What is Security Automation?

Security automation uses machine-based systems to automate repetitive, manual, and time-consuming security tasks. These tasks include incident response processes like threat detection, investigation, and remediation.

Introduction to Security Automation

Security automation can:

Why Is Security Automation Important?

Cybercrime is getting worse, and security teams are struggling to keep up. 

Digital transformation initiatives like moving servers to the cloud, extending work-from-home privileges, and deploying more IoT devices have expanded attack surfaces, making it easier than ever for threats to slip through. 

At the same time, the number of cyber threats is growing fast. According to Security Magazine, a cyberattack now happens at least every 39 seconds

Unfortunately for IT teams, the typical organisation’s response of bolstering security systems with additional security solutions often translates into extra complexity and noise rather than better defence. Already, a typical enterprise security operations center (SOC) receives an average of 174,000 alerts per week. That’s almost 25,000 alerts per day. What’s more, most of these alerts are false positives

The vast majority of IT workers are overwhelmed by false alerts and experience “alert fatigue,” which negatively impacts their well-being and their organisation’s security posture. Security staff can end up ignoring alerts if a queue is full or turn off high-volume alerting features altogether. Perhaps most worryingly, an increasing number of security professionals are quitting their jobs.

91% of cyber attacks don’t generate an alert.

Security automation improves security by performing in-depth threat detection without human intervention. Continuously observing alerts and correlating them into incidents, a security automation solution can automatically remediate events deemed to be genuine based on historical responses to similar incidents or flag them for security engineers’ attention. 

By automating routine investigation, security automation enables IT professionals to streamline security processes and workflows and focus on higher-value work.

Benefits of Security Automation

Security automation comes with a multitude of benefits. These include improved talent retention and productivity, the ability to find vulnerabilities quicker, prevent human error, unify incident investigation data into a single dashboard, and respond, remediate, and contain threats faster.

Improve talent retention and productivity

More than 7 in 10 security analysts experience burnout, and routine monitoring is one of the tasks that security analysts dislike the most. With more cybersecurity jobs available than people to fill them, security automation allows organisations to help improve work performance for existing IT professionals. 

Security automation helps reduce burnout and improve retention by eliminating many of the most tedious tasks IT workers face.

Security analysts spend the better part of their workday investigating, triaging, and responding to alerts. Security automation can do much of this work on IT professionals’ behalf, allowing them to tackle tasks that often get pushed down priority lists. 

Over 6 in 10 analysts believe their employer could easily automate at least half of their repetitive tasks. Doing so would give them time to do things like update operational documentation and focus more on intelligence.

Find vulnerabilities faster

Visibility is fundamental to achieving real cybersecurity. By connecting tools across endpoints, servers, and networks, security automation can give IT teams a comprehensive overview of their organisation’s entire digital estate. 

With security automation, IT professionals can discover assets and scan for vulnerabilities within their organisation’s IT infrastructure. 

Gaining access to a list of real-time vulnerabilities means that IT professionals can find misconfigurations and critical vulnerabilities faster, mitigating risk and reducing threat exposure.

Prevent human error 

Barraged with alerts and desensitised by false positives, security teams miss or ignore a third of all alerts. 

Even when alerts are reviewed, the information that security analysts derive from them may not always be accurate. Over half of IT security and SOC decision-makers are not sure they have the skills to prioritise and respond to alerts. Missed alerts were behind the 2021 HSE cyberattack

By analysing vast amounts of data faster and more accurately than human analysts, security automation makes real threats easier to spot.

Besides missing early warning signs of an attack, having too much on their plate can lead IT professionals, to rush deployments, misconfigure systems and tools, and delay patch implementation for critical systems. These simple mistakes can have enormous consequences. By 2023, Gartner predicts that 99% of firewall breaches will happen because of misconfigurations. 

Unify incident investigation data into a single dashboard 

No organisation should have to deal with an array of point solutions that address specific vulnerabilities but don’t talk to each other. Unfortunately, this kind of “swivel chair” syndrome, where security teams need to keep switching between solutions to gain context, is regrettably common. 

Security automation collects related alerts from disparate tools into a single incident, eliminating the “swivel chair” syndrome.  

Even tools like security information and event management (SIEM), which consolidate logs from multiple sources into a centralised source of truth, are too noisy. It can take an analyst up to 30 minutes to review each alert, and a lot of this time can be wasted correlating disparate data sources to gain full context. 

Security automation collates all related alerts from multiple disparate tools into one single incident, removing the need for analysts to collect data manually. This capability makes it easier for them to investigate and identify threats deeply and allows them to start mitigation measures sooner.

Respond, contain, and remediate threats faster

A mountain of security alerts means that organisations frequently fail to detect cybersecurity attacks until it is too late. 

Through automation, companies can spot threats early on in the kill chain and resolve security incidents before they become full-blown crises. Two-thirds of teams have found that having high levels of automation means that they can address all security alerts on the same day they arise.

Automation lets security analysts respond to alerts on the same day. 

Because security automation can also execute playbooks when specific alerts or incidents are generated, time-sensitive threats can be contained or mitigated without the presence of human analysts. Unsurprisingly, organisations that use security automation save over £1 million when remediating security breaches.

Who Needs Security Automation?

Regardless of your industry or your organisation’s size, you can benefit from deploying security automation. However, your organisation will gain the most benefit from automating manual processes if it:

What Is a Security Automation Platform?

A security automation platform is a solution that can carry out a series of automated security processes and actions across an organisation’s entire infrastructure. 

Here’s an example of a security automation platform in action:

  1. Investigate threats. Scanning for suspicious behaviour in real-time, a security automation platform collects data and alerts from various attack vectors and security tools, comparing them to other data to see if an alert is an actual security incident.
  1. Determine whether to take action. Establishing the type of incident that is taking place (if any), a security automation platform decides whether to take action and what the appropriate automated action would be. In the case of false positives, the platform will automatically note alerts for future reference but won’t flag them. 
  1. Enables appropriate action. In the event of an attack, a security automation platform may perform automated remediation. For instance, in a ransomware attack, a security automation platform would isolate the infected device to prevent malware from spreading across the network and causing more damage.
  1. Escalates and prioritises cases. A security automation platform will then flag a security incident for further analysis and remediation by a human security analyst. 

Types of Security Automation Tools

There are many different security automation tools available today, each with its own pros, cons, and use cases.

Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR)

The term “security automation” can sometimes be synonyms with Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) platforms. 

SOAR solutions enhance SIEM tools by introducing automated response capabilities. However, unlike SIEMs, which only aggregate data and security alerts into a centralised platform, SOARs can also resolve potential threats. This improves incident response times and SOC productivity.

One of the best things about SOARs is that they can integrate with a wide array of third-party threat feeds. However, to create security integrations, organisations need to write custom code, which means that they need access to technical experts. 

Before purchasing a SOAR, it’s important to note that, like SIEMs, many SOAR vendors bill based on how much data organisations send to the system. 

Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) uses metaphorical software bots to automate digital business processes, from HR to cybersecurity. 

Bots can replicate tasks without errors and at high speed and volume by observing how a human performs a specific rule-based and trigger-driven task in an application’s graphical user interface (GUI). 

However, while RPA can scan for vulnerabilities, run monitoring tools, and even perform basic threat mitigation, it doesn’t integrate with security tools. Additionally, installing bots can be a complex and costly project. At the same time, a rapid sequence of bot activities and network failures can result in RPA system downtime. Gartner also warns against the potential of data leakage and fraud when using bots. 

Extended Detection and Response (XDR)

XDR solutions fuse SIEM, SOAR, and other security tools and capabilities into one centrally managed solution. 

Data from different security environments are collated into a unified dashboard, where related alerts are grouped and combined into a visual attack story. Although analysts can perform manual remediation through the dashboard, most XDRs can also execute automated responses to threats. 

SenseOn: Self-Driving Cyber Defence System

SenseOn, a self-driving cyber defence platform uses machine learning AI to process alerts as a human analyst would. Rather than collecting information from multiple tools, this system analyses data from networks, endpoints, cloud, and on-premise services via a single universal sensor. 

As a result, organisations can dramatically cut down on the number of tools they use. Far simpler to deploy and operate than SOAR, RPA, or XDR, SenseOn gives organisations an easy route to powerful security automation.

What Features Should a Security Automation Platform Have?

Context-rich data

Whatever security automation platform an organisation chooses to use, it must avoid data silos. A high-quality security automation platform will unify security visibility and provide context about events, removing the need for analysts to use other platforms to triage and investigate security incidents.

Blended methods of detection

With attackers increasingly using blended attack methods to evade detection, effective security automation solutions must combine various detection methods. 

For instance, besides rules and signatures, SenseOn’s security automation platform also uses supervised and unsupervised machine learning, user and entity behavioural analysts, and detection for deception techniques. 

By taking advantage of blended detection methods, a security automation platform can ensure that threats have nowhere to hide.

Security incident prioritisation

Some security incidents are going to be inevitably more critical than others. A security automation platform should be able to determine which security issues require urgent action and which events are less pressing.

Human analyst emulation

The best security automation platforms emulate human analysts. They look at activity from different perspectives, pausing to think before determining if it’s a threat and sending alerts. 

A security automation solution should also learn from experience. For example, if SenseOn comes across a specific activity frequently, it builds a memory of that behaviour. The next time it spots that same activity, it won’t surface it as an alert unless it is linked to another suspicious behaviour. 

Centralised view

A security automation platform should also have a summary of an organisation’s entire digital estate. This allows IT teams to expose vulnerabilities easily, find ports left open, or even see what software is installed across an organisation’s estate.

Easy to deploy

The easier a security automation platform is to deploy, the sooner an organisation can use it. SenseOn is incredibly simple to install and is plug-and-play.

Security Automation with SenseOn

Security telemetry collection

SenseOn uses a low-impact software known as a “Universal Sensor” to automatically collect and correlate data from multiple layers of an organisation’s IT infrastructure, including endpoint devices (on and off the corporate network and on and off the organisation’s VPN), the network and cloud infrastructure, and any investigator microservices that give access to extra external intelligence.

IT teams can install our Universal Sensor on any of their organisation’s devices, databases, servers, and cloud environments to capture everything that’s going on within an organisation, like the behaviour of users, devices, processes, and network telemetry. 

With SenseOn’s Universal Sensor, IT teams can eliminate the need for complex security stacks and gain total visibility into the entirety of their digital estate. 

Threat investigation

Mimicking how a human analyst thinks and acts, SenseOn’s “AI Triangulation” technology automates routine threat analysis, separating innocent and malicious activity.

Anytime SenseOn notices unusual activity — for example, suspicious login activity — it records it as an “Observation.” However, rather than bringing an Observation to the attention of a human analyst in the form of an alert straight away, SenseOn uses its Universal Sensor to analyse data from multiple sources to see if any other activities relate to the Observation and, if so, how. 

Because SenseOn is not a black box solution, analysts can see the reasoning behind each decision that the platform makes. If an Observation is deemed benign, SenseOn logs it but does not surface an alert. This dramatically reduces the volume of false positives. Human analysts can then review this and other Observations at a later date. 

If SenseOn finds related Observations that have happened across endpoint devices and the network, it collects these Observations into a single threat “Case” for further investigation. SenseOn automatically prioritises Cases based on their urgency, upgrading or downgrading the severity rating based on any available information.

Every Case is represented visually, with the sequence of events broken down over time chronologically and the relationship between the impacted devices clearly mapped out. Each security Observation within the Case is also mapped to a technique from the MITRE ATT&CK framework. This makes it easier for defenders to decide on the best course of action.

With SenseOn’s Cases, security professionals can have all the related information they need to understand an issue at a glance instead of sifting through numerous alerts. This leads to some phenomenal time-saving. For instance, analysts working for an organisation with 20,000 devices will only need to spend 41 minutes a day going through all the Cases.

Threat hunting

SenseOn also simplifies advanced threat hunting for security analysts by giving security teams access to rich telemetry gathered from the corporate network and all the endpoints, plus any learned data (statistical summaries and machine learning processes uncovered by SenseOn) for better insight into the rare and unusual events uncovered by SenseOn.

The SenseOn platform lets teams perform broad searches across an organisation’s entire on-premise infrastructure (including multi-cloud and private cloud) as well as narrow searches on specific devices and users. SenseOn has a Query Library with pre-built queries to save analysts’ time.

Automated response

When SenseOn detects a critical security incident, it can automatically contain threats before they have a chance to cause disruption. 

For example, in the event of a ransomware attack, SenseOn will highlight the related Case for an urgent review and isolate any infected devices from the network to prevent the threat from spreading any further. 

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