Last updated at Sat, 22 Apr 2023 19:34:54 GMT

Every new technology comes with a learning curve specific to your organization. First you learn the basics, then you accelerate. Rapid7’s offerings are no different.

As a Senior Information Security Engineer at Brooks, I have firsthand experience with this process. I oversaw the implementation of Rapid7’s security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) solution, InsightConnect, within my organization. We went from zero to 20+ workflows in just one year. Here are some reflections and advice about setting up a SOAR program, through the lens of my story about that successful and innovative year.

Workflow 1: Let Rapid7 hold your hand

In a previous blog regarding our initial deployment of InsightConnect, I shared key advice about how to set up a SOAR tool and get the program started. Looking back on that successful process, I believe that you should start with a goal that’s manageable – and delivers immediate value to help prove and cement the value of the initiative. For example, a phishing-related workflow is a great place to start. But there are other options as well, depending on your organization’s needs. Consider the following questions:

  • What pain point within your organization presents an immediate need?
  • What processes do you already want or need to try to automate?

Consider your team’s key technologies as well, but as you think through these questions, approach the solution in a technology-agnostic way. Instead, focus on the process, which can usually be applied to multiple technologies, and the corresponding desired outcome.

After that, you’ll want to work with your security analysts (assuming you’re not the security analyst!) to determine their pain points as well. What are the most common alerts they get? Where do they spend the most time? Or my favorite question to ask, “What requires the most browser tabs?” Your immediate focus should be how to make their job easier and more efficient.

From there, lean heavily on Rapid7’s product resources and services, and especially existing workflows that you can find in the Rapid7 Extensions Library – this will cut your work in half.

Workflows 2 to 5: Integrate with Slack and Teams

Once you’ve gone live with your first workflow, continue to look to the Rapid7 Extensions Library for workflows you can download and adapt to your needs. Some of the best examples of that use Slack or Microsoft Teams as the primary interface – you can find them easily by searching for workflows by category. And when you find an appropriate workflow, don’t get caught up on the specific technologies in the workflow. Again, focus on the process that you’re automating – after all, blocking an IP on one firewall is essentially the same as blocking an IP on another firewall, as it’s just a matter of swapping the integration plugin.

A major reason I advise starting with Slack and Teams-related workflows is that they’re the most numerous in the library and are valuable to most organizations. But this is the point where buy-in from key stakeholders across your organization becomes essential. Work with whoever runs your Teams or enterprise Slack account to input the appropriate API keys – they’re an extended part of your security automation team.

From there, look into workflows for incident response and enrichment – again, in the extensions library. Searching Virustotal or forcing a password reset or revoking Office 365 access can be very useful areas of automation, since you likely conduct those processes a lot. They can take a lot of time because they often rely on other teams when integration and automations aren’t already in place. Since time is of the essence in a phishing-related compromise, they’re super impactful.

One reason response and enrichment workflows are so useful for Workflows 2 to 5 is that it helps you understand that SOAR is not just about full automation. In fact, it’s about supporting human decision-making. So many security decisions require human insight and experience to make the right decision. What SOAR can do is to automatically collect the necessary context, tee up the decision to the security analyst, and then broadly automate the execution of those decisions.

Workflows 6 to 10: Hone in on your analysts’ pain points

At this point, it’s going to become easier for you and your team to build and implement your own, more heavily customized workflows. You’ll understand things like decisions trees, loops, and markdown cards – essential tools to take your security automation workflows to the next level. You’ll then be prepared to start customizing more workflows specifically catered to the needs of your organization and your analysts. Start here:

  1. Find out what your analysts' top 5 alerts are. They’ll likely be something along the lines of DNS, EDR, Firewalls, or email-related alerts.
  2. Return to the Rapid7 workflow library to find existing workflows you can adopt and customize to address those alert categories.

Expect to commit a couple of hours here and there over a couple of weeks to perfect each workflow to fit your organization. This may sound like a lot, but I promise – the lift isn’t too hard. The Rapid7 extensions library and tool does a lot of lifting for you!

Workflows 10 to 20: Take your workflows to the next level

Once you’ve implemented roughly 10 workflows, you’re ready to start honing in on specific pain points that likely require a bit more and customization – for example, ad-hoc actions for investigations like revoking active Office 365 sessions, searching for and deleting specific emails, or automatically blocking likely malicious URLs based on threat intelligence feeds you’re subscribed to.

The more you create, the more comfortable you'll be  creating workflows from scratch. In my experience, by the time you get to 20 workflows, you should expect that you or a team member could get a typical workflow designed and shipped in 1 to 2 weeks, assuming they spend 4 to 8 hours a week on it. Check out two of my team’s prized custom workflows:

However, that’s not to say that you can’t still make existing workflows your own. It’s to your benefit to keep up with the latest developments in Rapid7’s marketplace. I check the marketplace every few weeks and subscribe to the newsletter for new workflows or plugins. I’ve also learned to use the plugin API to make custom API calls for plugins Rapid7 doesn’t yet have!

In my next blog, I’ll take a deeper dive into the why and how of high-value security automation workflows. I’ll also give you some insights into the benefits we’ve seen at Brooks thanks to our SOAR program.

Additional reading:


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