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Ponemon Institute, FireEye report reveals worsening RoI of SOC investments

FireEye has released the Second Annual Study on the Economics of Security Operations Centres: What is the True Cost for Effective Results? report from Ponemon Institute. The report finds that organisations are spending more to account for widespread security operation center, SOC, challenges including growing security management complexity, increasing analyst salaries, security engineering and management outsourcing costs, yet are still dissatisfied with the outcomes. However, companies are also boosting investments in new SOC tools like Extended Detection and Response, XDR, and security automation to help solve these issues.

The RoI of SOC investments have been worsening, due to increasing complexity and rising security engineering and management outsourcing costs. More than 51% of respondents say the RoI of the SOC is getting worse, compared to 44% in 2019. More than 80% rate their SOC’s complexity as very high, rising from 74% in 2019.

The cost to pay MSSPs for security monitoring also increased and may impact RoI. The average cost for respondents is $5,307,250 annually, an increase from $4,441,500 in 2019 i.e., approximately 20% year over year. Organisations surveyed are spending an average of $2,716,514 per year on security engineering. However, only 51% of respondents rate their security engineering efforts as effective or very effective.

Even with increasing salaries, organizations are not able to boost employee morale.

85% of respondents say working in the SOC is painful or very painful, with this sentiment growing from 72% in 2019. Increasing workloads and being on call are overwhelming security analysts, with 75% saying that these factors cause burnout, rising from 70% in 2019.

Despite organisations surveyed expecting to hire an average of five analysts in 2021, three will resign or be fired in one year. Organisations are increasing security analyst salaries, with the average rising from $102,000 in 2019 to $111,000 in 2020. However, only 38% still believe they can hire the right talent.

However, increasing investments in new XDR and security automation tools show promise to reduce security engineering costs, boost SOC performance and employee morale. Organisations are investing in XDR as an emerging category to improve SOC performance. Organisations surveyed intended to spend an average of $333,150 for XDR; $345,150 for SOAR; $285,150 for MDR; and $183,150 for SIEMs.

Despite current RoI perception, respondents noted that the SOC is more important than ever to having a strong security posture. The number of respondents who said their SOC is essential or very important increased from 73% last year to 80% now. Meanwhile, the most important SOC activities are: Minimising false positives reporting, 88%; having agile DevOps functions, increasing from 73 to 85% percent; and automating machine learning tools, increasing from 72 to 80%.

“The findings of the Ponemon Economics of the SOC report show that organisations are facing an onslaught of rising security operations costs, but despite these increased investments, are still unhappy with their ability to combat growing cyberthreats,” said Chris Triolo, Vice President of Customer Success, FireEye. “Many security teams are now seeking new technologies that can provide greater efficiencies and visibility, while cutting alert overloads and eliminating mundane tasks to improve analyst morale.”

The Ponemon Institute surveyed 682 SOC managers, security analysts, general security practitioners, IT managers and directors who have a Security Operations Center and are knowledgeable about cybersecurity practices in their organisations.

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