Last Updated: 8th December, 2020
Security Automation: An emphasis on minimizing the attack surface is one of the core tenets of every strategic plan. Threats are not only becoming more complex, but they are also becoming more hostile, especially as the pandemic crisis has pushed most of us into alternative ways of working.
While cloud environments have proven to be instrumental amidst this rapid digital transformation, if not maintained properly, this can create a host of new security challenges. Therefore, being proactive and responding to these challenges requires focus on the most critical security tasks.
While human defenders will inevitably be a necessity, purely manual processes simply cannot keep up with increasing security needs – thus, automating as much as possible can help teams scale to better manage this monumental shift.
Over here is how your organization can implement automation throughout security efforts to better focus resources and build assurance into security controls and operations. These techniques are based on industry best practices, meaning you can leverage them for your organization – agnostic about what cloud providers you use or where you are in your own cloud journey.
Why Security Automation?
Before implementing security automation, it’s significant to perceive its benefits – the first being improved predictability. Automation is attractive because it’s predictable, unlike manual processes which tend to operate otherwise from one another. With security automation, you can better predict outputs with a given set of inputs.
Security-by-design comprise another critical component. For far too long, companies have bolted for security as an afterthought, however, embedding security from the start of the lifecycle will not narrowly save time and money but also reduce risk. What’s more, this will enable engineers and operations teams to focus on what they perform best, building great products and features, versus having to focus on security tasks.
Implementing Security Automation
Once you have formulated the need to automate security controls, numerous principles for effective automation should be observed:
Standardization – Directly put, you cannot automate what you don’t have control over. Policies, procedures, and standards must be in place for proper execution. Look for commonalities across environments and flag anything that’s out of line – taking action where needed before implementing security automation.
Information Gathering – Rather than buying other unnecessary tools, organizations should look to existing tools for process flows. For example, most native cloud providers were logging and beneficial services tap into, as these built-in reporting tools are typically additionally accurate than third-party tools. The gathering infrastructure configuration can also help identify whether policies and standards are being adhered to. Furthermore, teams must perceive who to contact for technical resources to establish proper reporting and communication flows.
Constant Communication – Service quality and customer experience could be at severe risk if changes are initiated without consulting with the proper owners. Strong communication channels should be established by assembling a coalition of people who care about reliability outside of security teams.
Determining What to Automate – Look at previous issues and evaluate the root cause of failure, going beyond the elementary manual mistake and demanding what enabled that to happen within the environment. You’ll also want to review tooling from the start to end and ask what can be automated – from onboarding or scanning of alternative assets all the way through the remediation processes. Team members interpret a key role in mapping these out, helping determine what automation can look like.
Creating Workflows – As part of security automation, there are event-driven workflows, where detection and action are taken. This is where you’ll want to ‘shift left’ as much as possible, helping ensure compliance is enforced at the resource provision level. Teams should equally determine whether robust logging is built into workflows to ascertain whether service management and product teams should temporarily pause automation to properly act.
Validation – You cannot set and forget automation. Your team must periodically conduct “smoke tests” to compare automation expectations with verified results. In these tests, you also want to time how long it takes for these issues to be resolved as there might be unexpected latencies needing to be tightened up. Making time for audits is vital before auto-remediation is even considered as mistakes in this area can be detrimental.
Enforcement and Remediation – This terminal phase is fundamental to helping ensure the desired dependability posture. The event-driven workflows are transitioned from an audit and alert to making changes or enforcing the desired state. It’s no longer enough for organizations to simply have clear visibility and quick determination of potential security gaps – enforcement of desired state or policy is required to reduce risk and scale security across the business long-term.
The Risks And Limitations Of Security Automation
Security automation doesn’t come without risks and limitations. For starters, a security program that centers solely on automation would result in an asymmetric warfare – security automation is constantly changing, meaning you require capable humans who can help evolve your automation to counter innovative intruders.
There also needs to be robust exceptions demonstrating how each business application works, or else the security automation workflows could block or deny required business applications. You’ll need to develop a system that can ingest, review, and take action that has proper documentation beyond basic emails or shared documents. You require a formalized system in place. Tracking these exceptions via email or shared documents is not effective.
In conclusion, security automation can incur false positives, which can be detrimental to business operations. You’ll want to ensure that each area of automation is ploughing the way it’s intended and establish ways for product teams to communicate any issues.
All in all, investing in security automation for multi-cloud environments is worthwhile, not solely because it enables enhanced response against threats, but additionally provides explicit escalation and recognition into where problem areas may lie as these environments become more sophisticated over time.
Security automation provides more than just ease of mundane tasks, it reduces risk and cost, and increases overall engineering productivity. Automation remain a requirement for continued migration to dynamic environments and infrastructures that easily adapt to future innovations.