What is security analytics, and how can it benefit your organization?

Author: Phil Muncaster

We live in a data-driven world—total enterprise data volumes are predicted to surge over 42% annually between 2020 and 2022 to exceed 2 petabytes this year. The difference between organizations at the top of their game and those in the chasing pack is their ability to harness this data for better decision-making. In the field of cyber risk management, security analytics are now a must-have to rapidly detect and respond to threats, as well as enhance organizational resilience to future attacks.

But with so many options available to IT leaders, deciding which tools to invest in and how to deploy them isn't always straightforward.

Types of security analytics tools

Several subcategories fall under the umbrella of security analytics.

Security incident and event management

Security incident and event management (SIEM) tools collect and analyze log data from across the organization (network devices, servers, etc.) to generate alerts about new threats and potential security breaches. Security operations (SecOps) analysts then prioritize these alerts. SIEM is also available as a service.

Security orchestration, automation and response

Security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR) tools collect alerts from SIEM and other security solutions. These tools help SecOps analysts better prioritize alerts for faster incident response and more streamlined threat and vulnerability management.

Behavioral analytics

Behavioral analytics solutions look for patterns of suspicious behavior from end users and applications, which might indicate a security breach. They may use AI to baseline "normal" behavior to improve the accuracy of such judgments.

Network analytics

Network analytics apply big data analysis to network traffic flows to detect and notify SecOps teams of any potentially malicious anomalies. No matter how sophisticated cyber attacks are, they have to touch the network at some stage, potentially raising the alarm for incident response teams. Network providers may also offer these solutions as a service.

Forensics tools

Forensics tools can apply analytics to historical data to help determine how the organization was compromised and where vulnerabilities may still exist. The goal is to check that threat actors have been vanquished and to help provide intelligence that can be used to patch flaws, tackle misconfigurations and enhance resilience to help contain future threats.

Incident analytics

Incident analytics tools and services analyze data on historical incidents to provide intelligence for improved strategic planning and risk management

Why do you need security analytics?

The need for intelligent, near real-time analysis of security data has never been greater, thanks to a series of interlinked trends.

Cyber threats are on the rise

According to the Verizon 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), ransomware continues its reign as one of the top action types present in breaches, and while it did not actually grow, it did hold statistically steady at 24%.1

The cost of compromise is surging

Ransomware continues its reign as one of the top action types present in security breaches, according to the DBIR at 24%. Ransomware is ubiquitous among organizations of all sizes and in all industries. In 2022, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Report (IC3), the IC3 received 2,385 complaints identified as ransomware with adjusted losses of more than $34.3 million.

Professionalization is on the rise among criminals

Attackers are specializing in creating a sophisticated supply chain for cyber attacks—selling everything from phishing kits to "initial access" and bulletproof hosting for cyber crime infrastructure. Most importantly, budding cyber criminals can buy many capabilities in handy prepackaged services, lowering the bar to entry.

Attack techniques continue to advance

The lure of profit has led to a continued surge in innovation. Oftentimes it appears that no matter how fast our defenses and practices evolve, attackers adapt theirs just as quickly. Threat prevention tools are far from a panacea. Organizations that rely too heavily on them might take weeks to spot suspicious activity on their networks. The average attacker dwell time globally now stands at 21 days.

Insider risk is still a major headache

Social engineering patterns represent over 50% of incidents.  Employee negligence is a major risk, which is why phishing is still one of the most popular tools in the hacker's playbook. 83% of breaches analyzed in the 2023 DBIR involved external actors, and the primary motivation for attacks continues to be overwhelmingly financially driven, at 95% of breaches. The three primary ways in which attackers access an organization are stolen credentials, phishing and exploitation of vulnerabilities.2

The attack surface continues to expand

Many organizations have adopted hybrid working, expansive cloud apps and infrastructure, bring your own device policies and IoT endpoints. That means more IT assets and users for hackers to target. Over 44% of organizations suffering a mobile-related security breach over the past year say user behavior was a contributing factor, according to the Verizon Mobile Security Index report.3

As the attack surface expands and threat volumes surge, so does the quantity of data security tools and endpoints collect. Making sense of this is the job of security analytics.

What are the benefits of security analytics tools?

With security analytics tools in place, your IT security team can better support the business.

Tools that rapidly detect and contain breaches

Security analytics serve up the right information to the right people at the right time to help them spot and remediate rapidly emerging breaches. That means reducing the risk of incidents that could have a serious financial and reputational impact on the organization.

Operate more effectively

High-performance analytics use machine learning and other techniques to better prioritize alerts for SecOps to investigate, speeding up incident response. They might also automate repetitive processes, freeing up staff to work more productively. This not only keeps the organization more secure but can help avoid staff burnout.

Enhance resilience

Using the output of security analytics, teams can better understand how and why a breach occurred. They can then adjust security controls and patch and configure systems to prevent something similar from happening in the future.

Improve forensics

Analytics can deliver information on the attack or breach origins and which assets were impacted. This supports enhanced cyber resilience and can minimize compliance risk while improving incident response.

Support regulatory compliance

Rapid threat detection and response can reassure regulators that the organization is less likely to succumb to advanced attacks. It can also support reporting and disclosure requirements.

Why should you use a managed service?

For some organizations, the pressure of mounting cyber threats, market competition and regulatory compliance has raised the cyber security stakes significantly. Security analytics are increasingly user-friendly, but many may rather use their in-house teams for other tasks. Outsourcing the management and deployment of security analytics can reduce spending on license fees and SecOps analysts while handing the job to a specialist provider.

Look out for partners that can offer the following:

  • A unified portal for easy management and visibility
  • Global 24/7/365 coverage
  • Use of multiple techniques/technologies, including machine learning, behavioral analytics, network analysis and more
  • Standards/accreditation to work in highly regulated industries like government
  • The scope to monitor the entire attack surface, from cloud to remote working homes to IoT endpoints
  • A roster of skilled staff monitoring analytics output from Security Operations Centers (SOCs)
  • Comprehensive reporting to allow for threat intelligence reviews
  • A strong track record of industry leadership

As one of the world's largest internet service and network security providers, Verizon combines visibility into NetFlow traffic on its IP backbone with skilled analysts at SOCs located around the world. 

Learn more about how Verizon can leverage machine-based and human intelligence to provide detailed threat assessments to help better secure your business.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.

1 Verizon, 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report, Summary of Findings.

2 Verizon, 2023 Data Breach Investigations Report, page 8.

3 Verizon, Mobile Security Index 2022, page 25.