can lead to a decrease in trust for security professionals who may be fed up with security tools. This loss of trust can cause genuine incidents to go undetected or for them to be met with scepticism.

To reduce the chance of this happening, security teams must look to security tools that allow them to prioritise the risks that matter to their organisation, and improve context around any alerts that come through. This can help companies better protect themselves against any incoming threats.

How can security teams and HR teams prevent employees from suffering from alert fatigue?

The responsibility for alert fatigue can be split between the senior members of the security team, as well as the HR team.

Katie Barnett, Director of Cybersecurity at Toro Solutions, says,

As cyber attacks proliferate, staff fatigue from dedicating themselves to the cause of securing their environments, but often being held solely accountable for a breach of their organisation. Cybersecurity professionals are required to have complex understanding of technical threats and defences, at a level which is rarely understood by their less technical colleagues and superiors. As a result, resourcing cybersecurity functions is not considered a priority to corporate boards or top management because it is seen as a cost rather than a business enabler and teams are often stretched too thin to meet expectations, leading to burnout.”

To avoid this becoming an issue for security teams, the importance of investment in cybersecurity should not be overlooked, and due attention must be paid to mental health concerns voiced by individuals within the team.

Senior members of the team should also look to implement low-noise security tools that can prioritise genuine alerts over false positives or low-priority concerns. Where possible, organisations should also choose security tools with built-in automation so that repetitive tasks can be handled by these platforms, giving security professionals time to focus on more pressing issues.

There should be ongoing training given to security teams so they can understand alerts that need to be prioritised, and the incident response procedure they will need to follow if there is a real emergency.

From an HR perspective, clear lines of communication should be set out so that security professionals can speak up when they feel they are struggling with alert fatigue. Workload should be assessed, and distributed among the team so that no one individual is taking on more than they can handle. If necessary, additional team members should be hired to enable the team to work more efficiently and effectively.

Security teams and HR teams should also ensure that processes, tools and workflows are reviewed regularly to ensure they are the right fit for the team. If a solution isn’t working well for the organisation - for instance, if it doesn’t deliver context-rich alerts that can help security professionals make informed decisions - it should be questioned whether it is the right tool for the team to use.

Security tools that also offer the option of sending employees alerts directly to make them aware of the risks they’re creating, rather than going through the security team, should also be considered as this can enable the workforce to solve their own problems, giving more time back to the security team.

How can Metomic help?

Metomic offers a low-noise data security solution for your data security needs, allowing you to track sensitive data across SaaS, cloud, and GenAI tools. Its granular data control allows organisations to monitor data flow without creating unnecessary alerts, and automated data governance reduces the workload for security professionals.

From the outset, Metomic customers are set up with specific rules in place to ensure they are notified of the risks that matter to their business, rather than everything else that might come their way.

Take a virtual tour of our platform to see how Metomic can you help your organisation avoid alert fatigue.

Key Points:

  • Alert fatigue is a major problem in cybersecurity caused by an overwhelming number of alerts from security tools. This can lead to missed threats, delayed responses, and burnout for security professionals.
  • To reduce alert fatigue, security teams need to use tools that prioritise real threats and automate repetitive tasks. They should also receive proper training and have clear communication channels with HR.
  • HR teams can help by ensuring workloads are distributed fairly, offering mental health support, and hiring additional staff if needed. They should also review security tools and workflows regularly to make sure they are effective.
  • Metomic offers a low-noise data security solution for your data security needs, allowing you to track sensitive data across SaaS, cloud, and GenAI tools and avoid alert fatigue.

Security teams are spoilt for choice when it comes to cybersecurity and data security tools that can help them identify risks within their ecosystem.

But with this comes an increase in notifications and alerts that can be overwhelming for any team member.

What is alert fatigue in cybersecurity?

Alert fatigue occurs when cybersecurity professionals are bombarded with alerts, to the point that they become overwhelmed. Due to the nature of their role, they may have multiple security tools in place which can exacerbate the amount of notifications they receive, leaving them feeling anxious, tired, and potentially unable to deal effectively with the alerts coming through.

As a result of the excessive noise, security teams may struggle to identify genuine threats when they arise. To combat this, it’s crucial that security tools are primed to be accurate, limiting the number of false positives, and prioritising the alerts that individuals should be aware of.

What causes it?

Alert fatigue can be caused by a number of factors. Firstly, the security tools on hand may not be set up to triage risks for security teams, making it difficult to distinguish between real threats, and false positives. On top of this, the complex setup of the IT environment with limited holistic tools to help consolidate alerts, leaves security professionals overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information they need to process every day.

With 59% of security teams understaffed, there are less people to handle persistent incoming alerts, leading to fatigue and potential burnout for individuals who may be working with limited resources. Stretched budgets can also result in inadequate training when it comes to configuring security tools in the first instance, or interpreting alerts when they appear.

Limited automated processes can also cause alert fatigue to be exacerbated, particularly when it comes to daily alerts for the same issue. Security professionals may find their time is taken up responding to alerts that have no real consequence, rather than dealing with more serious incidents.

What is an example of alert fatigue?

One example of alert fatigue could be a security professional utilising a data security platform to scan for sensitive data in SaaS applications like Slack. The tool may be configured to send alerts whenever any piece of sensitive data is shared in any channel across the platform.

A tool such as Metomic would make this easy for them, by triaging risks and alerting them to only the highest priorities that need attention. However, if our security professional was using another data security tool, they may struggle to see the wood for the trees.

They could be inundated with notifications about every sensitive data point, even those which would be deemed a low priority within the business. This could lead to the security team missing genuine risks within the ecosystem, and becoming desensitised when real danger is involved.

What are the potential implications and risks of alert fatigue?

There are many risks associated with alert fatigue, including:

  1. Missed Threats: Perhaps the biggest risk posed by alert fatigue is the possibility of missed genuine threats. Overwhelmed security professionals, drowning in notifications, can find themselves wading through plenty of alerts without understanding which to prioritise.
  2. Delayed Emergency Response: Without any urgency behind specific alerts, security professionals may not be able to respond quickly to genuine emergencies, allowing bad actors the opportunity to infiltrate systems, and an increased attack surface for them to penetrate.
  3. Increased Chance of Burnout: Overwhelmed security teams can suffer burnout as a result of alert fatigue, leaving a sometimes already small workforce to manage with a stretched team.
  4. Compliance Problems: Without a timely response to certain issues, companies may find themselves not complying with industry regulations that mandate a set time for issues to be resolved.
  5. Loss of Trust in Security Tools: Consistent false positives can lead to a decrease in trust for security professionals who may be fed up with security tools. This loss of trust can cause genuine incidents to go undetected or for them to be met with scepticism.

To reduce the chance of this happening, security teams must look to security tools that allow them to prioritise the risks that matter to their organisation, and improve context around any alerts that come through. This can help companies better protect themselves against any incoming threats.

How can security teams and HR teams prevent employees from suffering from alert fatigue?

The responsibility for alert fatigue can be split between the senior members of the security team, as well as the HR team.

Katie Barnett, Director of Cybersecurity at Toro Solutions, says,

As cyber attacks proliferate, staff fatigue from dedicating themselves to the cause of securing their environments, but often being held solely accountable for a breach of their organisation. Cybersecurity professionals are required to have complex understanding of technical threats and defences, at a level which is rarely understood by their less technical colleagues and superiors. As a result, resourcing cybersecurity functions is not considered a priority to corporate boards or top management because it is seen as a cost rather than a business enabler and teams are often stretched too thin to meet expectations, leading to burnout.”

To avoid this becoming an issue for security teams, the importance of investment in cybersecurity should not be overlooked, and due attention must be paid to mental health concerns voiced by individuals within the team.

Senior members of the team should also look to implement low-noise security tools that can prioritise genuine alerts over false positives or low-priority concerns. Where possible, organisations should also choose security tools with built-in automation so that repetitive tasks can be handled by these platforms, giving security professionals time to focus on more pressing issues.

There should be ongoing training given to security teams so they can understand alerts that need to be prioritised, and the incident response procedure they will need to follow if there is a real emergency.

From an HR perspective, clear lines of communication should be set out so that security professionals can speak up when they feel they are struggling with alert fatigue. Workload should be assessed, and distributed among the team so that no one individual is taking on more than they can handle. If necessary, additional team members should be hired to enable the team to work more efficiently and effectively.

Security teams and HR teams should also ensure that processes, tools and workflows are reviewed regularly to ensure they are the right fit for the team. If a solution isn’t working well for the organisation - for instance, if it doesn’t deliver context-rich alerts that can help security professionals make informed decisions - it should be questioned whether it is the right tool for the team to use.

Security tools that also offer the option of sending employees alerts directly to make them aware of the risks they’re creating, rather than going through the security team, should also be considered as this can enable the workforce to solve their own problems, giving more time back to the security team.

How can Metomic help?

Metomic offers a low-noise data security solution for your data security needs, allowing you to track sensitive data across SaaS, cloud, and GenAI tools. Its granular data control allows organisations to monitor data flow without creating unnecessary alerts, and automated data governance reduces the workload for security professionals.

From the outset, Metomic customers are set up with specific rules in place to ensure they are notified of the risks that matter to their business, rather than everything else that might come their way.

Take a virtual tour of our platform to see how Metomic can you help your organisation avoid alert fatigue.

Key Points:

  • Alert fatigue is a major problem in cybersecurity caused by an overwhelming number of alerts from security tools. This can lead to missed threats, delayed responses, and burnout for security professionals.
  • To reduce alert fatigue, security teams need to use tools that prioritise real threats and automate repetitive tasks. They should also receive proper training and have clear communication channels with HR.
  • HR teams can help by ensuring workloads are distributed fairly, offering mental health support, and hiring additional staff if needed. They should also review security tools and workflows regularly to make sure they are effective.
  • Metomic offers a low-noise data security solution for your data security needs, allowing you to track sensitive data across SaaS, cloud, and GenAI tools and avoid alert fatigue.

Security teams are spoilt for choice when it comes to cybersecurity and data security tools that can help them identify risks within their ecosystem.

But with this comes an increase in notifications and alerts that can be overwhelming for any team member.

What is alert fatigue in cybersecurity?

Alert fatigue occurs when cybersecurity professionals are bombarded with alerts, to the point that they become overwhelmed. Due to the nature of their role, they may have multiple security tools in place which can exacerbate the amount of notifications they receive, leaving them feeling anxious, tired, and potentially unable to deal effectively with the alerts coming through.

As a result of the excessive noise, security teams may struggle to identify genuine threats when they arise. To combat this, it’s crucial that security tools are primed to be accurate, limiting the number of false positives, and prioritising the alerts that individuals should be aware of.

What causes it?

Alert fatigue can be caused by a number of factors. Firstly, the security tools on hand may not be set up to triage risks for security teams, making it difficult to distinguish between real threats, and false positives. On top of this, the complex setup of the IT environment with limited holistic tools to help consolidate alerts, leaves security professionals overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information they need to process every day.

With 59% of security teams understaffed, there are less people to handle persistent incoming alerts, leading to fatigue and potential burnout for individuals who may be working with limited resources. Stretched budgets can also result in inadequate training when it comes to configuring security tools in the first instance, or interpreting alerts when they appear.

Limited automated processes can also cause alert fatigue to be exacerbated, particularly when it comes to daily alerts for the same issue. Security professionals may find their time is taken up responding to alerts that have no real consequence, rather than dealing with more serious incidents.

What is an example of alert fatigue?

One example of alert fatigue could be a security professional utilising a data security platform to scan for sensitive data in SaaS applications like Slack. The tool may be configured to send alerts whenever any piece of sensitive data is shared in any channel across the platform.

A tool such as Metomic would make this easy for them, by triaging risks and alerting them to only the highest priorities that need attention. However, if our security professional was using another data security tool, they may struggle to see the wood for the trees.

They could be inundated with notifications about every sensitive data point, even those which would be deemed a low priority within the business. This could lead to the security team missing genuine risks within the ecosystem, and becoming desensitised when real danger is involved.

What are the potential implications and risks of alert fatigue?

There are many risks associated with alert fatigue, including:

  1. Missed Threats: Perhaps the biggest risk posed by alert fatigue is the possibility of missed genuine threats. Overwhelmed security professionals, drowning in notifications, can find themselves wading through plenty of alerts without understanding which to prioritise.
  2. Delayed Emergency Response: Without any urgency behind specific alerts, security professionals may not be able to respond quickly to genuine emergencies, allowing bad actors the opportunity to infiltrate systems, and an increased attack surface for them to penetrate.
  3. Increased Chance of Burnout: Overwhelmed security teams can suffer burnout as a result of alert fatigue, leaving a sometimes already small workforce to manage with a stretched team.
  4. Compliance Problems: Without a timely response to certain issues, companies may find themselves not complying with industry regulations that mandate a set time for issues to be resolved.
  5. Loss of Trust in Security Tools: Consistent false positives can lead to a decrease in trust for security professionals who may be fed up with security tools. This loss of trust can cause genuine incidents to go undetected or for them to be met with scepticism.

To reduce the chance of this happening, security teams must look to security tools that allow them to prioritise the risks that matter to their organisation, and improve context around any alerts that come through. This can help companies better protect themselves against any incoming threats.

How can security teams and HR teams prevent employees from suffering from alert fatigue?

The responsibility for alert fatigue can be split between the senior members of the security team, as well as the HR team.

Katie Barnett, Director of Cybersecurity at Toro Solutions, says,

As cyber attacks proliferate, staff fatigue from dedicating themselves to the cause of securing their environments, but often being held solely accountable for a breach of their organisation. Cybersecurity professionals are required to have complex understanding of technical threats and defences, at a level which is rarely understood by their less technical colleagues and superiors. As a result, resourcing cybersecurity functions is not considered a priority to corporate boards or top management because it is seen as a cost rather than a business enabler and teams are often stretched too thin to meet expectations, leading to burnout.”

To avoid this becoming an issue for security teams, the importance of investment in cybersecurity should not be overlooked, and due attention must be paid to mental health concerns voiced by individuals within the team.

Senior members of the team should also look to implement low-noise security tools that can prioritise genuine alerts over false positives or low-priority concerns. Where possible, organisations should also choose security tools with built-in automation so that repetitive tasks can be handled by these platforms, giving security professionals time to focus on more pressing issues.

There should be ongoing training given to security teams so they can understand alerts that need to be prioritised, and the incident response procedure they will need to follow if there is a real emergency.

From an HR perspective, clear lines of communication should be set out so that security professionals can speak up when they feel they are struggling with alert fatigue. Workload should be assessed, and distributed among the team so that no one individual is taking on more than they can handle. If necessary, additional team members should be hired to enable the team to work more efficiently and effectively.

Security teams and HR teams should also ensure that processes, tools and workflows are reviewed regularly to ensure they are the right fit for the team. If a solution isn’t working well for the organisation - for instance, if it doesn’t deliver context-rich alerts that can help security professionals make informed decisions - it should be questioned whether it is the right tool for the team to use.

Security tools that also offer the option of sending employees alerts directly to make them aware of the risks they’re creating, rather than going through the security team, should also be considered as this can enable the workforce to solve their own problems, giving more time back to the security team.

How can Metomic help?

Metomic offers a low-noise data security solution for your data security needs, allowing you to track sensitive data across SaaS, cloud, and GenAI tools. Its granular data control allows organisations to monitor data flow without creating unnecessary alerts, and automated data governance reduces the workload for security professionals.

From the outset, Metomic customers are set up with specific rules in place to ensure they are notified of the risks that matter to their business, rather than everything else that might come their way.

Take a virtual tour of our platform to see how Metomic can you help your organisation avoid alert fatigue.