Last updated at Tue, 11 Apr 2023 20:19:58 GMT

Security has always been a numbers game. Time to detection and time to response have been metrics security teams have sought to reduce since the beginning of time (or at least the beginning of computers…). But what does it take to actually reduce that number?

If you’re reading this, we’re guessing you’re no stranger to the challenges in the world of security today. Between the security talent gap and the rapid proliferation of threats, it can be a real challenge for defenders to stay ahead of attackers.

That’s where security orchestration and automation comes in. In this post, we’ll offer a “101” on security automation: what it is, why you need it, how it can help, and what it looks like in action. Ready? Let’s get into it.

What is Security Automation?

Security automation is the automatic handling of security operations-related tasks. It is the process of executing these tasks, such as scanning for vulnerabilities, without human intervention.

Security Automation in Practice

You’re no stranger to automation. You use it every day — from your banking app, to curated news feeds, to the backups happening on your computer as you read these words, you’re probably benefitting from automation in a whole range of areas in your personal life.

You’re also likely using it with many of your security tools today: security monitoring, intrusion detection systems, and SIEMs all utilize a form of security automation to detect anomalies and aggregate data.

Automation can handle tasks involved in everything from detection to response, alleviating your team from conducting routine and manual efforts so they can focus on more strategic, value-add projects, such as conducting deeper analysis and implementing proactive security measures.

Why Security Automation and Why Now?

It’s no secret that security teams today are overwhelmed. Teams need solid solutions to help them tackle the complex threat landscape.

Security automation helps to solve for some of these problems today:

Done manually, security tasks are often prone to human error. Humans are great at analysis and critical thinking, but they’re error prone when it comes to processing large volumes of data and making quick, accurate decisions.

This is especially true if you have many different security systems that teams need to jump between in order to detect, analyze, and respond to incidents. This slows response time, sometimes to a grinding halt, giving attackers the upper hand and risking the company’s reputation and well-being.

Security Automation Rescues Teams from Repetitive & Tedious Work

Good security talent is hard to come by these days, and when you do find it, you want to optimize what they’re spending their time on. You want them to focus on high-value tasks for the organization, and you also need to ensure they’re working on interesting projects that will keep them engaged and reduce attrition. Asking them to sift through thousands of alerts every day won’t help accomplish those goals.

We’ve written before about the right time to bring in automation. In a nutshell, it’s when you experience one or all three of these:

  • Manual, time-intensive processes that take up most of your team’s time
  • Tools aren’t integrated well
  • Little to no development resources to build integrations and automation

When these things are happening, chances are your team is feeling frustrated and overwhelmed, which can quickly lead to fatigue and, eventually, attrition. Security automation can handle tedious, manual processes for you, from detection all the way through response. This can:

  • Decrease your time to resolution
  • Reduce or eliminate human error and alert fatigue
  • Optimize the ROI of your security investments

There are five security processes in particular we recommend teams automate, as we explain in depth in this post:

  • Monitoring and detection
  • Data enrichment
  • Incident response
  • User permissions
  • Business continuity

With your team pardoned from carrying out these rote tasks, they can shift their time to more strategic, interesting, and valuable tasks, like threat hunting, conducting deeper forensics, and strategic planning.

Powering Security Automation Across Tools and Processes

So how exactly does security automation work? First, security processes require a long set of tasks, many of which require jumping from system to system to gather intel. This lengthy process can can take hours, if not days, depending on the incident.

What if, instead, each one of your tools were connected and tasks were then automated, removing a majority of the manual effort, so your team could focus on bigger threats and more proactive security measures? This is the power of security orchestration, and with it, security automation across a set of tasks is possible.

Now, let's talk about it in action. We'll use malware investigation as an example. The following list of tasks will probably look all too familiar:

  • Monitoring email and other sources prone to malware infections
  • Detonating files in a sandbox
  • Performing VM snapshots
  • Reverse engineering malware
  • Removing malware

Security automation can help in many other scenarios as well, from data enrichment processes to user provisioning and deprovisioning to vulnerability assessment and many more.

Bringing Security Automation Onboard

The benefits security automation promises may seem like a pipe dream, but when combined with security orchestration, those benefits are attainable for each and every company.

Automating security tasks like the ones mentioned in this post is no longer a “nice to have.” It’s a “need to have.” Security automation can alleviate many of today’s biggest security issues and offer your team operational efficiencies that can benefit you now and in the long run.

If you haven’t yet automated security tasks, now is the time, and it’s never been easier to do so. With InsightConnect, you can get up and running in a matter of days, not weeks or months. We've even put together a white paper on how to calculate the ROI of security orchestration and automation in your organization, so that you can see just how much time and money you'll save.

Grab a copy for this free white paper The ROI of the Security Orchestration and Automation.