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IT security analytics on the up as overall security spending reaches all-time high

But market still immature and confusing for buyers, according to Gartner

IT security analytics on the up as overall security spending reaches all-time high
How well a SIEM product can perform automated analytics has become an area of differentiation among SIEM providers

Despite spending on IT security is at all-time high, security breaches at major organisations are also at an all-time high - a fact that is unlocking yet more funds for emerging breach detection technologies, according to Gartner.

In a statement ahead of its Security and Risk Management Summit taking place in Dubai in November, Gartner said that organisations are having to navigate an increasingly complex buying market when it comes to security. While funds are being made available to invest in security, technology providers are creating a lot of noise over what their products can do, creating confusion, Gartner said.

This is particularly apparent in the breach detection market - where products that use advanced analytics to detect attacks reside, the research house said.

"Breach detection is top of mind for security buyers and the field of security technologies claiming to find breaches or detect advanced attacks is at an all-time noise level," said Eric Ahlm, research director at Gartner.

"Security analytics platforms endeavour to bring situational awareness to security events by gathering and analysing a broader set of data, such that the events that pose the greatest harm to an organisation are found and prioritised with greater accuracy."

When it comes to gathering masses of security data that can be analysed to bring greater meaning to security events, security information and event management (SIEM) technologies are topping the list of likely solutions, Gartner said. However, the research house added that, while most SIEM products have the ability to collect, store and analyse security data, the meaning that can be pulled from a data store (such as the security data found in a SIEM) depends on how the data is reviewed.

Indeed, how well a SIEM product can perform automated analytics - compared with user queries and rules - has become an area of differentiation among SIEM providers, Gartner said.

User behaviour analytics (UBA) is another example of security analytics that is already gaining buyer attention. UBA allows user activity to be analysed, much in the same way a fraud detection system would monitor a user's credit cards for theft. UBA systems are effective at detecting meaningful security events, such as a compromised user account and rogue insiders. However, Gartner cautioned that, although many UBA systems can analyse more data than just user profiles, such as devices and geo-locations, there is still an opportunity to enhance the analytics to include even more data points that can increase the accuracy of detecting a breach.

"Today, there are certainly commercially viable applications of analytics to better position security technologies, such as with SIEM and UBA providers," said Ahlm.

"However, the applications or other problems that can be addressed for other security markets are still emerging and on the whole, the security industry is rather immature in the application of analytics."

Gartner said that, as security analytics platforms grow in maturity and accuracy, a driving factor for their innovation is how much data can be brought into the analysis. Today, information about hosts, networks, users and external actors is the most common data brought into an analysis. However, the amount of context that can be brought into an analysis is truly boundless and presents an opportunity for owners of interesting data and the security providers looking to increase their effectiveness.

Gartner added that analytics systems, on average, tend to do better analysing lean, or metadata-like, data stores that allow them to quickly, in almost real-time, produce interesting findings. The challenge to this approach is that major security events, such as breaches, don't happen all at once. There may be an early indicator, followed hours later by a minor event, which in turn is followed days or months later by a data leakage event. When these three things are looked at as a single incident that just happens to span, say, three months, the overall priority of this incident made up of lesser events is now much higher, which is why "look backs" are a key concept for analytics systems, Gartner explained.

"Ultimately, how actual human users interface with the outputs of large data analytics will greatly determine if the technology is adopted or deemed to produce useful information in a reasonable amount of time," said Ahlm.

"Like other disciplines that have leveraged large data analytics to discover new things or produce new outputs, visualisation of that data will greatly affect adoption of the technology."

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