If you’re on the East Coast, particularly in New England, you’ve likely gotten used to looking out your window at several feet of snow. As soon as we get ourselves shoveled out from one storm, another nor’easter is underway.

I can’t help but think this must be what it feels like to work in a security operations center (SOC) during tax (fraud) season. Even if analysts are able to shovel through a few virtual inches of ticketed events in their queue, tax season delivers an avalanche of W-2 fraud alerts. Analysts can’t possibly clear out all of the extra noise that comes their way this time of year.

Every time an employee uploads and sends tax documents containing sensitive information, an alert goes off, even if they are sending the documents to themselves or their accountants. And if we’re being honest, we know that employees are preparing tax documents at work.

Due to the proliferation of phishing and social engineering scams in which fraudsters attempt to lure users into sharing their tax returns, analysts are even more overwhelmed. And while New Englanders may be counting down the days until spring, analysts are waiting for the filing deadline so that they can put this season of heightened fraud behind them.

The Burden of Too Many Tools During Tax Fraud Season

The problem of having too many tools is a relatively new one for analysts, but it’s likely a contributing factor to the problem of false positives. When it comes to the sensitive information contained in W-2 forms, some data loss prevention (DLP) policies can be counterproductive in quieting alert noise.

Social Security numbers are being sent outside of the organization, but with user consent and for legitimate reasons. DLP rules flag these exchanges, which then creates a tricky situation for analysts. While the likelihood of risk is low, they shouldn’t ignore alerts of sensitive data being accessed and exchanged. This surge in security alerts demands a second look.

Advances in security tools have made it easier to centralize data and sort through the noise so that analysts can respond faster. However, a recent Enterprise Security Group (ESG) survey suggested that having too many tools is a growing issue for cybersecurity teams. Of the 412 respondents, 72 percent reported that cybersecurity analytics and operations are more difficult today than in recent years. In looking at the current state of cybersecurity, the survey found that 70 percent of organizations are using between 10 and 50 different tools, and 10 percent are using more than 50. “Each tool comes with its own installation, configuration, maintenance, compute, storage and networking requirements and generates data that must be managed and assimilated,” the report noted.

Too many tools and too much data, combined with this wave of W-2 fraud alerts, has created blizzardlike white-out conditions for analysts. In addition to all the other alerts, many of which could be more critical, they need to go back and review what looks like normal tax season activity. Verifying these false positives consumes a lot of time.

To increase productivity and efficiency, SOC analysts don’t need more tools — they need the right tools. ESG survey respondents said they want to add more intelligent security analytics tools to ease the burden on their existing staff. More than a quarter (27 percent) want to improve their ability to investigate critical alerts and decrease the amount of time for incident detection. A slightly smaller number of respondents (22 percent) aim to improve their ability to prioritize critical alerts.

Forget the Shovel — SOC Analysts Need a Plow

While there is an end in sight for tax season, it’s important to remember that different types of cyber storms create additional burdens for analysts all year long. It’s too easy to dismiss the surge in W-2 alerts as a seasonal issue that will resolve itself as time marches on.

Avoid leaving your analysts out in the cold by investing in the right tools that work in harmony with each other as part of the organization’s overall security ecosystem. Proactive data loss prevention requires a set of tools that allows security professionals to prioritize alerts and quickly identify false positives.

With so much snow on the ground, a shovel isn’t the most effective or efficient tool for analysts to dig themselves out of this digital blizzard. It’s a tool that an individual might use to clear out his or her driveway, but there’s a reason why teams of people aren’t out shoveling on the highways. When the job requires a plow, you must use a plow.

More from Intelligence & Analytics

2022 Industry Threat Recap: Manufacturing

It seems like yesterday that industries were fumbling to understand the threats posed by post-pandemic economic and technological changes. While every disruption provides opportunities for positive change, it's hard to ignore the impact that global supply chains, rising labor costs, digital currency and environmental regulations have had on commerce worldwide. Many sectors are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But 2022 has shown us that manufacturing still faces some dark clouds ahead when combatting persistent…

Cybersecurity in the Next-Generation Space Age, Pt. 3: Securing the New Space

View Part 1, Introduction to New Space, and Part 2, Cybersecurity Threats in New Space, in this series. As we see in the previous article of this series discussing the cybersecurity threats in the New Space, space technology is advancing at an unprecedented rate — with new technologies being launched into orbit at an increasingly rapid pace. The need to ensure the security and safety of these technologies has never been more pressing. So, let’s discover a range of measures…

Backdoor Deployment and Ransomware: Top Threats Identified in X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2023

Deployment of backdoors was the number one action on objective taken by threat actors last year, according to the 2023 IBM Security X-Force Threat Intelligence Index — a comprehensive analysis of our research data collected throughout the year. Backdoor access is now among the hottest commodities on the dark web and can sell for thousands of dollars, compared to credit card data — which can go for as low as $10. On the dark web — a veritable eBay for…

The 13 Costliest Cyberattacks of 2022: Looking Back

2022 has shaped up to be a pricey year for victims of cyberattacks. Cyberattacks continue to target critical infrastructures such as health systems, small government agencies and educational institutions. Ransomware remains a popular attack method for large and small targets alike. While organizations may choose not to disclose the costs associated with a cyberattack, the loss of consumer trust will always be a risk after any significant attack. Let’s look at the 13 costliest cyberattacks of the past year and…