Security Orchestration

What is security orchestration, and where does it fit in a security stack?

At a Glance:

Security orchestration is a method of connecting security tools and integrating disparate security systems. It is the connected layer that streamlines security processes. There’s been a steady rise in the adoption of security orchestration and automation in the security industry for good reason: automating tasks that are frequently and easily repeated frees up a lot of time for already squeezed security teams. As useful as automation is, tools working independently from each other can quickly hit a wall in terms of how much time they can save in the long run.

Instead, orchestration chains tasks together to create larger processes and workflows that span tool sets, which allows organizations to move beyond automation. It opens new possibilities to work at scale, saving security teams valuable resources and speeding up responses to more routine issues.

Why now?

Thankfully, as tools in the security stack continue to mature, manual processes that were once the daily grind for security teams are becoming more easily automated, meaning security teams can more effectively prioritize what's coming their way. Teams only have a set number of staff and hours in the day, and even managing one-off automated tasks can becoming burdensome as the number of those tasks increase. The tools that manage these tasks can churn out a high volume of alerts to respond to, however security teams already experience alert fatigue. If the alerts from an automated task working in isolation are ignored, did it really save anyone time? 

Security orchestration relieves this burden by taking that to-do from the isolated automated task and instead manages the task as part of a cohesive workflow from beginning to end. Security teams that effectively leverage security orchestration and automation tools as part of their toolkit allow themselves to spend less time on the routine and more of their valuable time working on the tough problems that really need the human touch for investigation, mitigation, and remediation.

Harnessing security orchestration tools

A security orchestration solution helps connect your automated tools so they seamlessly work together. In many cases, security orchestration solutions have libraries built-in that allow tools to talk to each other, while in other cases they may need to be initially set up within the orchestrator manually, usually by making use of the tools’ APIs.

Security teams can make use of orchestration by viewing their security processes like an algorithm: A condition or flag set in one tool will set off an action or process in another automatically, and so on and so on, eliminating much of the need for a manual intervention from the team.

Processes that require pulling data sets and setting off tasks from multiple places lend themselves especially well to orchestration. Phishing investigations, for example, can involve a number of small automatable tasks, like scanning potential phishing emails for malware and cross-checking any URLs present in the email against open-source lists of known phishing URLs. These kinds of tasks present a certain level of cut-and-paste drudgery when done manually, but they are good candidates for automation as part of an orchestrated email phishing investigation. When these tasks are chained within an orchestration tool, a flagged email successfully detected for phishing activity could kick off time-critical containment and remediation tasks automatically in a ticketing system for the IT team, all without the need of any manual intervention from the security team whatsoever.

Once automation came on the scene in the security field, it quickly became a crucial ally for security teams looking for relief from burdensome and time-consuming tasks. Orchestration is the next step for better time and resource management for security teams, helping professionals respond to issues more quickly and better prioritize what needs their attention.