Security Automation: Why Your Organization Needs It

Security automation can increase productivity, enrich data, provide better scalability, and decrease human error. Find out how it can help your business.

Security automation can help your business thrive. Not only can it solve some of the problems stemming from your startup’s growth, but it can also bring your business significant benefits, such as increased productivity. In short, your business can end up increasing its revenue as a result of security automation, but there’s much more to gain.

In this article, we’ll share with you four important benefits of security automation, its internal processes, the difference between security automation and security orchestration, best practices, and a few other important points.

Let’s start with defining security automation and understanding its internal processes.

What Is Security Automation?

Security automation is the minimization of human labor involved in security tasks. As such, it replaces many of the manual processes performed by security analysts with automated security processes carried out by software. Sometimes, that software uses machine learning to identify new security threats, though the most common approach is to weed out cyber threats according to known signatures. In this context, signatures are known cyber threat patterns.

How Does Security Automation Work?

Security automation: programmer using 2 computers

Security automation works as a series of interconnected automated systems. These systems can be broadly divided into two categories according to their processes: security monitoring and security decision-making. Security monitoring is essentially scanning the network for indicators of compromise, often referred to as IOCs. Security decision-making is considered an important phase of network traffic classification by some, though it can also be called its own set of security processes. Thus, the automation platform watches the network metrics, classifies traffic, triages security issues, and blocks them when possible.

Some security issues require human intervention, however. That's when the automation platform forwards the issues to analysts. Sometimes, these turn out to be advanced cyberattacks employing novel malware that bypasses traditional firewalls. Threat intelligence databases usually don't have signatures of such malware. 

However, experienced cybersecurity experts can identify suspicious network activity. That's why proper automation and response techniques don't cancel out the need for human experts. Most organizations’ security operations need them.

Security Automation vs. Security Orchestration

Security orchestration is a subset of security automation that focuses on automated configuration. It’s basically a unification solution that aims to automate and simplify security configuration. As the data below illustrates, there's an essential business need for security orchestration.

An average organization often uses multiple security products from different vendors. According to Oracle and KPMG Cloud Threat Report 2020, "78 percent of organizations use more than 50 discrete cybersecurity products to address security issues; 37 percent use more than 100 cybersecurity products." Thus, there's a need to unify these cybersecurity products. Security orchestration does just that.

Other goals of security orchestration are: "A single console showing all endpoints and software and automated incident response…," according to Malwarebytes. When these goals are achieved, the data from disparate security solutions becomes much easier to analyze. Thus, it requires less effort for security teams to optimize their workflows. 

But don't stop once you have a single console showing data from all endpoints and your incident response has been automated. Take your optimization efforts a step further by creating automated security workflows. These would speed up your security team's work by creating a coordinated series of actions aimed at improving security posture.

The Importance of Security Automation

Security automation: 3D illustration of an AI working on security systems

IT departments are overwhelmed with repetitive tasks that need security automation.

According to The State of Threat Detection Report published in 2019, the majority of working tech professionals believe that a lack of automation is a pressing concern for their companies. 

There are other findings in this report that show why professionals think automation is important. First, organizations are working with more devices than ever before. Second, the report says that about half of infosec pros experience a lack of visibility.

Security automation can help with this. Specifically speaking, a set of automated security workflows can create an automated incident response that can prevent a data leak. By catching an intruder in a less important and less visible area of the network, automation can prevent the penetration of mission-critical network areas.

That benefit of security automation is especially important because the lack of visibility is a common problem for many SOC analysts, who are infosec professionals working in the security operations centers to prevent cyber breaches. For example, a Vanson Bourne survey of 300 IT security and 300 IT operations experts found respondents had 64% visibility of their software’s full “estate.” That problem can complicate their threat hunting work and make their IT environments hard to navigate.

To sum up, security analysts can't monitor every single endpoint. Second, the people running security operations centers are aware of the pressing need to automate security processes. Therefore, it's wise to conclude that the security posture of many organizations will benefit from the automation of their security systems.

4 Benefits of Security Automation 

Person pressing a BENEFITS button

Security automation brings big benefits. These benefits improve the lives of security analysts and help companies succeed.

1. Productivity Increase

Automation platforms can identify false positives, saving analysts a lot of time. As a result, they can focus on the alerts that matter. In short, security automation can help security personnel avoid alert fatigue, which is common in cybersecurity.

The 2020 State of SecOps and Automation Survey involving 427 IT leaders says, "The vast majority (83%) of cybersecurity professionals say that they are struggling to cope with a near-constant barrage of security alerts and complex security incident and event management (SIEM) tools". Thus, it's wise to conclude that any technology curing alert fatigue will go a long way toward improving analysts' productivity.

Security automation can eliminate other repetitive tasks, such as incident triage, which is the classification of cyber incidents according to their importance. A good automation platform can block the ones with known signatures while forwarding the more complicated ones to analysts. As a result, time is saved and productivity is improved. 

A credible publication supports this conclusion. Security automation can "increase safety engineer productivity" and "reduce resolution mean time," says the International Journal of Creative Research Thoughts (IJCRT)

2. Enriched Data

IJCRT also says that security automation "enriches the warnings." It explains that, "Instead of merely gathering and presenting data, a brain is added — AI and computer education are used to help analysts make better decisions from better information." They do this by adding contextual information. This contextual information enriches the warnings and can include custom alert details. In short, one can argue that automated security (with experienced security analysts at its helm) is much better than manual security.

3. Better Scalability

Better scalability is another benefit of security automation, according to the Information Systems Audit and Control Association. "Most automated platforms are designed to scale as well; because they function just as efficiently with a few tasks as they do with several thousand (provided there is enough computing power, storage, etc.), they can easily adapt to almost any company’s needs—even as they grow."

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4. Human Error Reduction

Human error was the cause of 23% of data breaches in 2020, according to IBM's Cost of a Data Breach Report. Considering the human error reduction that automation brings, it can potentially decrease the likelihood of a breach if it’s properly implemented. Security automation can decrease the number of human errors by decreasing the number of false positives and thereby giving analysts more time to analyze complex cyber threats.

What Are Security Automation Best Practices?

Person pressing a Best Practice button

The International Journal of Creative Research Thoughts gives excellent recommendations for implementing security automation. Two of them follow below.

One of them is to, "Make sure you know what features a security automation platform needs before you begin searching for vendors." Since each organization has different security products, an automation solution perfect for one organization may turn out to be a bad choice for another.

 A second recommendation is to start with security mechanisms that can be easily implemented. These are the features you may want in a security automation platform.

One of them is a secure email gateway. This mechanism is the email filter that can protect your organization from phishing emails; it’s often referred to as SEG. 

Since email is the favorite attack vector of malicious actors, a secure email gateway is one of the most important security mechanisms. Thus, it can significantly decrease the likelihood of a breach if properly implemented.

Another one is vulnerability management. It can find, list, and patch apps' vulnerabilities. Vulnerability management is one of the features of ThreatKey’s innovative product aimed at growing startups.

Learn the Rapid Way to Automate Security

Increased productivity, enriched data, better scalability, and human error reduction are some of the benefits of security automation. Thus, security automation can help your organization thrive. This is what our team wants your startup to do: thrive. That’s why we invite you to try our innovative product. Sign up or check out our pricing to get started with the rapid yet effective way to automate security.

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