The Benefits of Security Automation

November 7, 2023

As cyber threats continue to evolve in complexity and frequency, organisations are increasingly turning to security automation as a powerful ally in fortifying their defences. According to recent statistics from IBM's Cybersecurity Intelligence Index, which analysed over 40 billion security events, organisations that have embraced security automation have experienced a remarkable 70% reduction in incident response times. 

What is Security Automation? 

Security automation is the practice of integrating technology into security processes, applications, and infrastructure to automate security-related tasks. Its primary aim is to reduce the reliance on human intervention in managing security operations. By employing artificial intelligence and machine learning, security automation can detect, investigate, and address security threats efficiently. This approach streamlines tasks such as vulnerability management, incident response, and compliance, allowing your business to enhance its security posture while saving valuable time and resources. In essence, security automation is a vital strategy for bolstering cybersecurity defences, minimising errors, and improving operational efficiency.

Why is Security Automation Important? 

Security automation holds immense importance in today's cybersecurity landscape for several reasons. Firstly, the expanding attack surface and the sheer volume of data and alerts generated by security systems surpass human capacity for effective management. The proliferation of remote work adds to the challenge of monitoring a growing number of connected devices. IBM's 2023 study underscores the need for automation, revealing that Security Operations Centre (SOC) teams spend a significant portion of their day, about a third of it, validating incidents that turn out to be non-threats, and they struggle to address all alerts efficiently. Automation tools step in to vet and filter the majority of these incidents, allowing security teams to focus on responding to high-priority risks.

Manual security monitoring is time-consuming and contingent on workforce availability, while automated security tools enable rapid incident response, ensuring cyber threats are addressed promptly. As businesses aim for greater efficiency and streamlined operations, reducing reliance on human resources in favour of software solutions becomes imperative. Automation accelerates testing processes, handles repetitive tasks smoothly, and minimises security incidents, all while maintaining transparency and efficacy. It also integrates security seamlessly into IT infrastructure, hybrid cloud environments, and applications from the outset.

Why Should You Invest in Security Automation?

Let’s take a look at some of the top benefits of automating your cybersecurity processes: 

Faster threat detection and response time

Security software is designed to immediately pick up security threats like malware, phishing, and endpoint vulnerabilities and automatically handle certain types of attacks. It outshines any manual effort in terms of speed and even works while the IT team is asleep through proactive, 24/7 monitoring. 

More efficient security

With automation, threats are automatically prioritised and eliminated by a pre-set course of action. Thus, security operations run more smoothly and efficiently than if these measures were controlled by laborious auditing and manual intervention processes. This means your PCs remain updated, clean, and secure at all times. Consequently, the possibility of security incidents is reduced. 

Improved data protection

Cybersecurity is of utmost importance to the health of a business. Companies cannot afford security breaches and information leaks, especially when they handle sensitive data or store user information such as patient health profiles. An entity could even fall into legal trouble if it does not protect personal information correctly, according to policies like the South African Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) or the US Service Organization Control Type 2 (SOC2) framework. Its own confidential data like strategies and product research is also better protected through robust security automation systems. 

Lowered human error and elimination of alert fatigue

A great benefit of automation is factoring out human mistakes in security processes. People can miss a threat, make faulty judgments, or take wrong actions. IT staff also quickly become overwhelmed by the mass of security alerts. This may lead to a compromised ability to identify critical issues, properly investigate them, and intervene where needed. Security software is programmed to be thorough, consistent, and precise.

Saves resources

The time, staff, and, consequently, money it takes to intervene in every security threat is enormous. Through automation, IT staff are freed up to focus on strategic rather than routine work such as asset tracking, release management, and incident management. This saves companies a great deal and ensures that all business systems and processes run more smoothly. 

Enhanced application security

Prioritising application security is vital in the digital realm, where a typical enterprise handles thousands of certificates annually for functions like user authentication and document signing. Websites face a host of issues due to certificate expiration, resulting in downtime, revenue loss, and security breaches. Automation of processes like authentication, authorisation, and encryption is key to maintaining web application security and preventing these problems.

Useful cybersecurity insights

By conducting simulated attacks and penetration tests, it becomes possible to bolster the security of the database effectively. Automated testing methods extend their coverage to a broader range of processes and security points compared to manual testing, allowing for the identification of vulnerable areas. This, in turn, assists developers in addressing and closing these gaps in vulnerability. Importantly, automation testing offers this benefit without disrupting the normal functioning of the website.

What Functions Can Security Automation Be Applied To? 

Security automation can be used to streamline several functions, including: 

Data encryption

Automated encryption tools provide end-to-end encryption for both data at rest and data in transit. This safeguards sensitive information, reduces the risk of data breaches, and ensures quick recovery in the event of a ransomware attack.

Vulnerability scanning

Automated vulnerability scanning identifies and assesses weaknesses within an organisation's systems, prioritises them based on risk, and generates comprehensive reports with remediation recommendations.

Alert triage

Automated alert triage tools streamline the assessment and prioritisation of threat alerts, reducing false positives and enhancing the efficiency of security teams.

Threat detection and remediation

Automated threat detection and response (ADR) tools leverage advanced technologies like AI and machine learning to identify, investigate, and remediate cyber threats swiftly and accurately, minimising human error.

Automated deception technology

AI-powered deception technology deploys realistic decoys to lure cyber attackers, allowing security teams to gather threat intelligence and take appropriate action to thwart potential breaches.

Data management

Automation can streamline data management tasks such as log and asset management, freeing up security professionals to focus on higher-value activities.

Data privacy

AI-powered tools can automate data privacy functions, ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements without the need for extensive manual audits.

Simulated attacks

Automated simulated attacks replicate cybercriminal behaviour, helping your company identify and address vulnerabilities in its systems and data.

Incident response

Standardised incident response processes, automated through playbooks, improve response times and minimise the impact of cybersecurity incidents.

Application security

Automated solutions are essential for verifying authentication, authorisation, and encryption protocols in modern DevOps environments, reducing the risk of security breaches.

Bot activity monitoring

Implementing automation in bot activity monitoring ensures that bot privileges are separate from end-user accounts, credentials are encrypted, and actions are centrally logged, enhancing network security.

Log review

Automated log review utilises AI to detect anomalies in network traffic, saving security personnel time and ensuring early threat detection.

Rebuilding critical systems

Automated rebuilding of critical systems to known-secure configurations helps eliminate undetected malware, reducing dwell time and minimising damage during cyberattacks.

Security Automation Best Practices 

To harness the power of security automation and strengthen your cybersecurity posture, it is important to bear several best practices in mind.

  • Balanced automation: Understand that automation complements human expertise but doesn't replace it, especially for complex decision-making tasks. Experienced security analysts remain essential for critical problem-solving.

  • Role clarification: Clearly define the roles of humans and machines within the security workflow to ensure efficient collaboration.

  • Establish priorities: Identify and prioritise cybersecurity concerns, involving relevant stakeholders across the organisation. This collaborative approach ensures alignment and helps in creating effective automation use cases.

  • Gradual adoption: Ease into automation by starting with areas that offer the most immediate value and impact. A phased approach allows for effective evaluation and adjustment as needed.

  • Document playbooks: Document existing processes thoroughly before automating them. Transferring company knowledge into automation workflows is crucial for success.

  • Team training: Invest in training and coaching for the security team at all levels, ensuring a clear understanding of the capabilities and limitations of automation solutions. 

  • Utilise time gains: Leverage automation to make security teams more productive. Allocate freed-up time for value-added tasks and continuous improvement efforts.

  • Security orchestration: Combine security orchestration with automation to streamline complex workflows across multi cloud environments, improve collaboration, and reduce response times.

  • Maintain a plan: Develop a clear security automation plan and stick to it. Regularly test automated processes to ensure they perform as intended.

  • Centralised data storage: Utilise a centralised database for critical data, facilitating rapid issue identification and resolution.

  • Consider drawbacks: Assess potential drawbacks and limitations of automation to make informed decisions on its implementation.

  • Third-party expertise: Consider third-party service providers for managing security processes, relieving the burden of technical complexities.

Security Automation Versus Security Orchestration 

Security automation and security orchestration are closely related concepts designed to optimise security operations. Although these terms are often used interchangeably, they serve distinct purposes.

Security automation focuses on automating specific security tasks, streamlining processes, and reducing the need for human intervention. In contrast, security orchestration takes automation a step further by integrating multiple automated processes and tools to work together hamoniously. It aims to create dynamic workflows, managing various automated tasks across systems, applications, and tools. Orchestration is particularly valuable for executing complex security processes efficiently and ensuring consistency in operations. Both automation and orchestration play vital roles in modern IT and cybersecurity, enhancing response times, task prioritisation, and resource management.

Is it time for your company to move from manual security intervention to software solutions? Our expert team at ITRS could help you with that. Let’s chat!

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