4 Reasons Traditional Security Automation Strategies Fail


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For many businesses today, security automation is something of a paradox. It’s no secret that automation is important, and a large number of businesses have invested in security automation solutions.

Yet the never-ending stream of headlines about major cybersecurity attacks suggests that, for most of these companies, security automation doesn’t end up delivering the intended results. Software that is supposed to detect phishing, malware, and other threats automatically and then take automated steps to block them does not appear to be living up to its promises.

Figuring out why – in other words, understanding why businesses fail to take full advantage of security automation – is critical for protecting IT environments from the pervasive threats they face today.

Toward that end, let’s take a look at the most common reasons why traditional approaches to security automation often fail – or, at least, under-deliver – and what teams can do to get more out of their security automation investments.

#1. Lack of Engineering Resources

Security automation tools have great potential for detecting and responding to attacks automatically. But in most cases, they need to be configured to align with the particular environments in which they are deployed.

Traditionally, writing the detection and response rules that drive security automation has required significant engineering resources – resources that are in short supply given the dearth of qualified cybersecurity experts.

In response, businesses have two options. One is to try to hire more engineers. But those engineers are difficult to find and expensive to pay.

The other is to adopt security automation tools that lower the bar in terms of who can configure them. By making it easy for anyone on the team, not just cybersecurity experts, to deploy and customize security automation tools, businesses can help ensure that their investment in security automation actually pays dividends.

#2. Lack of Centralized Security Oversight

Given the many different types of cybersecurity attacks that businesses face, as well as the siloed nature of the typical organization, it’s easy to fall into the trap of deploying security automation tools in an ad hoc fashion. One business unit may deploy a tool that manages one type of threat, while another deploys a different one. In some cases, redundant tools may be deployed within the same enterprise.

What results is a disorganized array of automation tools that are not well integrated with each other, making it difficult to correlate attacks on different business units or associate one type of attack with another one.

This disorganized approach to security automation happens when businesses lack a strong, centralized project manager to oversee security automation strategy – or when project managers who are supposed to help centralize IT operations lack the security expertise necessary to implement strong security automation.

Here again, lowering the barrier to security automation adoption and implementation is a key step toward overcoming this hurdle. So is choosing security automation software that is capable of handling multiple types of threats – phishing, ransomware, DDoS, and so on – in a single platform.

When it becomes easy for anyone to help implement security automation using an integrated platform, businesses can define automated security workflows that protect all business units against all threats.

#3. Automated Alerting without Automated Response

Another common pitfall for security automation is to use tools to automate alerting, but rely on a manual approach for response.

Given the rapid pace at which a breach can spread, this strategy yields lackluster results. If you wait just hours to start managing a phishing incident, for instance, the attackers could already have used credentials to log into critical systems and access sensitive data.

That’s why it’s just as important to invest in automated security responses as in automated alerts. Teams should select security automation tools that let them predefine which actions to take when certain alerts fire. For example, if a tool detects a phishing attack, it could automatically reset the access credential for the impacted end-user so that any usernames or passwords that the phishers manage to steal won’t be of any use.

#4. Simplistic Detection Configurations

Attackers have become incredibly creative and adept at breaking into IT estates. They craft sophisticated phishing messages that evade conventional email filters. They create malware that is virtually invisible to traditional security scanners.

What this means is that security automation tools that are configured with basic detection rules are unable to keep pace with modern threats. It’s no longer enough to parse emails for spelling mistakes alone in order to catch phishing attacks. You can’t deploy simple antivirus software and deem your business safe from malware.

Instead, teams need sophisticated, customized detection rules that evolve along with the threats they protect against. And as noted above, they need to be able to create these rules even if they lack extensive engineering resources or cybersecurity expertise. This is another reason why security automation software that lowers the barrier for configuration and deployment is a critical asset for managing modern cybersecurity threats.

Conclusion: Going a Step Further with Automation

Just as you can lead a horse to water but can’t always make him drink, you can implement security automation without necessarily achieving meaningful results.

To ensure that security automation actually leads to lower risk and fewer attacks, businesses need centralized, integrated security automation platforms that anyone can configure with detection rules tailored to their environment. Otherwise, their security automation software just becomes another expense with low ROI.


Chris Tozzi has worked as a journalist and Linux systems administrator. He has particular interests in open source, agile infrastructure and networking. He is Senior Editor of content and a DevOps Analyst at Fixate IO.


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