A look at top security automation solutions & how they improve operational efficiency and cyber security
Businesses of all sizes continually seek ways to increase efficiency and profitability in all areas of their organization — everything from general operations to cyber security. Regardless of how you feel about automation on a personal level — whether you think automation is great or it’s the harbinger of death for cyber security jobs — it doesn’t change the fact that automation is poised to change the very nature of cyber security jobs in the future. That’s because one of the best ways to accomplish many of the goals business have is to integrate process automation and cyber security automation into their operations.
Business automation comes in many forms, though, and can include a variety of process automation and security automation tools. So, what are these tools, how do they work, and how can they be integrated into your security processes?
Let’s hash it out.
The Benefits of Cyber Security Automation and Ongoing Growth of the Industry
When you hear the term “cyber security automation,” what comes to mind? This form of automation is all about leveling the playing field between cyber security experts and cybercriminals. The goal is to reduce the number of threats by eliminating vulnerabilities through the prevention of known cyber threats and identification of zero-day attacks.
Let’s drill down a bit more. Cyber security automation is also about:
- Making data collection faster and more efficient;
- Bringing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies and processes into the fold to increase organizations’ analytic capabilities; and
- Eliminating tedious, time-consuming non-cognitive tasks to free up IT security experts so they can focus on higher-priority responsibilities and tasks.
All of these things are ideal for every organization. After all, making a business more efficient and reallocating human resources to where they’re most needed should be every company’s goal. But this level of improvement often requires the solutions and platforms.
Many industry reports indicate that cyber security spending is on the rise for enterprises and businesses around the world. Data from IDC shows that global spending on cyber security solutions is anticipated to top $103 billion this year alone. Moreover, the market for cyber security automation — which includes the use of AI and ML — is anticipated to grow for the foreseeable future. In fact, a Research and Markets report indicates that the AI cyber security market is projected to surpass $38 billion by 2026.
Investing in cyber security solutions and automation platforms is essential for all businesses — particularly as cybercriminals launch increasingly complex cyber attacks. But what kind of tools and solutions are available? Check ‘em out:
Cyber Security Automation Tools and Platforms
Some examples of process automation solutions and platforms for cyber security include:
- Robotic process automation (RPA)
- Security orchestration automation and response (SOAR) and security incident and event management (SIEM)
- Public key infrastructure (PKI) certificate and key management
- Custom software development
We’ll cover many of the benefits of each of these different cyber security automation solutions and how they contribute to improving efficiency, increasing cyber security effectiveness, reducing costs, and improving overall organizational processes.
1. Robotic Process Automation
In general, robotic process automation refers to the process of using robots — whether physical or virtual such as software bots — to automate repetitive tasks. With regard to cyber security and security automation, this typically refers to allowing automated systems to handle low-cognitive functions such as scanning, monitoring, and low-level incident response. You know, extract and aggregating data, performing basic threat search and detection processes, and other low-cognitive tasks.
Advantages of Integrating RPA Into Your Business
There are multiple benefits of using RPA from logistical, risk, and compliance standpoints. For one, it makes cyber security more efficient by removing the burden of manually performing repetitive tasks. It also helps you to minimize the biggest cyber security vulnerability: human interaction. Whether intentional or by human error, people pose the biggest risk to the cyber wellbeing of organizations and businesses. By removing the human aspect, it makes your data more secure.
Borrowing from Ernst & Young Global Limited’s (EY’s) research and building upon it, there are several ways that software robotics can aid in reducing cyber security vulnerabilities:
- RPA reduces threat detection and response time though automated detection and alert notifications.
- RPA aids in application and device discovery and inventory, helping to identify exposed attack surfaces to mitigate security risks.
- RPA improves security with automated rollout of updates and patching.
- RPA helps to fill the talent shortage gap of cyber security teams.
- RPA doesn’t tire or mentally “clock out” on the job, providing 24/7/365 security coverage.
- RPA limits the involvement of IT security pros so they can focus on other high-cognitive tasks.
- RPA limits human involvement in the management of sensitive personal information.
Additionally, RPA can help your business stay compliant with some regulations such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS). For example, automation can be used for data collection, to roll out informed consent notifications, data breach notifications, as well as to document all data that’s held by your organization for audits. Why dedicate many employees to performing such tedious tasks when automation technologies can do it for you?
RPA offers many advantages to enterprises and other organizations. However, no organization should rely on RPA alone for more in-depth security operations that require higher cognitive and analytical capabilities. This part is still best left to a mix of cognitive-learning technologies and the intervention of human analysts.
2. Security Orchestration Automation and Response and Security Incident and Event Management
Security orchestration automation and response — sometimes just referred to as security orchestration and automation — is a term that was coined by Gartner back in 2017. It refers to a combination of solutions that optimize the capabilities and efficiency of your security operations center without tying up your human assets in low-level tasks.
It serves to optimize three main cyber security-related tasks — security orchestration, security automation, and security response — by improving threat and vulnerability management capabilities, security incident response, and security operations automation.
This sounds an awful lot like security incident and event management solutions, doesn’t it? In many ways, SOAR and SIEM are similar —after all, they both collect and use relevant data from multiple sources for analysis to identify any anomalous activity. While these two solution stacks often work hand-in-hand for security operations centers (SOCs), they’re still different in a few ways:
- SIEM is more manual in nature. This system of stacked solutions requires manual responses to alerts and regular upgrades and tweaks to the technologies, rule sets, and signatures for optimization, efficiency, and detection effectiveness. However, it’s primarily limited to identifying known threats and are less effective at identifying new or unknown threats.
- SOAR is a bit more diverse in its use of internal and external applications, and it takes those SIEM alerts and responds to them automatically for triage and remediation when necessary. It relies on cognitive technologies and tools that use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to learn from existing threats and to help identify new ones.
Advantages of Using SOAR and SIEM Solutions
SOAR is all about using automation to improve your security operations and incident response by eliminating repetitive tasks and organizing (or “orchestrating”) the technology, people, and processes within your organization to their full advantage. For example, in a security operations center (SOC), SOAR complements SIEM capabilities by building upon them and providing extra value.
Security orchestration even has benefits in terms of preventing phishing attacks from being successful. The aforementioned EY research reports a “50% to 70% reduction in time to detect and response to a phishing attack” through the use of robotic automation in the data gathering, analysis, and remediation processes.
How do you know whether SOAR solutions would benefit your organization? Is it ROI worth the investment? To determine this, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you continually find yourself inundated with tedious, mind-numbing, and repetitious tasks that could be handled through automation?
- Do you have ready access to actionable intelligence to make informed cyber security-related decisions?
- Is your team experiencing alert fatigue? Think of doctors and nurses who hear alarms going off all day long and don’t have the time or resources to handle them all.
- Have you identified processes that could be improved by cyber security automation?
- Have you weighed the costs of the salary and benefits of IT security staff to the costs of security automation solutions?
If your answer to these questions is “yes,” then, obviously, you have some solutions to consider and big decisions to make. After all, some security-related tasks lend themselves to automation, and others… well, not so much. Really take the time to carefully weigh the pros and cons of integrating automated solutions for each process to determine its true value to your organization.
3. Certificate Management
The widespread use of SSL certificates and keys that resulted from Google’s requirement of website encryption has led to the creation of many dangerous blind spots. One of the biggest threats to website security — and the success of your business — is a lack of visibility within your network and your public key infrastructure. If you ask yourself the following questions, can you answer them honestly without even one iota of concern?
- How many certificates have been issued for your organization, users, and domain(s)?
- What types of certificates have been issued?
- Were all of the certificates issued by the same certificate authorities (CAs) or different ones?
- Who requested them?
- How many keys does your organization have?
- Where are those keys stored?
- Who has access to those certificates and keys?
Can’t honestly answer those questions definitively? Yeah, we didn’t think so. That, unfortunately, isn’t uncommon. The existence of shadow certificates is a major liability that can result not only in security breaches but costly website downtime or service outages as well. Oh, yeah, and this impacts your bottom line, too, in multiple ways — lost revenue, noncompliance fines and penalties, and lost customer trust (just to name a few). In fact, research from the Ponemon Institute and KeyFactor indicates that unanticipated downtime or outages cost businesses nearly $3 million in immediate revenue loss, and the average economic loss is estimated at $11.1 million.
That’s a lot of lost revenue for something you didn’t even know existed.
So, how can you keep certificates you aren’t aware of from expiring? This is where cyber security automation and encryption automation come into play in the form of PKI certificate management.
Advantages of a Certificate Management Platform
Certificate management platforms with certificate discovery tools help you with more than website certificate management. They can help you to identify all of the X.509 digital certificates that exist within your network regardless of brand, type, issuance date, or expiration dates — this includes code signing certificates, client certificates, device and IoT certificates, and SSL/TLS certificates. An example of such a tool is Sectigo Certificate Manager (SCM), or what used to be known as Comodo CA Certificate Manager (CCM).
Furthermore, certificate management tools can automate many of the time-consuming tasks that are involved with manually managing hundreds or even thousands of certificates and keys. These tasks include:
- Automatic issuance, renewal, installation, and revocation of certificates;
- Automatic 90-day, 60-day, and 30-day certificate expiry notifications (depending on the policies and support of the CA or reseller you purchase from);
- Automatic report generation; and
- Automatic creation of end-users through self-enrollment.
We’re not telling you this just to sell you another cyber security product, although we do so happen to sell a really great certificate management platform. Rather, we’re trying to really drive home the point that certificate management is a very real, very significant concern for every business that uses digital certificates.
Still don’t believe us? Just look at some of the major headlines over the past two years. Expired certificates have brought down some of the biggest names in technology and other industries, including Ericsson, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even U.S. government websites!
Don’t be like these guys — keep visibility of your digital certificates at all times by taking advantage of the certificate management automation solutions that are available nowadays. After all, a CM platform is way cheaper than the noncompliance fines, lawsuit settlements, and lawyers you’ll otherwise be paying when shit eventually hits the fan.
4. Custom Automation Solution Development
Another category we’d be remiss to not at least mention is the concept of developing custom automation solutions. We understand that every business is different and the needs of organizations across a variety of industries also differs. And while some existing cyber security automation solutions can be useful, your specific organization may find it beneficial to create custom solutions that are tailored to meet the specific needs of your business. This may be something that your internal development team can handle, but more than likely you’ll want to hand that off to a third-party service provider.
Cyber security automation offers advantages in terms of money saved and being to use your IT security professionals most effectively. Although the technology isn’t perfect, AI ad ML in cyber security provide significant advantages that outweigh many of the drawbacks of the technology. As such, it’s easy to see why security automation is listed as one of our top five cyber security trends for 2019 — although we expect this to continue well beyond even 2020.
Have you invested yet in cyber security and encryption automation for your organization? As always, share your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.