The Time to Automate Security is Now

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Freeing up time to get away from fighting fires should be a huge priority.

Cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving. Unfortunately, federal IT teams often find themselves low on resources, which means being proactive to combat them is a pipe dream. So how can leadership focus on strengthening their agency’s security posture when they spend all of their time putting out fires instead of spearheading new projects? Automation software promises to give IT teams back some of that valuable time, but many in the federal space have been slow to adopt.

Here we outline three key benefits of automation that agencies should consider when they look to improve their security workflow.

Remediation

Automation is invaluable when leveraging machine learning to increase the range of threat signatures your software can detect, but it’s during threat remediation that automation really begins to shine. Once events on a network have been correlated and presented as a potential threat, a decision point arises: What comes next? Is the associated endpoint quarantined? Should connectivity be reduced?

Some form of remediation at this juncture is inevitable and will often require coordination from multiple teams. Remediation may affect the data center team, require action on the part of a network team, and require approval from the agency’s change management. But actions that involve that many moving pieces will inevitably take far too long to push through. And when security is at stake, every moment counts.

When you bring automation into the mix, you begin to standardize response protocol, including the chain of events and the approval process—potentially reducing that crucial Time To Remediation, or TTR, stat in an unprecedented way. Where some actions would traditionally need to go through a lengthy process—including multiple actors and potentially a review board—automation allows all stakeholders to agree on that action in advance, streamlining the entire operation.

Fatigue

Much of the work IT professionals are tasked with is in danger of becoming overly repetitive. But repetition is, on one hand, a misuse of valuable time, and on the other, an easy path to human error. Comfort, in this case, leads to laziness. Often times it’s precisely the moment we’ve become comfortable with a task that we stop paying attention to it.

It is human nature to simplify, but when it comes to network security, simple is not always better. When introducing new devices to the network, it may be tempting to lump them together in one security context, even if some are user-based while others are internet-of-things endpoints. Automation can help streamline lengthy configuration processes by prebuilding the way these endpoints are entered into different security contexts.

Repetition takes valuable time and increases the chance of human error. Building a script need only happen once. If built correctly, it will have reliable results every time it’s put to use.

Free Time

Agency IT teams find themselves confronted by never-ending to-do lists. They don’t have time to evaluate, implement, and learn new technologies—which is incredibly self-defeating. When an agency doesn’t have time to advance its approach, it begins to recede, and its mission degrades. Freeing up time to get away from fighting fires should be a huge priority.

Automation allows agencies to shift their focus to the work that will make a real impact: evaluating the complexity of the network, streamlining data storage, getting in front of requirements like virtualization and cloud, just to name a few.

Suddenly you get to be in charge of that to-do list, and it becomes much more manageable.

Setting these every day, repetitive tasks to be predictably self-running fundamentally changes the job of the IT professional. Innovation and decision-making take on a higher value. The big-picture is emphasized, and less time is spent in the weeds. It grants IT the time to create a more secure, more flexible network enabling the agency’s mission to expand.

Greg Foster is an infrastructure solutions practice manager at Force 3.