Let‘s face it: Cybersecurity teams are overwhelmed with work. There simply is not enough time in the day to perform all the high-value tasks they are responsible for, such as consulting with project teams, conducting risk analyses and developing strategic security plans. To make matters worse, security teams often find themselves consumed with time-sensitive and repetitive operational work. Anything they can do to reduce this burden increases their ability to add value to the organization.
Automation has the potential to help with this heavy lifting. Any time security teams find themselves performing work that requires following a repetitive process, it is likely that automation can play an important role in reducing the operational burden. In our work with CDW customers, we have found a few common areas where automation can help increase the efficiency and effectiveness of cybersecurity teams. Let’s look at a few examples:
Analyzing security logs is a challenging task, a bit finding a proverbial needle in a haystack. Organizations that adopt artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions can reduce the burden on their teams by relying on algorithms to do the repetitive tasks and focusing the attention of analysts where it is needed most.
After organizations develop confidence in their ability to automatically detect incidents, they may then turn to automating the response. They can dramatically reduce their response times by allowing code to automatically reconfigure security devices to block attacks that are in progress.
Building and Deploying Software
Organizations adopting a DevOps approach to software development find they can achieve unprecedented synergies between their development and operations teams. Bringing the security team and practices into the software development lifecycle helps everyone get involved early in owning the security outcomes.
Every system in an organization requires security configuration, ranging from ensuring that system settings meet the organization’s security standards to installing the tools and agents that carry out cybersecurity functions. Automating the build process for servers and containers allows these components to be baked into systems, reducing the possibility of error and eliminating post-deployment changes and burden on security teams.
Security teams commonly run vulnerability scans of their networks, software packages and dependencies, then dispatch tickets to other IT staff or software teams when issues require remediation. Automating the vulnerability management process can reduce the administrative burden of this work on security teams. Integrating scans within existing build and deployment automation processes simplifies the determination of the responsible technologist or team. When a scan detects a new vulnerability, it can automatically report or block promotion of changes, creating and assigning a remediation ticket.
Security teams commonly produce volumes of documentation in support of compliance efforts. The routine nature of this work calls out for automation. For example, teams that must assess their firewalls on a periodic basis can develop code that automatically pulls the current configuration, compares it to the expected standard and creates a report that either documents compliance with requirements or identifies issues requiring remediation.
It’s important to remember that while automation certainly improves the ability of cybersecurity teams to work efficiently, it’s not a silver bullet. Automation requires careful planning, and teams must understand the boundaries between work that can be easily automated and work that requires human intervention.