When Cisco created the first Security Outcomes Study earlier this year, five key practices emerged as being most critical to successful security programs. But why are these practices so impactful? And what should security leaders do to implement and maintain them? These questions (and more) have been answered in our newly published Security Outcomes Study, Volume 2.

As a part of that study, we’re diving even further into each of these five drivers through a five-post blog series. And here, in Part 2 of our blog series, I’ll discuss the second of the top five practices: well-integrated security technology.

What Did We Find?

There was one main question we sought to answer around this key practice: Why would an organization want to integrate its security technologies with the rest of its IT architecture? Unsurprisingly, the main reason was to improve the efficiency of monitoring and auditing.

So with the help of our research partner, Cyentia, we sought to understand more about what types of integrations were most common, how those integrations were achieved, and how those factors played in to varying security outcomes.

Buy vs. Build

More than three quarters of respondents would rather buy security technology than build it themselves, especially when it comes to cloud-based solutions. When evaluating technology, the most successful companies prioritize integration with their current tech stack ahead of base product capabilities.

Figure 1: Common approaches to security tech integration among all organizations

Furthermore, if companies stick with a platform of products rather than point solutions, they are more than twice as likely to see successfully integrated security technologies. Yes, as we mentioned in the report, we’re fully aware that this bodes well for Cisco, who offers a well-integrated platform of security products. But, don’t forget, this was a double-blind study – the respondents didn’t know who was asking the questions, and Cisco didn’t know who was being surveyed.

Interestingly, we were surprised to learn there’s virtually no difference in security outcomes between those that buy products with out-of-the-box integrations and those that build integrations on their own. Just under half (~49%) of organizations using either of these approaches report strong integration levels.

It would seem for most organizations in most industries that there would be a greater benefit to out-of-box purchasing of products versus building their own. But, as it turns out, this is not the case. As noted above, the real differentiator was doubling down on a cloud-and platform-based solution, probably with a preferred vendor.

Improving Automation

We also wanted to know if having integrated solutions helped with desired outcomes, such as improved automation. Companies with well-integrated security technologies were seven times more likely to achieve high levels of automation for event monitoring, incident analysis, and incident response processes (4.1% vs. 28.5%).

Figure 2: Effect of tech integration on extent of security process automation

Of course, it’s not just about automation. If you have a well-integrated security stack, you can optimize the work your security and IT teams do, leading to other preferred outcomes including increased efficiency and employee engagement.

Narrowing Your Focus

If you’re looking to integrate your security stack, where should you initially focus?

We asked this question focusing on the five National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) functional areas (Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, Recover). While integrating any of these five functions had positive outcomes, the Identify function had the biggest boost.  

Figure 3: Effect of integrating the NIST CSF Identity function on threat detection capabilities

So, What Do We Recommend?

With security teams stretched thin and ever-evolving threats looming, having a well-integrated security tech stack is a critical step for increasing efficiency and accuracy. But where does your journey towards integration begin?

Based on our survey results, I’d suggest that security teams should:

  • Investigate automation opportunities: Increased automation is one of the key benefits of an integrated security tech stack. Look for opportunities to automate starting with functions that help identify assets and consider prioritizing those functions when determining where integration can be improved.
  • Consider buying security technologies, rather than building them yourself: Companies are twice as likely to have a successful security program when they partner with preferred vendors to deliver integrated security solutions. Consider which vendors you regard as “preferred” and include them closely in your security strategy.
  • Ensure purchasing requirements include security tech integration capabilities: Review your technology RFP requirements to ensure integration with your security stack is included as a core requirement in the new technology selection process. Ability to integrate should be weighted slightly higher than base product capabilities alone.
  • Look for cloud-based security solutions: The data shows that it’s easier to achieve strong tech integration with cloud-based security products. Where possible, look for cloud security solutions to incorporate into your security stack.

Bottom line: integrated security technology is the best security technology. And I hope our continued research and corresponding recommendations put you on the path to better security outcomes.  

Click here to read other posts from our blog series, and stay tuned for part 3, focused on preparing for timely incident response. And most importantly, check out the Security Outcomes Study, Volume 2 to explore all of our newest research.  

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Helen Patton

Cybersecurity Advisor

Cisco State, Local and Education