We live in an era of accelerated and unprecedented transformation. This global transformation is powered by several technological forces such as automation and artificial intelligence that are driving change in various sectors. The domain of cybersecurity is also not untouched by the power of automation. From enabling the development of smarter security tools to fundamentally improving security operations within organizations, automation is leaving its imprints everywhere. One of the areas worth exploring in-depth is how automation boosts threat response capabilities to improve an organization’s defense against advanced adversaries.
The Current State of Security Automation
The lack of security automation is a concern shared by many organizational leaders across the board. In the SANS 2019 SOC Survey, around half of the organizations echoed the concern about lack of security automation in the Security Operations Center (SOC). However, security automation is gaining traction as a key driving force behind innovation in addressing various cybersecurity use cases. In its 2019 Market Guide for Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) Solutions, Gartner predicted that by the end of 2022, the adoption of automation-powered tools will rise to 30% compared to 5% in August 2019.
Understanding the Threat Response process
Responding to a reported security incident or a potential threat is a multi-stage process. Broadly speaking, the process can be divided into five stages along with related activities as listed below.
- Preparation - Collection of threat information, creation of policies and procedures for threat response, defining roles and communication guidelines, etc.
- Detection and Reporting - Monitoring security events to detect, alert, and report threats.
- Triage and Analysis - Collecting data for threat analysis, hunting down the threat, planning mitigation measures, etc.
- Containment and Neutralization - Implementing threat mitigation measures, implementing recovery process for affected entities, etc.
- Post-response Activity - Documenting the threat, identifying preventive measures, updating security processes, etc.
The Scope for Security Automation in Threat Response
This entire threat response process requires the involvement and careful coordination between several security functions and other units within an organization. It is evident that several activities in this process such as the collection of threat data for investigation, and monitoring, and alerting based on threat activity, are potential candidates for automation capabilities. However, it is crucial to understand that the scope of threat response automation is not just limited to performing time-consuming actions with machine capabilities.
By simply augmenting existing tools with automation features, we can only achieve limited benefits of automation. To develop a truly automated end-to-end threat response capability, organizations need to rethink their security operations from the ground up. We first need to address the lack of integration between various security functions which is a key concern for security teams everywhere. The fragmentation of security operations due to the use of disparate tools and data sources is a major obstacle. It becomes nearly impossible to build automation capabilities while dealing with dozens of tools that cannot exchange data or communicate with each other. This is where cyber fusion comes into play as the smart connecting fiber between various moving parts in the threat response process.
Cyber fusion revolves around the idea of breaking down barriers between disparate security functions such as Threat Intelligence, Incident Response, Vulnerability Management, Security Administration, etc., to create a centralized hub. It focuses on interoperability and collaboration between disparate teams and tools to provide a comprehensive intelligence-driven threat management capability. By combining security automation and orchestration with cyber fusion, organizations can develop custom threat response playbooks. Such playbooks can provide a fully automated response for known threats, whereas it can be designed to take automated preventive measures against unknown threats. This ensures not just a faster but more effective defense and response against a variety of threats. In this way, security automation along with cyber fusion provides the perfect starting point for building comprehensive security automation capabilities.
The Cyware Fusion and Threat Response (CFTR) platform combines cyber fusion, security case management, orchestration and automation to enable security teams to more quickly understand incidents and threats, triage efforts, and take appropriate response actions.
The Many Advantages of Threat Response Automation
Security teams can gain numerous advantages by utilizing threat response automation in tandem with cyber fusion.
- Reduced Noise in Threat Alerts - One of the most common issues faced by security teams is the unending stream of alerts they receive on a daily basis, many of which can turn out to be false positives or false negatives. Out of the hundreds or thousands of alerts received every day, security teams can only respond to a select few based on several factors such as the severity and relevance of the alert. Thankfully, with automation, it becomes easy to identify and remove false positives or other kinds of non-useful alerts based on contextual factors. Thus, it helps analysts focus their attention where it is most needed.
- Expedited Threat Analysis - While investigating a potential threat, analysts need to gather and analyze the data from existing security and network controls to spot anomalous activities. They may also need to correlate different threat data to nail down the patterns of malicious activity by threat actors or malicious software. These and other such analytical tasks can be performed with automation to augment and quicken the threat analysis process.
- Improved Consistency in SOC Processes - Security professionals often carry a lot of operational knowledge gained through many years of experience. However, this kind of knowledge is not always well-documented and transferred to all team members. This causes inconsistency in security processes which can prove costly, especially in the case of threat response actions. Using threat response automation, security teams can tackle this issue by documenting their operational know-how into the form of playbooks. These can then be automated to ensure a rapid and consistent response every time without the need for human intervention.
- Simplified Threat Management - As the complexity of an organization’s security operations increases, it becomes more difficult to govern and maintain visibility over various ongoing processes. Managers and executives running security operations need to make decisions in many areas such as incident escalation, case assignment, response procedures, and so on. It is important to effectively utilize human resources so as to be able to maintain a strong defense against every potential threat. Threat response automation reduces the complexity in security decision-making by helping automate many day-to-day threat management activities based on an organization’s unique context and requirements.
- Streamlined Reporting - Documentation and reporting enables security teams to build a knowledge base of learnings that help improve the threat response process in the future. However, it requires a lot of manual effort to organize relevant data, present it in a human-readable form, and deliver it in a timely manner to the right people. Automation can provide the capability to generate on-demand customized reports, alerts, statistics, and more to aid the decision-making process for security leaders and improve overall performance.
The Final Word
Automation is not just a tool for increasing the speed of execution, but also the quality of execution of a process. In the face of increasing cyber risks, it is imperative that organizations incorporate automation capabilities in their arsenal against advanced threats. Implementing threat response automation is a crucial step for organizations to strengthen their cybersecurity posture and improve their readiness for future threats.