News Feature | September 1, 2016

Study Finds Federal Agencies Using Big Data To Fight Cybersecurity Breaches

Christine Kern

By Christine Kern, contributing writer

Big Data

While 90 percent report a decline in breaches, 59 percent say inability to fully analyze data is at fault.

While 90 percent of Big Data users report they have seen a decline in security breaches, 49 percent of Federal agencies say cybersecurity compromises occur at least once a month as a result of an inability to fully analyze data. These are some of the findings in MeriTalk’s new report, Navigating the Cybersecurity Equation, which examines how agencies are using Big Data and advanced analytics to better understand cybersecurity trends and mitigate threats.

The data reveals the top challenges for Feds were the sheer volume of cybersecurity data, which is overwhelming (49 percent); the absence of appropriate systems to gather necessary cybersecurity information (33 percent); and the inability to provide timely information to cybersecurity managers (30 percent). Because of these challenges, participants stated, more than 40 percent of their data goes unanalyzed. Other obstacles include the lack of skilled personnel (40 percent), potential privacy concerns (27 percent), and lack of management support/awareness (26 percent).

“Internal and external cybersecurity threats will continue to evolve daily and we need to unlock the power of the data in order to regain the advantage,” explained Rocky DeStefano, Cybersecurity Subject Matter Expert, Cloudera. “Agencies need complete visibility into the data across their enterprise. These teams also need the ability to flexibly analyze that data in a meaningful timeframe so they can detect advanced threats quickly, identify the impact and reduce the associated risk. Accelerating investment in the platforms necessary to collect and analyze this data is critical to the success of these programs.”

For the survey, MeriTalk polled 150 Federal cybersecurity professionals regarding their agencies’ use of Big Data and advanced analytics to better understand cybersecurity trends and mitigate threats. While 81 percent of federal agencies reported they are using Big Data analytics for cybersecurity in some capacity, only 45 percent reported their efforts to be “highly effective.”

Federal agencies are using Big Data for a variety of purposes, including detection of vulnerabilities in the IT environment (55 percent), detection of a breach that is currently occurring (54 percent); and correlating and analyzing data from multiple sources (51 percent).

The study also found those agencies that effectively utilize Big Data analytics see improvements in cybersecurity: 84 percent reported their agency had successfully thwarted a cybersecurity attack with Big Data analytics, and 90 percent said they have seen a decline in security breaches, including malware (50 percent), insider threats (47 percent), and social engineering (46 percent) as a result of Big Data analytics.

The value of Big Data is also obvious to Feds, with 94 percent anticipating investments over the next two years in technology infrastructure (61 percent), hardware (52 percent), and business intelligence tools/analytics (52 percent).

“Agencies face a perfect storm of cybersecurity threats,” explained MeriTalk founder Steve O’Keefe. “When you’re headed into trouble waters, you need a weather forecast. Big Data provides agencies with the visibility to ensure they don’t end up the river without a paddle.”