Last updated at Tue, 25 Apr 2023 20:00:06 GMT

As the senior information security engineer at Brooks, an international running shoe and apparel company, I can appreciate the  challenge of launching a security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) tool for the first time. I’ve done it at two different companies, so I’ll share some lessons learned and examples of how we got over some speed bumps and past friction points. I’ll also describe the key steps that helped us create a solid SOAR program.

At Brooks we selected Rapid7’s InsightConnect (ICON) as our security automation tool after a thorough product review. I was familiar with ICON because I had used it at a previous company. There are other SOAR tools out there, but InsightConnect is my preferred option based on my experience, its integrations, support, and Rapid7’s track record of innovation in SOAR. InsightConnect is embedded in everything we do now. We use it to slash analyst time spent on manual, repetitive tasks and to streamline our incident response and vulnerability management processes.

When you’re starting out with SOAR, there are two important things you need to put in place.

  • One is getting buy-in from your active directory (AD) team on the automation process and the role they need to play. At Brooks, we have yearly goals that are broken down into quarters, so getting it on their quarterly goals as part of our overall SOAR goal was really important.  This also applies to other areas of the IT and security organizations
  • The second is getting all the integrations set up within the first 30 to 60 days. It’s critical because your automation tool is only as good as the integrations you have deployed. Maybe 50% to 60% of them fall under IT security, but the other 30% or 40% are still pretty important, given how dependent security teams are on other organizations and their systems. So, getting buy-in from the teams that own those systems and setting up all the integrations are key.

Start with collaboration and build trust

A successful SOAR program requires trust and collaboration with your internal partners – essentially, engineering and operations and the team that sets up your active directory domain – because they help set up the integrations that the security automations depend on. You need to develop that trust because IT teams often hesitate when it comes to automation.

In conversations with these teams, let them know you won’t be completely automating things like blocking websites or deleting users. In addition, stress that almost everything being done will require human interaction and oversight. We’re just enriching and accelerating the many of the processes we already have in place. Therefore, it will free up their time in addition to ours because it’s accomplishing things that they do for us already. And remember we have the ability to see if something happened that may have been caused by the SOAR tool, so it’s automation combined with human decision-making.

For example, say something starts not working. The team asks you: "Hey, what’s changed?" With ICON up and running, you can search within seconds to see, for example, what firewall changes have happened within the last 24 hours. What logins have occurred? Are there any user account lockouts? I can search that in seconds. Before, it used to take me 15 to 30 minutes to get back to them with a response. Not any more. That’s what I call fast troubleshooting.

Meet with your security analysts and explain the workflows

Right from the beginning, it’s important to meet with your security analysts and explain the initial workflows you’ve created. Then, get them thinking about the top five alerts that happen most often and consume a lot of their time, and what information they need from those alerts. For instance, with two-factor authentication logs, the questions might be, "What’s the device name? Who’s the user’s manager? What’s their location?" Then, you can work in the SOAR tool to get that information for them. This will help them see the benefit firsthand.

This approach helps with analyst retention because the automation becomes the platform glue for all of your other tools. It also reduces the time your analysts have to spend on repetitive drudge work. Now, they’re able to give more confident answers if something shows up in the environment, and they can focus on more creative work.

Dedicate a resource to SOAR

I believe it’s important to have one person dedicated to the SOAR project at least half-time for the first six months. This is where teams can come up short. When the staff and time commitment is there, the process quickly expands beyond simple tasks. Then you’re thinking, "What else can I automate? What additional workflows can I pick up from the Rapid7 workflow marketplace and customize for our own use?"

Take advantage of the Rapid7 Extensions Library

The good news is you don’t need to build workflows (playbooks) from scratch. The Rapid7 Extensions Library contains hundreds of workflows which you can use as a core foundation for your needs. Then you can tweak the last 15% to 20% to make the workflow fit even better. These pre-built workflows get you off the ground running. Think of them not as ready-to-go tools, but more as workflow ideas and curated best practices. The first time I used InsightConnect, I used the phishing workflow and started seeing value in less than two weeks.

Implementing a security automation tool within a company’s network environment can be a challenge if you don’t come at it the right way. I know because I’ve been there. But Rapid7’s InsightConnect makes it easier by enabling almost anything you can imagine. With a SOAR solution, your analysts will spend less time on drudge work and more time optimizing your security environment. These are real benefits I’ve seen firsthand at Brooks. You can have them as well by following this simple approach. Best of luck.

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