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Is automation the key to tackling escalating security threats?

(Image credit: Image Credit: Cordis Technology)

The daily obstacles security teams are confronted with are constantly proliferating. Expanding IT networks within organisations are presenting larger windows for attackers, and adversaries are therefore becoming increasingly persistent and pervasive. Faced with complex challenges, security teams are struggling to find the time and resources to manage them all.

It’s certain that if organisations are to optimise their cybersecurity, more needs to be done to help teams keep up with the ever-evolving threat ecosystem. The solution? Automation. 

The escalating threat landscape

For today’s enterprises, security imperatives are clear. When organisations are hit with security breaches and failed compliance audits, the damages are far reaching. To further stir the pot, virtually everything else security and operations teams contend with changes and evolves. Now, these teams are confronting several trends that make their jobs more difficult: more sophisticated and persistent attacks; proliferating vulnerabilities; expanding attack surfaces; and misconfigured resources in the public cloud.

What’s more, with the majority of businesses now migrating to the cloud, it’s vital that they extend security procedures to cover this. Responsibility for securing cloud-stored data lies internally, and therefore teams must adopt new and improved processes to evade the escalating risk of cloud security failure.

Meanwhile, breaches and non-compliance come with serious consequences such as fines, reputation damage and loss of revenue. If organisations are to succeed, security teams need to be constantly vigilant as a simple mistake can have a devastating impact on the business.

The cybersecurity skills gap is likewise posing huge challenges to security teams. Most organisations are facing an acute shortage of security savvy staff. Expert security professionals are hard to find, hard to hire, and hard to keep.

With a shortage of security experts in the industry, organisations are in constant competition to find and retain top talent, leading to shortages within teams. What’s worse is that while staff time is precious, teams continue to be saddled with manual, labuor-intensive vulnerability management methods and tools. From running vulnerability scans to mapping vulnerabilities to assets and patches, prioritising remediation efforts, obtaining the required fix, and implementing the changes needed, these tasks are often all done manually.

Employees are stretched to the limit while juggling mounting manual tasks, meaning that proactive security operations are proving difficult. Teams simply cannot keep up. As a result, security procedures are becoming more reactive, with inefficient approaches being put in place in attempt to stay on top of the growing threat landscape.

Implications of unaddressed vulnerabilities

When left unaddressed, vulnerabilities heighten the risk of exposure to cyberattacks and security threats, bringing major consequences for businesses.

Even when these vulnerabilities are known to security and operations teams, time limitations often mean that teams lack the capacity to sufficiently apply the right patches. Amongst organisations that had suffered breaches, it’s possible that a strong percentage of those were a result of a known vulnerability being left without a patch.

What’s more, human judgment can result in unintentional errors, leading to vulnerabilities and exposure within internal systems. As teams come under increasing pressure, it’s unsurprising that errors occur as poorly executed changes have resulted in unplanned downtime. 

Tackling threats with automation

Adopting automation is therefore a vital step for strained security and operations teams. By replacing manual efforts with automated processes, teams could streamline their efforts and successfully and securely deal with emerging threats, in addition to alleviating their workload.

For example, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) security models can automate security updates, while reducing maintenance and operations costs. Likewise, automated security solutions can detect missing patches in hybrid cloud environments and take the necessary steps to deploy the correct patches and configuration changes to close these exposures. In addition, to ensure effective alignment with today’s hybrid realities, teams need solutions that offer cloud-based implementation, while enabling automated management of on-premises data centers and multi-clouds. Look for solutions that offer container-based deployment, which fosters easy installation, configuration, and upgrading.

Easy integration is another key benefit brought by automation deployment. To maximise their efficiency, automated tools should seamlessly integrate with other existing systems to manage change and streamline operations. This integration should likewise cover the detection of vulnerabilities – with automated vulnerability discovery, organisations can gain visibility to blind spots that need to be made secure. 

Security and operations teams need a unified approach to managing automation of security and compliance across their organisation’s entire hybrid cloud footprint, including on-premises servers, networks, and public cloud environments. Solutions should offer support for a range of environments and technologies, including AWS, Azure, Google Cloud Platform, Docker, and Kubernetes. In addition, to ensure effective alignment with today’s hybrid realities, teams need solutions that offer cloud-based implementation, while enabling automated management of on-premises data centres and multi-clouds. Look for solutions that offer container-based deployment, which fosters easy installation, configuration, and upgrading.

To manage automation optimally, advanced analytics and intelligence are needed to map vulnerabilities to the resources exposed, the required corrective action (patch or configuration change), help set priorities, and track vulnerabilities within the context of SLAs. When analysing vulnerabilities, teams should also be able to gain instantaneous visibility into which applications and services are at risk.

All around advantages – from security to productivity

Through automated solutions, teams can optimise their security procedures and reap the rewards of automated vulnerability management. With a strengthened security posture, both protection and compliance, as well as overall efficiency, will be improved.

Furthermore, within short-staffed teams, automation is essential as it will offload time consuming manual tasks. Instead of focusing on general upkeep and security housekeeping, employees can shift their efforts towards forward-thinking improvements and innovation. Not only will this boost productivity, but it will result in improved employee morale and increase employee retention.

When faced with these evident benefits, it’s no surprise that automation is fast becoming the ultimate go-to for security teams across the industry. By selecting an automated solution that can maximise integration, unification and compliance, teams can ensure optimal all-round security while focusing on driving the business in the right direction.

Paul Cant, EMEA Vice President, BMC Software

Paul Cant
Paul Cant, Vice President EMEA at BMC Software has been at the organisation since 2010, holding 25 years of enterprise software growth for underperforming companies, providing them with transformational opportunities.