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Cybersecurity is time- and resource-intensive. The threat landscape continues to evolve, and security analysts are feeling burnt out. According to research, 54% of security operation center (SOC) teams say that they are drowning in alerts, and 55% are not confident that they can prioritize alerts or respond effectively. Effective cybersecurity requires organizations to have the people, processes, and technologies that enable efficient monitoring, detection, and response. Cybersecurity automation exists to help security teams respond to threats effectively and efficiently not to replace the human element.  

What is cybersecurity automation? 

Cybersecurity automation solutions collect and aggregate data from across the organization’s environment to correlate and analyze events for high fidelity alerts that enable security operations teams. 

Security automation helps analysts prioritize and streamline manual tasks. Some examples include:

 

  • Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) 
  • Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS) 
  • Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) 
  • Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) 

Environments have become more complex. Organizations need to manage cybersecurity across on-premises, hybrid, and multi-cloud deployments. Security automation brings all the data together in one location for better visibility into risk.  

How does cybersecurity automation work? 

Automation tools ingest data from across the organization’s environment. It can collect and aggregate information from different cybersecurity technologies like:

 

  • Identity and Access Management (IAM) 
  • Endpoint detection and response (EDR) 
  • Firewalls 
  • Vulnerability scanners 
  • Patch management systems 

Once it ingests the data, it applies artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) analytics that gives security teams a way to prioritize their incident response activities.  

What are the benefits of cybersecurity automation?

Security automation provides several key benefits, depending on the solution selected and the way the organization implements it. Some key benefits include:

 

  • Efficiency and productivity: Eliminate time-consuming, redundant tasks so security teams can focus their attention on high-value tasks 
  • Consistency: Reduce the number of error-prone tasks for repeatable processes 
  • Informed decision making: Leverage data analytics gives security teams a way to make risk-informed decisions 
  • Overcoming cybersecurity skills gap: Give less experienced security analysts the tools that help them do their jobs better 

Cybersecurity Automation Use Cases 

Before implementing an automation solution, organizations should consider how they want to use it. Understanding some basic use cases can help them decide on the solution that best fits their needs.  

Vulnerability management 

New vulnerabilities are reported regularly. However, patching is a time-consuming process. Often, security teams know that a vulnerability has been released, but they may not be able to assess the impact it would have on the organizations. For example, a vulnerability may have threats associated with it, but malicious actors are not exploiting it yet. Automation helps teams correlate all available data – including threat intelligence and vulnerability reports – to assess risk more effectively.  

Detection 

Cybersecurity automation enables high fidelity alerts that reduce alert fatigue. The more data aggregated and correlated, the better the alert will be. For example, if security teams are investigating all failed logins, then they might be wasting time on something like a person who forgot a password. However, security automation can correlate data like ten failed logins followed by one successful login in less than a minute. This makes it easier to distinguish between a forgotten password and a potential brute force attack.  

Prioritization 

Since cybersecurity automation incorporates data analytics, it enables security teams to prioritize activities. By aggregating more data, they incorporate contextual data that helps them assign next steps, including escalation and timing. 

Threat hunting 

Threat hunting is the process of proactively looking for unusual activity or behavior across systems and networks. Security teams can use automation to run repetitive searches for anomalous:

 

  • User access, especially for privileged users 
  • Network traffic 
  • Failed logins 
  • Database read volumes 
  • Registry or system file changes 

When done manually, threat hunting can be time-consuming, especially if the team does not detect something abnormal. However, looking for these types of behaviors within systems and networks is as important as high fidelity alerts when trying to mitigate risk.  

Red teaming 

Testing incident response capabilities give security teams a way to fine tune their technologies and processes. Security automation can run “safe” attacks against the organization’s high-value assets. Usually mapped to the MITRE ATT&CK framework, red teaming takes known threat actor tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to see how effective they would be against an organization’s security controls. This way, defenders can change configurations or put additional processes in place, allowing them to iterate the incident response plan before an incident occurs.  

Will AI replace cybersecurity teams completely? 

Cybersecurity requires that organizations have people, processes, and technologies. Cybersecurity automation may enable people and enhance processes, but organizations need to remember the importance of the human element.  

Cybersecurity automation is a tool that helps SOC teams and security analysts do their jobs more effectively.  

However, it can never fully replace people.  

Some examples of security activities that require a human element include:

 

  • Hiring and training security staff 
  • Implementing and fine-tuning security technologies 
  • Establishing, implementing, and iterating processes 
  • Investigating incidents 
  • Restoring systems after an incident occurs 
  • Forensic analysis  

Cybersecurity starts with people. Malicious actors are humans, and they act like humans. Organizations need people who understand cybercriminals’ driving motivations.  

So, can cybersecurity be automated? 

The final answer to this question is: yes and no. Yes, certain security-related tasks can be automated. Lower-level, repetitive tasks can be turned into automated workflows. For example, automation can ingest, aggregate, correlate, and analyze data according to mathematical algorithms. However, it’s not able to understand how the outcome impacts the organization’s unique technology stack.  

Additionally, organizations still need people who can establish, implement, and maintain their security programs. People need to design and implement security measures because they understand an organization’s contextual risk. Predictive analytics give organizations the ability to think proactively, but algorithms are limited when cybercriminals evolve their attack methodologies.  

Alert Logic MDR with Cybersecurity Automation 

Automation augments a security team’s capabilities. Alert Logic’s managed detection and response (MDR) solution gives SOC teams the analytics and services needed to ease their burdens. Our MDR platform addresses pre-breach and post-breach concerns. We provide comprehensive coverage across on-premises, cloud, networks, systems, applications, and endpoints. After ingesting the data, our platform analyzes and enriches it so that customers have audit-ready, real-time reporting capabilities.  

Our MDR solution provides security experts available 24/7 who help customers analyze, triage, escalate, and remediate incidents. Our security experts leverage the platform’s data analytics to deliver service and protection focused on each customer’s unique needs, including creating customized incident response plans.  

If you’d like to see our solution in action, watch our on-demand MDR demo, or reach out to request a personalized demo. 

Tony DeGonia
About the Author
Tony DeGonia
Tony DeGonia is a Principal Technical Marketing Manager at Alert Logic. He has been in the cybersecurity industry for over 15 years and has 30 years of experience in Telecom and IT, including his time served in the U.S. Army. Tony has worked across the entire business landscape, having served in multiple roles within the industry including operations, sales, senior leadership and now marketing.

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