How to Beat Alert Fatigue and Keep Your Business Secure

March 26, 2021

The simple cybersecurity alert — once a crucial notification that warned us about critical computer vulnerabilities — has become a ubiquitous part of the daily grind. Medium-sized companies like yours used to receive a few messages a day. Now, most enterprises receive over 1,000 alerts, while 70 percent say daily alerts have more than doubled in the previous five years. And it's driving C-suite leaders nuts.

There's a name for this phenomenon, and it's called alert fatigue.

The constant deluge of "critical" error messages and "important" updates are making enterprises exceptionally lethargic. So half of them ignore these messages. But neglecting the problem won't make these notifications go away. And it could cause all kinds of security risks.

What is Alert Fatigue?

C-suite enterprises receive so many alerts but don't have the staff or expertise to manage them. So they neglect them, hoping they go away. But they never do. And the messages continue. Critical alert, Error message 4501, Warning of possible infection, Your computer may be infected.

One problem is the number of false positives operating systems and anti-virus programs churn out daily. Is a warning really a warning? Or an imagined threat? Another issue is how most anti-malware software categorizes security alerts, with little distinction between low-risk issues and more serious threats.

Why is Alert Fatigue Dangerous?

Continuous cybersecurity warnings are infuriating. But if employees disregard these alerts, the unthinkable can happen. Sure, there are false positives and false negatives. No alert system is 100 percent perfect. But operating systems and anti-virus programs do a pretty incredible job of safeguarding the C-suite's most precious asset — data. Neglect these warnings, and hackers will infiltrate your computer systems.

Is There a Cure for Alert Fatigue?

There are a few ways to encourage employees to take alerts more seriously:

  • Create a Color-Coded Warning System

    If your malware program doesn't prioritize serious threats, categorize warnings with a color-coded system. (Like news networks do for terrible weather.) Generally, "Update available" messages can wait for a day or two. (Let's call these green alerts.) But employees should respond to warnings that include words like "critical," "virus," and "dangerous." (Red alerts.) A notification like "Threat detected" sits somewhere in the middle. (Orange.) Employees should, at the very least, report the message to a supervisor.

  • Distribute Alerts to the Correct Employees

    Employees perceive cybersecurity messages differently. Some workers might think every alert is a major threat; others don't care that much. Rather than leaving cybersecurity to individual employees, tell workers to report alerts to designated employees. Once you give them a structured process, they’ll begin to react in a predictable, standardized way.

  • Investigate Notifications Monthly

    Review warnings monthly to ensure you don't overload employees with unnecessary alerts. Some anti-virus programs let you customize the frequency of notifications so employees only receive critical messages.

    Investigating notifications every month is probably the most useful tip, but all the above require effort on your part. And as a C-suite leader, you have hundreds of other more essential tasks. Is there another way?

Invest in Managed IT Services

Imagine if someone else could sift through cybersecurity notifications for all your employees. You wouldn't have to worry about hackers, and your teams could get on with day-to-day jobs. An IT managed services provider (MSP) takes care of all the cybersecurity in your enterprise so you can instantly cure alert fatigue.

Option One Technologies provides customized cybersecurity services in Boston. With over 25 years of tech experience, we serve your cybersecurity needs with full network management and monitoring.

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