Challenges of Cybersecurity Automation

May 07, 2021

Cybersecurity automation in vulnerability management and security operations is a new topic in the IT industry. This is a result of the ongoing cybersecurity skills shortage and an increase in the sophistication and volume of cyber threats as well as a rise in cyber attackers using automation for their campaigns.

Manual processes can’t achieve the speed needed to quickly and effectively respond to attacks that are not often detected until hackers have almost completed their missions. Cyber attacks such as phishing or ransomware always target the ineffectiveness of the manual incident response, inevitably leading to disaster recovery rather than threat management. 

The constant feedback is that automation is beneficial, especially for IT security teams who are struggling on a daily basis from alert fatigue and work overload. Most risk management and vulnerability remediation teams desire the implementation of cybersecurity automation, which is most times inhibited by fear and doubt—doubt about the detection of threats and fear about the consequences of automating the mitigation or containment responses (e.g. potential damages).

Cybersecurity automation is a new trend and many organizations have promised automated containment capacities. However, previous untimely attempts such as threat intrusion and anti spam prevention systems, which lacked the capacity to identify irregularities and attacks, have led to IT operations and some management teams being hesitant to pass such powers to machines. This is despite detection capabilities having improved over the years, particularly using machine learning and behavioral modeling techniques.

Common Challenges of Cybersecurity Automation

Let’s take a look at the main challenges that security experts face when considering cybersecurity automation and how they can overcome them so that automation can be implemented successfully. 

  1. SecOps Can Assess the Impact of the Risk, but Not the Impact on Production
    Most times, the security operations team focuses on the risk and impact of the threat and must balance what is going on in production and who it’s likely to affect. For instance, is the system unstable? Is the affected system mission-critical or is it a legacy system? Is the customer affected when they make a payment for a service you should be providing? Is the system used to process essential business internal financial reports?

    Disabling a harmless user account may be used to run vital processes. Complexities and dependencies are the challenges of automation. These are the essential points that most security operations teams lack or the information that relates to this may be outdated. However, either way, this may have a major impact on how the remediation process or incident response must be conducted.

    The vulnerabilities or incidents must be addressed but this may require extra tasks, time and a particular way of approaching it. This is likely to differ from one organization to another. Nevertheless, it’s essential for departments to be interlinked as much as possible and for procedures and related documents to be updated regularly to ensure essential information used and kept on file is always accurate.

 

  1. Not Every Decision Can Be Totally Automated
    The real vulnerability remediation or containment response is not the only thing that can be automated. IT security experts can automate a wide range of tasks, which include prioritization of an incident, fetching additionally needed information and creating tasks for stakeholders.

    By using cybersecurity automation, companies can make people more efficient and remove some of the repetitive and menial tasks. We can also use machine learning for analysis that would take a human many years to do manually or perhaps not at all because of its complexity. However, along the line, a human analyst may still be needed to make a decision if required.

    The more we automate the easy tasks, the more demanding and complex the other tasks will be. However, we can still automate the next actions to be taken. Analysts will be able to spend more time handling and vetting these complex manual decisions, rather than wasting their valuable time carrying out mundane and repetitive tasks.

    We can successfully automate the action of cybersecurity without automating the decision. This is based on the levels of automation that we are comfortable with based on our operation workflows and processes. This can be changed over time as knowledge and experience grow.

  2. IT Operations Lack Trust in Cybersecurity Automation
    The disadvantage of getting IT operations to verify action is that IT operations teams are always overloaded, so that a handoff occurs from SecOps to IT Ops with a long delay in response. In the case of incidents such as ransomware, this delay may mean the difference between disaster recovery and breach. The security operations team can help eliminate this by building confidence and trust.

    This may be achieved by keeping track of the actions that are done manually, which include the number of times the same action was taken by a human instead of a machine and working on the difference in effort and time between the two. The main idea is that if someone gets the same notification for similar incidents which require the same manual actions, SecOps can demonstrate to them that this may have been safely automated. There will also be an audit trail that can prove it and the data to build a business case may be needed.

    More importantly, the team will be able to gather data on the tasks that can be safely automated and those that could not be automated. As trust and confidence grow, the level of automation can also be expanded.
Conclusion 

An automated action may be safe in a business unit and may not be acceptable in another. Therefore, safely automating security management for an organization means selectively automating. 

In order to accommodate this, processes must support granularity, whether gathering the automation or metrics themselves. Technology can help to build trust. However, it will require experienced experts who can be trusted. 

For an effective cybersecurity automation process and solving the challenges of cybersecurity automation, choose Vicarius. Vicarius is a vulnerability management software that targets cybersecurity officers and operators, as well as IT managers and operators from the U.S. market.

 

Photo by Anchor Lee on Unsplash

Written by

Kent Weigle

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