Security Experts:

Misplaced Security Confidence Keeping Organizations at Risk: McAfee

According to new report from McAfee, many organizations worldwide are failing when it comes to leveraging the massive amounts of security data (Big Security Data) they collect on their networks.

The short and to the point version of McAfee’s report says that businesses are vulnerable to security breaches due to their inability to properly analyze or store big data. This is backed by responses from the respondents, which show a double-edged sword when it comes to confidence in their existing security posture, and the reality of an actual security event.

Nearly three quarters (73%) of the respondents claimed the ability to assess their security status in real-time. They also noted a high level of confidence in their ability to identify in real-time insider threats (74%), perimeter threats (78%), zero day malware (72%) and compliance controls (80%).

Yet, when it came to discussing actual security events – out of 58% of the organizations that suffered a breach in the last year, only 24% of them said they recognized it within minutes. Further, when it came to actually finding the source of the breach, only 14% claimed the ability to do so in minutes, while 33% said it took about 24-hours; 16% said a week.

McAfee’s report includes a look at 855 incidents, where data loss was confirmed. Of those, 63% took weeks or months to be discovered, but the data loss itself happened within seconds or minutes in 46% of the cases.

“If you’re in a fight, you need to know that while it’s happening, not after the fact,” said Mike Fey, executive vice president and worldwide Chief Technology Officer for McAfee.

“This study has shown what we’ve long suspected -- that far too few organizations have real-time access to the simple question ‘am I being breached?’ Only by knowing this, can you stop it from happening.”

"To achieve real-time threat intelligence in an age where the volume, velocity and variety of information have pushed legacy systems to their limit, businesses must embrace the analysis, storage and management of big security data," McAfee explained. "These ever-growing volumes of events, as well as asset, threat, user and other relevant data have created a big data challenge for security teams." 

To be fair, the study, conducted by market research firm Vanson Bourne for McAfee, included 500 senior IT decision makers in January 2013, including 200 in the USA and 100 each in the UK, Germany and Australia. So the sample set is decent enough to infer that the problem is worth examining, but not large enough to say this is an absolute fact.

A full copy of the report is available here (PDF). If you want a faster read, an infographic of the data is also available here.

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Steve Ragan is a security reporter and contributor for SecurityWeek. Prior to joining the journalism world in 2005, he spent 15 years as a freelance IT contractor focused on endpoint security and security training.