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Security automation can help IT teams limit cyberattack risks

(Image credit: Image Credit: B-lay)

Cybersecurity threats have become a grim reality for businesses today. Due to wide-scale digitisation efforts, companies now store customers' personal and financial information making their systems prime targets for cybercriminals to breach. These kinds of data can easily be sold on the black market. Their rising prices make cyberattacks quite profitable.

Companies are also subject to other types of attacks such as ransomware and extortion. Unlike ordinary users, they are the ones likely to spend and pay the ransom in order to avoid downtime or recover critical work products. The FBI estimates an average of 4,000 ransomware attacks daily since 2016.

Many of these threats are automated. Malware like Mirai and Reaper have hijacked hundreds of thousands of devices to make them part of botnets capable of carrying out massive distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on other networks. These malware run using pre-programmed rules that exploit the most common vulnerabilities of network devices.

Companies are now under pressure to cope with these threats. Each stolen record costs companies $148 to deal with. A data breach, even to a company holding a few thousand records, can mean a total loss worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Falling victim to a DDoS attack could also cost larger enterprises at least $2.5 million in damages or downtime.

IT teams now have their work cut out for them. Most are already feeling the strain of having to implement further digitisation in the workplace including the adoption of new technologies such as cloud computing, Internet-of-Things (IoT), and big data. Managing security is an added responsibility for them. Fortunately, there are also developments in cybersecurity and IT management automation that could help ease the pressure.

Automating security

Attacks are becoming largely automated forcing security solutions to provide multiple layers of defence. Basic forms of automation in IT management could already greatly help in keeping networks and infrastructure secure.

For example, automated payload deployment and software patching could help keep endpoint software and firmware up-to-date. Outdated software continues to be one of the leading causes of breaches as attackers exploit known vulnerabilities of older software. Patches and updates are designed to plug these holes.

Services that provide basic layers of defence such as Cloud Management Suite (CMS) can be used to automate updates and patching. Automation tools can significant boost IT teams’ efficiency and decrease risks especially if enterprises have hundreds of devices connected to their networks. For instance, CMS automatically scans developer releases for software and firmware updates and deploys them to target machines. IT teams can also remotely administer devices over the cloud. They can even secure IoT devices which have now become fashionable in a number of workplaces.

The use of cloud-based security services can also automate certain security tasks. Security platforms like Akamai and Imperva, for instance, constantly update their rules and blacklists to mitigate emerging threats. Once these services are integrated to their respective networks, companies are immediately protected from both new and known sources of malicious traffic thanks to updated threat databases.

Benefits of automation

Here are some of the common benefits of automation.

Augments IT teams’ capacity. There is a shortage of capable IT talent in the job market right now which forces companies to make do with limited IT team personnel. Automated solutions help IT teams operate more efficiently and effectively by taking over time-consuming tasks. Using cloud-based services also essentially allow companies to outsource their work and expertise requirement, filling the skills gap in case it exists.

Allows IT teams to focus on high-value activities. The time saved through these automation efforts could free up IT teams to allocate their energies to monitoring and other threat mitigation and response tasks. Threats could come from various sources including internal lapses so IT teams even have to take on the task of educating fellow staff concerning best practices in security.

Minimises risk of human error. Automation can also help minimise the possibility of injecting human error into security tasks. Phishing emails, which try to trick recipients into clicking links to malware, are among the common ways office networks get compromised. Phishing emails are becoming more sophisticated making manual reviews more challenging. Automated tools could easily weed out such emails from company servers.

Improvements needed

Unlike in other areas, security automation is only starting to gain traction meaning there are still kinks that have to be ironed out.

For instance, it is possible for automated solutions to be too stringent. Firewalls might block legitimate traffic and threat detection mechanisms might report back false positives.  Such episodes could hamper user experience and productivity.

Tasks such as endpoint management, monitoring, and response could also benefit from orchestration. Many of the available services are currently offered by different providers. Integrations across these services are limited. Having an orchestration layer that could merge these services into customisable workflows would be ideal since companies and organisations typically have their own way of doing things.

Giving IT teams a fighting chance

IT teams must be able to hold their ground against the rampant threats they face. Most threats are now automated, so automating security would give IT teams a fighting chance to cope with these challenges.

While no system is full-proof yet, automation frees IT teams from typical tedious tasks so they can then refocus their energies towards other high-value activities. Having more ways to mitigate risks empowers IT teams to be better guardians of companies’ IT data and resources.

Image Credit: B-lay