The rise of cyber security product sprawl

security sprawl

Twenty years ago, when enterprise information security was starting to hit its stride, nearly all enterprise security software products were bought as point solutions. They did one job – resist malware, scan for vulnerabilities, encrypt data, detect intrusions, etc. — very well. But over time the number of tools in the security practitioner’s toolbox grew unwieldy, and many enterprises could no longer manage and use those tools effectively.

That predicament gave birth to so-called unified threat managers, which were appliances that aggregated many of these tools. But more than simply putting all of the various security tools in one place, unified threat managers also helped unify the management console and aimed to provide enterprise security managers with a “single pane of glass” to manage their many security functions. Unified threat management devices never lived up to their promise, especially in larger enterprises. They did, however, help simplify security management for small and mid-sized organizations.

Then along came cloud and DevOps, and centralized enterprise control over technology deployments was shattered. New security controls started to creep back in. Today, if a recent survey is any indication, organizations find themselves once again overwhelmed with too many disparate tools.

According to the 2019 ReliaQuest Security Technology Sprawl Report, security teams are deploying more tools than ever: three-quarters (70%) of security decision-makers have invested in 5+ new technologies in the last year, and 19% have invested in >20. Some 63% say there are currently more security technologies deployed at their organization than are needed.

More than half of respondents say their security team has reached a tipping point where the number of security tools in place has adversely impacted their security posture and increased risk.

According to survey respondents, the impact of security tool “sprawl” has brought significant headwinds to security team operational efficiency: 69% report their security team spends more time managing security tools than effectively defending against threats; and tools gather dust on the shelf, with 60% of respondents reporting that most of their organization’s security technologies are underutilized. Finally, 71% say they’re adding security technologies faster than they are adding the capacity to productively use them.

How can enterprises manage their way through security tool sprawl? First and foremost, look for places where security functions can be automated in a security platform and work to eliminate as many manual security processes as possible. If people and security processes seem siloed, seek areas that can be scaled back. Embed security expertise within teams such as application development or other areas where it makes sense for your organization.

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