The Secret to Uniting InfoSec: Security Orchestration and Automation
August 20, 2018

Jennifer Andre
Rapid7

As the security industry continues to evolve, one thing remains consistent – teams are still struggling with balancing the increasing amount of work they have to do, without an increase in resources to accomplish their goals. In turn, it is becoming progressively more difficult for teams to be successful and accomplish their goals. However, while this is prominent theme, a lesser-known problem has risen, which I like to refer to as "security as a silo" – a different kind of SaaS.

Larger organizations often struggle with teams working in silos. While not surprising, this creates friction and miscommunication, and serves as a barrier that hinders the accomplishment of important goals. In many respects, security is no different from other business functions this way. But, a few organizations have identified how to utilize specific technologies to increase productivity, efficiency and effectiveness among employees and processes.

How Orchestration and Automation Facilitated DevOps Collaboration

It seems like forever ago when software development and IT operations were siloed themselves and each function was responsible for specific tasks. Developers coded and built software, while IT operations deployed and delivered it. This process involved developers throwing their code over the wall to operations, with no thought of how or if it would deploy efficiently. Tools weren't connected, communication between teams was sparse, and operations was left with a set of repetitive, manual tasks to deliver the product consistently. As a result, backlogs grew, software didn't get delivered fast enough, and a fire slowly spread.

Not surprisingly, this method of software development and delivery wasn't time- or cost-effective, especially in light of the changing tech landscape. Teams were expected to build fast, and deliver even faster, leading to a dev and ops breakdown.

But, some good did come out of this, as the heavy stream of fire fights paved the way for a revolution. Orchestration and automation technologies were introduced to make this entire process seamless and more effective. This is how DevOps was born and united under a simple purpose: a single unit building, deploying, and delivering software.

The Height of Change for Infosec

Turning our attention back to security, it's no secret that security teams are distressed, and many suffer the same challenges that developers and operations teams did before the birth of DevOps. Here is a quick overview of the current situation:

1. Teams are inundated with a plethora of alerts, and they don't have enough time or people to actively investigate them all.

2. Most alerts are likely false positives that still need to be investigated, causing teams to chase down logs and other intel only to find there's no actual threat. Meanwhile, alerts that do pose a real danger may not get investigated fast enough or at all.

3. When factoring in false positives, many investigatory tasks are manual, repetitive, and time-consuming.

4. Tools are unconnected which means teams have to jump from system-to-system, copying and pasting info from one to the next. Not only is this extremely daunting but it also increases the chance of errors.

5. Good security talent is sparse these days, so simply hiring more people isn't an easy solution.

6. Finally, the threat landscape is growing exponentially, and sadly bad actors are becoming more creative than ever – think Mirai, botnets, and malware. As a result, it's increasingly difficult for defenders to keep up, let alone get ahead of these threats.

Sound familiar?

Security is reaching an inflection point again, and just like how orchestration and automation solutions brought change to software development and IT operations, it will bring change to security operations (SecOps).

Security Orchestration and Automation: The Great Uniters

It's time that, as an industry, we invest in technologies and methodologies that will enhance our tools, processes and people. We know that orchestration and automation were critical technologies for DevOps to succeed. Why not bring these same concepts to SecOps?

Security orchestration unites disparate systems and tools, while also paving the way for machine-to-machine security automation. Machines are great at handling a series of repetitive tasks, while humans are great at deriving context from data. Why not offload these repetitive tasks to machines and allow humans to focus on data correlation? In certain scenarios, a human may not even need to be involved if the process is well-defined enough.

That is the beauty of automation, and when coupled with orchestration, it can be extremely flexible.

So, what does this mean for security as a whole? Here are four initial benefits:

■ The security function is streamlined and more productive

■ The industry is stronger, more connected and more effective

■ Defenders can get ahead and aren't constantly working from behind

■ The way is paved for unity amongst IT teams

Incorporating automation to security operations seems unachievable for many organizations, but it doesn't have to be in today's evolving cybersecurity landscape. Ultimately, the goal is simple – provide security teams with the fastest way to add automation to security processes.

Jennifer Andre is Senior Director, Orchestration and Automation, at Rapid7
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