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Alert fatigue

Alert fatigue

(also alarm fatigue)

Alert fatigue definition

Alert fatigue happens when cybersecurity professionals become overwhelmed and desensitized by too many security alerts. As a result, they become less capable of responding to real security threats.

Cybersecurity systems generate many alerts to notify security teams about potential dangers. These include notifications about malware infections, suspicious network activities, or unauthorized access attempts. When their numbers reach a certain level, security teams may struggle to review and investigate each alert. The sheer volume can lead to exhaustion and a sense of being overwhelmed.

A constant flood of alerts can also desensitize security professionals, causing them to overlook the ones that matter. It becomes difficult to distinguish genuine threats from false positives or low-risk events.

Alert fatigue causes

  • Excessive false positives. Security systems may generate many false-positive alerts, indicating a threat when there is none. Constantly dealing with false alarms can lead to frustration and complacency.
  • Excessive false positives. Security systems may generate many false-positive alerts, indicating a threat when there is none. Constantly dealing with false alarms can lead to frustration and complacency.
  • Low-priority alerts. Not all warnings have the same level of importance. Dealing with low-priority alerts can divert attention and resources from more critical incidents.

Risks of alert fatigue

  • Missed or delayed response. Overwhelmed security teams may fail to promptly respond to genuine security incidents. That would give attackers more time to exploit vulnerabilities and cause damage to systems and data.
  • Increased dwell time. Dwell time refers to the duration an attacker remains undetected within a network. Alert fatigue can prolong the dwell time, allowing attackers to carry out their activities unnoticed.
  • Decreased situational awareness. Tired and overwhelmed security teams have lower situational awareness and may struggle to make accurate decisions. That makes it easier for attackers to evade detection.

Further reading

Ultimate digital security

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