In an increasingly complex and fast-paced digital landscape, organizations are trying to protect themselves from various security threats. However, limited resources often hamper security teams when combating these threats, making it difficult to keep up with the growing number of security incidents and alerts. Implementing automation across security operations can help security teams mitigate these challenges by streamlining repetitive tasks, reducing the risk of human error, and allowing them to focus on higher value initiatives.
While automation offers significant benefits, there is no foolproof method or process to guarantee success. Clear definitions, consistent implementation, and standardized processes are essential for optimal results. Without guidelines, manual and time-consuming procedures can undermine the effectiveness of automation.
This blog explores the challenges security operations teams face when implementing automation and the practical steps needed to build a solid foundation for successful implementation.
The Challenge of Automation
Organizations often struggle with automation due to a lack of well-documented processes and limited resources. With constant alerts and fires to put out, security teams are constantly spread out, and only have time to focus on the task in front of them. This leaves them little or no time for proper documentation of processes and procedures. This, along with other factors such as process maturity and monitoring, contribute to the challenges security teams face in implementing automation. Successful automation requires a pragmatic approach, where teams identify and prioritize processes that are feasible and provide the greatest impact on efficiency and risk reduction.
When considering the possibility of automation, it becomes important to evaluate whether the processes and procedures in place can be smoothly automated from start to finish. Not all tasks are suitable for complete end-to-end automation. The decision to automate certain processes should be based on factors such as the level of maturity of the organization, the available time and resources, and the ability to monitor and ensure the feasibility of automation efforts. This requires careful evaluation to determine whether automation makes sense and can effectively streamline security operations.
Identifying Automation Maturity
To achieve effective security automation, organizations need to assess their readiness and maturity level. A comprehensive assessment involves evaluating three critical investigative processes.
This process involves questioning information about the organization’s technology environment. Historically, the biggest problem with this process was that it was manual. Organizations often have many different technologies, all of which speak their own different languages, resulting in vast amounts of time spent pivoting from tool to tool to collect data for even what investigation is given.
Automation can greatly improve this stage by unifying and simplifying queries, thereby eliminating the complexities associated with different logging systems and query nomenclatures. A security, automation, and response (SOAR) solution can prove extremely useful here. However, the main obstacle to implementing SOARs lies in integration, maintenance, and upkeep. When organizations are already facing resource constraints, trying to set up a SOAR can be more challenging because they don’t have enough people available to handle incidents effectively while also maintaining a SOAR.
Once the evidence is gathered, the analysis stage takes the output of the evidence gathering and analyzes it against internal and external. Automation can help gain insights, identify patterns, and facilitate the identification of potential threats, but it’s important to note that the analysis process often requires human intervention to ensure accuracy. and effectiveness.
Depending on what is being investigated, human involvement may be necessary. For example, when dealing with critical assets, vulnerability scanning, or identifying all root and admin accounts within a system, it is important to have internal human intelligence to investigate and verify. of information.
This process involves effectively responding to real positive alerts within an environment. The recovery depends heavily on the efficiency of everything built before that. It can be extremely difficult to have confidence in your remediation process if you don’t have all the data you need or if there are gaps in your internal or external intelligence.
Practical Automation Development
It is important to understand what processes and procedures are in place to respond to threats. Depending on where an organization is in their maturity journey, it can be difficult to know where to start implementing automation. Build a strong foundation for automation It involves following a systematic and iterative approach. Below are five steps organizations can take to better implement automation:
- Security Team Interviews: Engage with security teams about their existing processes and identify use cases suitable for automation.
- Identify Use Cases: Identify automation use case opportunities based on those interviews. Prioritize high volume, repetitive tasks or those with significant human effort. Focus on one process at a time to avoid complications caused by rushing through multiple processes without proper understanding and development.
- Document Findings: During the documentation phase, analyze the actions of the consoles and compare them with the corresponding API endpoints. Changing technologies and unexpected variables can disrupt processes. To minimize any disruptions, it is important to have a solid understanding of the APIs being used and to thoroughly document the findings. By integrating this documentation into the overall workflow, any deviations from initial assumptions can be identified and addressed immediately.
- Create a Feedback Loop: Incorporate the insights, suggestions, and expertise of the security operations team throughout the development process to ensure the automation solution aligns with organizational needs and improves productivity.
- Measure and Evaluate: After implementing automation, measure its effectiveness and efficiency. Continue to evaluate the impact and collect feedback from the security team. Use these insights to improve automation techniques and address any new cases.
To have a successful automation foundation, it is not enough to create and deploy automation solutions. It is also important to integrate automation into existing workflows in security operations. This operationalization process ensures that automated processes and human decision-making can work together seamlessly.
Implementing automation is essential for organizations to combat the growing number of security threats in today’s digital landscape. It streamlines tasks, reduces human errors, and allows security teams to focus on high-value initiatives. However, automation success requires clear definitions, consistent implementation, and standardized processes. Organizations should assess feasibility, readiness, and maturity levels, and follow a systematic approach for practical automation development. By integrating automation into existing workflows and identifying relevant use cases, security teams can maximize benefits and leverage the expertise of professionals. A strong foundation for automation can reduce response times, improve accuracy, reduce errors, and improve threat detection across various security processes for organizations.
Note: This article is expertly written and contributed by AJ LedwinResearch Scientist at the CTO Office of ReliaQuest.