This post was previously published on The New Stack.
Toil — endless, exhausting work that yields little value in DevOps and site reliability engineering (SRE) — is the scourge of security engineers everywhere. You end up with mountains of toil if you rely on manual effort to maintain cloud security. Your engineers spend a lot of time doing mundane jobs that don’t actually move the needle. Toil is detrimental to team morale because most technicians will become bored if they spend their days repeatedly solving the same problems. It’s also terrible for business since it implies engineering resources are being spent on projects that don’t add value to the company, making it more difficult to build new services or products — let alone innovate.
Automating incident response plays a central role in addressing toil. Once your incident response is automated, your security operations center (SOC) team will be able to triage alarms more efficiently, respond to critical events faster and seamlessly integrate your existing security solutions into a more efficient and comprehensive incident response program. By automating your response to security threats, you mitigate toil because mundane tasks — like looking for and responding to threats — can be performed automatically. The result is that your engineers will have more time to do work that is truly meaningful — for them, as well as for the business. Here are five ways automated incident response can reduce toil.
Why Automate Incident Response?
The purpose of automated incident response is to manage the endless alerts that security teams are receiving, and enable them to respond at machine speeds. The SOAR (security orchestration, automation and response) platform combines data collection, case management, standardization, workflow and analytics to enable organizations to respond quickly to critical incidents — beyond simple incident response. As a result, incident response can automatically resolve security issues arising from the convergence of three different technology markets: automation, security incident response and threat intelligence.
Among other benefits, automated incident response reduces toil by eliminating alert fatigue in SOC teams. Alert fatigue occurs when security tools generate an overwhelming number of alerts forcing the security analysts to manually check each alert message to distinguish genuine threats from false positives. This often leads to actual issues being ignored, leaving your company’s security posture vulnerable. Automated incident response handles this issue by eliminating the human element from alert processing and response, allowing security teams to analyze and fix more threats and enhance enterprise security.
Other benefits of automating incident response include faster response times, streamlined threat intelligence, cost reduction, reporting and metric automation capabilities.
5 Ways to Reduce Toil with Incident Response Automation
1. Reduce Context Switching
Context switching refers to the process of storing the system state for one task, so that task can be paused and another task resumed. Context switches are often caused by distractions and disruptions — brief interruptions that divert attention and break flow. Context switching can lower productivity, increase fatigue and, ultimately, lead to burnout. With incident response automation, you reduce the impact of context switching for team members, and the huge cost that comes with it.
2. Increase Telemetry
Because most, or all, of the core control processes are automated in a DevOps environment, monitoring is critical. A robust, integrated monitoring solution with a full API and dashboard capabilities is by far the ideal choice for DevSecOps. As a result, automating incident response aids in the collection of more telemetry for threat intelligence. This automation generates telemetry in the form of time stamps, execution results and so on. Over time, this telemetry is key to improving processes and spotting areas of unnecessary work.
3. Increase Incident Context
Engineers can use SOAR and incident response tools to extend the incident context surface and accomplish automated incident response. Through automation, the integrated technologies give improved continuity and an audit trail of all activities prior to and following an incident. You can’t do this manually.
4. Reduce Human Touch Points
Incident response tools can be used by SOC teams to fully automate playbook actions, semi-automated actions or approval-based response actions, which allow people to monitor threat alerts before countermeasures are taken. As a result, engineers have fewer places where manual intervention, interpretation or judgment is required, thus reducing toil at those stages.
5. Accelerate Existing Processes
Teams must design a method in advance to establish incident response automation. To measure the success rate of their incident response automation, they first choose clear measures such as MTTR (mean time to repair). Increased productivity and DevOps maturity can be achieved as a result of the automated workflows and responses. This exercise will expose toil, which will be resolved (hopefully) before the automation is completed.
Modern Incident Response
Every organization’s cybersecurity posture requires a comprehensive incident response process. New tools have been developed to help fight these increasingly intricate attacks since manual processes cannot always provide the proactivity, quick reaction or real-time mitigation required to cope with modern threats and threat actors. As discussed in this post, these constraints, together with toil, can be overcome with automated incident response.