Security Automation Best Practices

May 07, 2021

Automation has become the main component of successful and growing businesses. This is true in the cybersecurity industry, specifically with access and identity management, patching and network management.  

Regardless of the business, the objective of cybersecurity automation remains the same: to improve response and completion time or relieve humans from mundane tasks. Cybersecurity automation successfully offers lots of benefits. However, if automation functions are not implemented with some considerations, the negative effects may outweigh its advantages. 

There are different practices for IT experts to consider when implementing automation or going through existing automation deployments:

  1. Stay Actively Involved
    Most times, people think that implementing automation may lead to a hands-off model, which requires little or no oversight. On the other hand, cybersecurity automation should not be automatic. This is really true when it comes to security. As spontaneous as they may appear, the IT security team must always institute a degree of human involvement and oversight. This not only helps to maintain effective control over processes, but also helps to ensure the best security over your data and networks.

    For security, this may take the form of alert monitoring, frequent analysis of system logs and status reports. This level of oversight frees human workers from executing the majority of tasks manually, but still enables them to take manual actions as required. Frequent monitoring can offer the security team insights into what actions may lead to security vulnerability, risk and workflow issues.

  2. Review Third-Parties Closely
    Nowadays, conducting business almost requires granting vendors and other third parties access to internal networks and security. Some automation solutions may depend on add-ons or require management by an external vendor. Fundamentally, this introduces new security vulnerabilities and increases the likelihood of a security incident. If third parties will be introduced, it’s ideal to:
  • Replace several point solutions with fewer, more comprehensive products.
  • Closely review these vendors for security policies, references, reviews and much more. 
  1. Access Privilege
    Generally, organizations are meticulous about restricting the access contractors and employees have to systems based on their authority. The same consideration is not always given to automated systems. The more systems you enable your automated programs to have access to, the more doors open for hackers to exploit your systems. If your automated systems have the right access to do their tasks, that access must be managed appropriately. 

  2. Set Guardrails
    Cybersecurity automation can have major benefits for businesses. However, with improper instructions, this technology can cause destruction to a business. A good example is identity management. For instance, a modification to a group name, executed by an automated system may remove access to that system from a large number of people.

    Setting restrictions, such as the approval step that is needed if more than five users are scheduled, can help prevent some issues. In order to find solutions to these challenges and improve security defense, it’s important that you automate the essential element of your vulnerability management program.

  3. Automate Tasks that Cause Issues to Human Work
    Most organizations already have a team of professionals who are responsible for prioritizing vulnerabilities and another team responsible for vulnerability remediation or mitigating these vulnerabilities within a stipulated period. Normally, the vulnerability mitigation and remediation teams are bigger than the team responsible for prioritizing vulnerabilities.

    Therefore, it makes sense to begin with automating the tasks of the vulnerability management team while introducing some changes to the team mitigating and remediating vulnerabilities.

    For instance, many IT experts are now using ticketing systems to manage their tickets and associated workflows and may prefer to always continue to do so. They would rather deal with the systems that they know and have standardized for all their tickets. Therefore, it’s important that the vulnerability management tool you choose is able to create tickets with desired grouping algorithms.

    It’s not good enough to create a single ticket per vulnerability in these other tools because there will be too many tickets. Instead, tickets should be created with a vulnerability grouping algorithm that approximates how the vulnerabilities will be mitigated or patched, such as by operating system and geographical location.

  4. Ensure Information Delivery Without Users Logged In
    This is a requirement that affects different areas. Cutting across all these areas is a vital requirement that users should not have to remember to log on to the vulnerability management system for critical tasks to be initiated. If this is needed, it’s likely that some critical findings will not be remediated or mitigated as rapidly as they would be.

    To execute these best practices, a vulnerability management system must possess different capabilities, which includes the following: 
  • Ability to include additional supplemental information that the remediation teams require be present in the ticket such as details on vulnerability ID, title, solution, description, port, protocol, first seen, last seen in a usable format whether as additional fields of the ticket or as a CSV file.
  • Ability to create tickets with the appropriate due dates in one or more ticketing systems at the same time and in accordance to rules that govern which ticketing system should be used and how vulnerabilities should be grouped within each system.
  • Ability to look up each vulnerability owner’s manager and second-level manager in an appropriate HR system to send escalations for overdue remediation.
  • Ability to schedule reports to be sent by email or to be placed in a network folder.
  • Ability to tie each vulnerability instance to an owner so that this person can receive notifications and reminders. 

In conclusion, cybersecurity automation is growing in popularity. It’s ideal that IT security experts are knowledgeable about the above practices and take the right steps to ensure their deployments are as secure as possible. 

For detailed information about security automation best practices and how to manage vulnerabilities in your company, contact 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 Aideal Hwa on Unsplash

Written by

Kent Weigle

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