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Editor’s note: This is part one of a series on applying automation to security operations.
Cyber attacks pose severe threats that require an effective defense strategy and automation plays a critical role in combating them. Security automation enables rapid and accurate responses, enhances efficiency, reduces errors, and boosts the scalability of security operations. However, it’s rarely adopted because organizations lack clarity on when and where to apply automation.
This blog series aims to offer security practitioners, incident responders, and cybersecurity leaders a practical approach to implementing automation in their operations. By simply integrating automation into their response playbooks, organizations can strengthen their defenses against malicious attacks, shorten response times, and empower their security teams to stay one step ahead of clever adversaries.
A cybersecurity playbook serves as the foundation for a well-prepared security operations team. It comprises a comprehensive set of guidelines, procedures, and best practices, meticulously designed to equip teams with the necessary strategy to respond effectively to common cyber threats, such as phishing, malware or ransomware, and credential compromise. Within a playbook, you’ll find crucial elements like clearly defined roles and responsibilities, communication protocols, documentation procedures, and channels for receiving valuable feedback. While these items are undeniably important, the heart of a well-constructed cybersecurity playbook lies in its three pivotal phases: containment, investigation, and remediation.
These phases collectively form a structured framework for incident response, ensuring that organizations can promptly and effectively minimize the impact of incoming attacks. But here’s the game-changer—integrating automation into each of these phases significantly elevates an organization’s capacity to respond quickly, consistently, and efficiently when dealing with these attacks.
In the sections that follow, we will delve into automation and offer insightful strategies and guidelines tailored to each of the critical playbook phases.
The containment phase in a playbook represents the critical first line of defense against threats—it’s where the battle against potential breaches truly begins. This phase is all about isolating and limiting the impact of a security incident as soon as it’s detected. The containment phase is vital to minimizing damage caused by a breach, preventing it from spreading like wildfire through your organization’s systems and data, which safeguards your organization’s reputation, customer trust, and financial well-being. Given that threats can materialize in seconds, the containment phase is arguably the most important phase to automate.
After successfully halting the ongoing threat, the subsequent step is to conduct a thorough investigation, enabling informed decisions for the next course of action. The investigation phase delves deep into the incident, providing an analyst with the full scope and impact of an attack. Gathering detailed information is crucial for deciding the most appropriate response and taking steps to mitigate potential damage. Applying automation to this phase allows for rapid analysis, uncovering dormant threats and other critical information that provides valuable context and enables timely decision-making.
If the investigation phase reveals a confirmed threat, the remediation phase is where recovery and prevention efforts are concentrated. It involves removing threats, restoring affected systems, and implementing measures to prevent similar incidents in the future. Automation accelerates the remediation process, ensuring that threats are swiftly addressed. It also brings a systematic and consistent approach to recovery, reducing the risk of lingering vulnerabilities or incomplete remediation. This strengthens an organization’s cybersecurity posture and minimizes the potential for recurring incidents in the future.
While automation offers tremendous benefits, it’s crucial to approach this transformation thoughtfully and strategically—it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. These insights will help you understand the key considerations that should guide your decision-making process when choosing to automate these critical components of your incident response strategy:
To mitigate the risks associated with false positives, apply automated responses only to detections with 80%+ true-positive rates.
Note: Follow the risk tolerance of the organization. If an 80% true-positive rate is too low, adjust to a higher percentage. Ensure the threat intelligence used to generate detections are of high fidelity, current, and from diverse sources.
Choose a set of response actions to automate based on the answers to the questions below:
The power of automation is undeniable—however, it’s important for organizations to adopt and apply it appropriately to respond swiftly, accurately, and effectively to an array of threats. This blog sets the foundation for a practical approach to security automation, emphasizing its role within the cybersecurity playbook’s three pivotal phases: containment, investigation, and remediation. But this is just the beginning.
In the forthcoming blogs in this series, we’ll dive even deeper into the specifics of automation, focusing on the practical implementation of automating response playbooks to common cyber threats like phishing, malware and ransomware, and credential compromise. We’ll explore the strategies, best practices, and real-world examples that will equip your organization to stand resilient against these threats. Stay tuned for our upcoming blogs and unlock the full potential of security automation in your organization.
To witness the power of automation in action, reach out to us to request a demo of the ReliaQuest GreyMatter security operations platform, which applies automation across various cybersecurity playbooks.
Get a live demo of our security operations platform, GreyMatter, and learn how you can improve visibility, reduce complexity, and manage risk in your organization.