How Can Managed Service Providers Combat Alert Fatigue?

Shot of a young businessman looking tired while working on a computer in an office at night

One of the great ironies of the connected age is that we are more in-tune with potential threats than ever before, but also inundated that we sometimes end up letting the biggest issues slide. That more or less describes the phenomenon known as alert fatigue.

Managed service providers (MSPs) are more than familiar with the challenges of alert fatigue. There are more tools and software solutions available to MSPs than ever before. On one hand, that access to technological assistance and automation has made many aspects of IT management for multiple customers smoother and more consistent than would have been possible not long ago. On the other hand, each of those solutions comes with its own system of alerts and notifications. As those notifications start to add up and blend together, it becomes increasingly difficult to filter out which ones are routine and ignorable, and which one require immediate attention. 

That lack of clarity can be a legitimate threat to the safety of your organization and your customers. A 2020 report showed that the average security operations team received about 11,000 alerts per day, a number that has likely grown even higher in the past two years. Meanwhile, a 2021 report revealed that two-thirds of IT teams said they sometimes simply ignored lower-priority alerts. While most of those notifications probably can be ignored with minimal impact, it only takes one missed data breach or phishing-based ransomware attack to do millions of dollars worth of damage to an organization. Multiply that problem by however many clients you’re monitoring and the chances of missing out on a vital alert get significantly higher. 

What is Alert Fatigue in Cybersecurity?

You know those scenes in old cartoons where a villain escapes into a hall of mirrors and the hero has to figure out how to tell the one real threat amongst the dozens of harmless reflections? Cybersecurity can feel like that for overextended IT professionals, with constant alerts creating an environment sometimes referred to as "all noise, no signal."  

Combine those notifications with the daily hubbub of false alarms (up to 25% of all notifications) and alerts for minor issues and known problems that can't be addressed at the moment. Now amplify those alerts across multiple channels such as texts and SMS messages, emails, and internal communication tools like Slack or Teams. That adds up to a whole lot of security notifications, most of which do not require direct action. The problem here is that amidst that flurry of alerts and notifications, it can become difficult for IT teams to sort out the ones that do. 

How Does Alert Fatigue Impact Managed Service Providers?

As cybersecurity management has rapidly gotten more complex in recent years, more and more small businesses (SMBs) have turned to managed service providers to handle their security efforts. That's good news for MSPs, who can bring their experience and expertise to technical operations like IT, security, or network and infrastructure support while allowing their SMB clients to focus on tasks more specific to their businesses.

The problem here is that the difficulties of alert fatigue end up being passed down from the SMB to the MSP. That might not be a tremendous issue if an MSP had only one or two clients to manage, but most large managed service providers work with multiple clients at any given time. Managing security alerts for dozens or hundreds of clients makes the noise of notifications that much louder. MSP teams are constrained by limited security resources but are still expected to wade through all of those alerts to support each of their many clients.

There is evidence that the more narrow focus of an MSP can make their employees even more susceptible to the burnout that comes with repetitive tasks like responding to a constant barrage of notifications. 75% of cybersecurity professionals report experiencing some degree of burnout. Considering that the average security analyst spends around 10 hours per week dealing with false alarms, anything that can cut down on that stress is a major benefit.

As the demands of cybersecurity management continue to expand, MSPs have been investing more time and money into tools and staff that support that element of their services. But with more tools come more alerts and more noise to filter out as security teams try to differentiate between actual threats and ignorable notifications. Multiple clients with different needs require a disparate range of tools, which can generate confusion within MSP teams about which solutions demand their attention at what time. Admins and security experts spending excessive amounts of time reviewing and responding to every alert that comes across their desktops quickly runs into real money that MSPs would rather be putting to more productive use.

Fighting Alert Fatigue with Managed Detection and Response

With alert fatigue showing no sign of fading away anytime soon, managed service providers are increasingly addressing the issue by seeking outside assistance. While managed detection and response (MDR) is sometimes portrayed as a rival to or replacement for managed service providers, the fact is that the two sides can benefit immensely from working together. MDR is a value-add that provides MSPs with a team of experts to act as an extension of their team, backed up by state-of-the-industry threat detection.

Rather than paying trained IT professionals to perform low-skill tasks, coordinating with an MDR provider allows those teams to focus on more complex and high-value items. That keeps MSP employees more engaged and productive without missing any notifications of potential data breaches or cyberattacks. A managed detection and response (MDR) solution provides real-time, around-the-clock support and threat monitoring for organizations of all types. An ideal MDR solution should provide an MSP with:

  1. A team of dedicated security engineers
  2. 24x7 coverage with no caps on hourly usage
  3. Easy integration with your existing security tools
  4. Unlimited log data
  5. Automatically generated updates and reports
  6. Support for compliance and audit reporting

By partnering with an MDR vendor, MSPs can accelerate their security operations by taking menial tasks off the plates of their highly skilled cybersecurity admins. That allows them to focus on more productive and business-specific tasks as the MSP scales more effectively and responds to cybersecurity alerts with greater efficiency and confidence. That adds up to more peace of mind and a better bottom line for everyone involved.

Ready to learn more about the many ways a managed detection and response solution can boost your MSP efforts? Contact Arctic Wolf today to explore a partnership and schedule a demonstration of our industry-leading cybersecurity solutions!

Guest blog courtesy of Arctic Wolf. Read more Arctic Wolf guest blogs here. Regularly contributed guest blogs are part of MSSP Alert’s sponsorship program.