MeriTalk, a public-private partnership focused on improving the outcomes of government IT, on Monday announced the results of its new report, “Navigating the Cybersecurity Equation.”

The study, underwritten by Cloudera, reveals that 81 percent of Feds say their agency is using big data analytics for cybersecurity in some capacity – 53 percent are using it as a part of their overall cybersecurity strategy and 28 percent are using it in a limited capacity.

However, breaches continue to afflict agencies with 59 percent of Feds reporting their agency deals with a cybersecurity compromise at least once a month due to their inability to fully analyze data.

“Agencies face a perfect storm of cybersecurity threats,” said Steve O’Keeffe, founder, MeriTalk. “When you’re headed into troubled waters, you need a weather forecast. Big data provides agencies with the visibility to ensure they don’t end up the river without a paddle.”

It’s clear that Feds are struggling to stay afloat. Eighty-eight percent of Federal agencies face challenges drawing cybersecurity intelligence from data and the majority says the task has become more difficult in the past two years, according to the report.

Fewer than half of those using big data analytics for cybersecurity (45 percent) say they trust their efforts to be highly effective. Feds stated the following as top challenges:

  • Sheer volume of cybersecurity data is overwhelming (49 percent)
  • Agencies don’t have the right systems in place to gather the cybersecurity information they need (33 percent)
  • Information is no longer timely when it makes it to cybersecurity managers (30 percent)

As a result, more than 40 percent of their data goes unanalyzed. In addition to obvious budget issues, Feds’ efforts are hindered by: lack of skilled personnel (40 percent), potential privacy concerns (27 percent), and lack of management support/awareness (26 percent).

“Internal and external cybersecurity threats will continue to evolve daily and we need to unlock the power of the data in order to regain the advantage,” said Rocky DeStefano, Cybersecurity Subject Matter Expert, Cloudera.

“Agencies need complete visibility into the data across their enterprise. These teams also need the ability to flexibly analyze that data in a meaningful timeframe so they can detect advanced threats quickly, identify the impact and reduce the associated risk. Accelerating investment in the platforms necessary to collect and analyze this data is critical to the success of these programs,” he added.

Federal agencies that effectively use big data analytics see improvements in cybersecurity. In fact, 84 percent of big data users say their agency has successfully used big data analytics to thwart a cybersecurity attack and 90 percent have seen a decline in security breaches – malware (50 percent), insider threats (47 percent), and social engineering (46 percent) – as a result of using big data analytics.

Agencies see the value big data provides – 94 percent of Feds have plans to invest in big data analytics in the next two years with top planned investments in technology infrastructure (61 percent), hardware (52 percent), and business intelligence tools/analytics (52 percent).