​The great Australian IT security spend: More brawn than brains?

When it comes to IT security spend in Asia Pacific, Australia takes the cake both in terms of market maturity and sheer volume of spend, but is the country in general simply throwing money at a problem that requires finesse to solve?

A recent IDC FutureScape report examining the implications of IT security in AP claims Australia is the most spendthrift nation, even up against China, when it comes to spending on IT security. Most of this spend goes into security software, as one might expect as security appliances become virtualised and cloud services mature, yet Australia still had more than its fair share of high-profile attacks.

David Jones, Kmart, Queensland TAFE, Pacnet (now Telstra), and Woolworths are just some of the Australian household names to be caught up in a breach of security in one form or another, and that was in 2015 alone. Combined with the lack of mandatory breach notification laws, many more breaches have gone unreported. With such a large spend in IT security, one would hope that Australia would be under-represented in Asia Pacific figures, but it's not.

In fact, the opposite is true. IDC's research showed that Australia in particular had been hit hard by ransomware attacks. Additionally, Australian organisations, whether they be consumer or commercial in nature, have become lucrative targets for international attackers due to the country's quickly volatile political and economic landscape.

Where is the spend currently? Gartner's Market Trends: Security Analytics report highlights that security information and event management (SIEM) solutions have become the most popular bolt-on that organisations have deployed, in many cases almost as knee-jerk reaction to high-profile breaches. But SIEM's role is to collect, store and analyse data, and Verizon Enterprise's 2015 Data Breach Investigations report showed that SIEM was able to identify an advanced threat breach less than 1 percent of the time.

Organisations spending on SIEM products are laying down a foundation for a defence-in-depth model, and the SIEM industry has become very adept at meeting the log collection and compliance reporting requirements of businesses. However, for companies to make the most of their investments, a comprehensive security solution is required that not only performs standard log capture, but augments this with full packet capture and deep analytics to understand network behaviour than merely report on it.

Read more: Better bug-bounty reports helped Facebook hone in on 2015's surge in critical flaws

For organisations that already have a SIEM investment in place, the good news is that mature security analytics solutions for the most part will work with existing SIEM implementations -- extending the value of their infrastructure without having to "rip and replace".

For organisations that are catching up in this area, the benefit that they will have is being able to start with a clean slate and engage a single multi-disciplinary provider to achieve economies of scale. This option guarantees that traditionally single-discipline security measures will interconnect with others without the need to engage a separate systems integrator -- identity and access management security measures should work seamlessly with a security analytics engine.

Read more: SAP appoints ex-Yahoo security boss in new CSO role

Whichever the choice, organisations should look at their IT security and instead of throwing dollars at it to make it work harder, make it work smarter.

Michael Lee, RSA APJ Security Evangelist

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