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Getting to Know Security Automation: Capabilities, Processes and Best Practices

Security automation enables security teams to handle a large volume of threats quickly, reducing manual effort and human error.

What is Security Automation?

The sheer scale of cyber threats, events, and incidents that security operations centers face daily has skyrocketed.  

Security automation brings together tools, technologies, and playbooks to automate repetitive and time-consuming security tasks, allowing security teams to focus on more strategic and complex activities. 

Signs that your organization may need security automation include overstretched teams and incomplete investigations, highly repetitive tasks consuming valuable time, inefficiencies due to manual workflows across multiple security tools, and the management of multiple tools with unique workflows. 

Benefits of Security Automation

Automation works in harmony with the skills and expertise of your team, empowering them to make more informed decisions and enhancing their overall effectiveness.  

Security operations centers that use security automation streamline threat containment, investigation and remediation, normalize data for more accurate insights, and enable quicker response times. 

Streamlining Threat Investigation and Remediation 

Automation speeds up identifying and verifying potential threats, enabling faster response times and reducing the risk of delays or oversight. 

Normalizing Data and Telemetry Across Security Tools 

By automating data normalization, you pave the way for effective alert orchestration, ensuring that all data is organized and structured consistently, leading to more accurate and meaningful insights. 

Reducing MTTR with Quicker Response Actions 

Organizations can decrease mean time to respond (MTTR) and the dwell time of the potentially malicious activity with response actions include isolating compromised systems, patching vulnerabilities, blocking malicious domains/IPs, and more. 

Security Automation Tool Capabilities

Security automation capabilities include coordinating workflows and executing repetitive tasks on a large scale and at high speeds.  

It starts by automating low-impact response actions like vulnerability patching, blocking malicious domains, resetting user credentials, and data restoration from backups.  

Here are other examples of security automation that can allow security operation centers and teams to focus on more advanced tasks that require human intelligence and cognitive skills. 

Reduce Alert Fatigue

Incident Detection  

Use of machine-learning to analyze data logs and identify abnormalities or patterns of suspicious activity and flag them for further investigation.  

Alert Triage 

Automatic de-duplication, correlation, and prioritization of tickets based on their severity level or other criteria, reduce alert noise and allow your team to focus on the most critical alerts.  

Speed Up Investigation

Alert Enrichment  

Automated collection and analysis of threat intelligence from internal and external sources for enriched threat alerting, quicker investigations and proactive identification of risks.  

Vulnerability Management  

Automatically scan for available patches, deploy to affected systems, and verify installation. This reduces the chance of human error and ensures timely patching.  

Remediation Actions

User Notifications 

Automated user notifications can be integrated into existing workflows or incident management systems. Integration enables notifications to be captured, tracked, and escalated seamlessly. Users can acknowledge, respond, or escalate notifications directly within the system or application.  

Response Playbooks 

Automated, predefined incident response processes for standardized investigations and mitigation attempts allow your team to take faster containment and remediation actions. 

Enterprises are overwhelmed with security tools and the complexity they create.

Can automation knit them together to improve threat visibility and accelerate response?

Automating Security Processes

Standardized actions can empower organizations to streamline their security operations, it’s important for organizations to define these actions based on their specific security requirements and continuously refine them to align with evolving threat landscapes and environments.

Examples of standardized actions that security automation can handle based on playbooks, which help streamline workflows:

Malware Detection and Response

  • Upon detection of malware, isolate the affected system(s) from the network. 
  • Collect relevant forensics data from the infected system(s) for analysis. 
  • Trigger an automated malware scan and remediation process on the affected system(s). 
  • Notify the incident response team and initiate a predefined incident response plan. 

Phishing Detection and Response

  • Extract and analyze the email headers of incoming emails to identify suspicious or spoofed sender information. 
  • Automatically perform reputation checks on URLs and domains contained within incoming emails. 
  • Parse and analyze the content of incoming emails to identify phishing indicators. 
  • Automatically move the email to a quarantine folder or disable access to it. 
Phishing Response Automation

Vulnerability Management

  • Automatically prioritize vulnerabilities based on severity, business criticality, and exploitability. 
  • Initiate an automated patch management process for identified vulnerabilities. 
  • Quarantine or isolate vulnerable systems until they are remediated. 
  • Monitor the vulnerability status and provide regular reports on the progress of remediation efforts. 

Insider Threat Detection

  • Detect and flag suspicious user activities, such as large data exfiltration or unauthorized access attempts. 
  • Trigger a user account lockout or temporary access suspension upon detection of abnormal behavior. 
  • Collect and analyze user activity logs for further investigation. 
  • Notify the appropriate stakeholders, such as HR or the security team, of potential insider threat incidents. 

Incident Response

  • Triaging alerts and determining their criticality using predefined criteria. 
  • Automatically containing and isolating affected systems to prevent further damage. 
  • Initiating automated forensic data collection and analysis for incident investigation. 
  • Notifying relevant stakeholders, such as management and legal teams, about an incident. 

Types of Security Automation Tools

Security automation tools are designed to help organizations streamline and enhance their cybersecurity workflows.  

They automate tasks such as incident response, threat detection, vulnerability management, and information gathering.  

These tools leverage technologies like AI, machine learning, and orchestration to automate activities. 

Security Operations Platforms

A security operation platform includes AI-driven analysis capabilities to automate the investigation and collection of data related to an alert.  

Platforms using AI can automate data collection relevant to incoming alerts, automatically aggregate artifacts from various security technologies (SIEM, EDR, etc.), and normalize the data using a universal query language. 

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) Tools

EDRs use advanced analytics and machine learning algorithms to proactively search for threats. They can automatically analyze large volumes of data, identify patterns, and detect anomalies that may indicate a compromise. 

In terms of incident response, EDR tools can automatically gather and analyze data from affected endpoints, prioritize incidents based on severity, and provide actionable insights for security analysts.  

They can also integrate with other security tools, such as SIEM and SOAR platforms, to streamline the response process.   

Threat Intelligence Platforms

Threat intelligence platforms can automatically gather threat data from various sources, such as open-source intelligence, commercial feeds, and internal sources.

Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) Platforms

SOAR platforms automate and orchestrate security operations processes, especially response actions. 

It integrates with some security tools like firewalls and intrusion detection systems to automatically trigger responses based on predefined rules, workflows, or playbooks. 

Extended Detection and Response (XDR) Platforms

XDR provides an integrated approach to security automation by combining multiple security capabilities into a single platform. Security automation tools typically focus on specific areas such as security orchestration and response, vulnerability management, or threat intelligence. XDR encompasses a broader range of functionalities. It combines endpoint detection and response (EDR), network security analytics, threat intelligence, and incident response, among other capabilities. 

Security Automation Best Practices

Identify Time-Consuming, Low-Value Tasks

Examine IT and security operations to find tasks that take up too much time, are monotonous, but don’t require advanced qualifications. These tasks hinder cyber analysis every day. 

Begin with the Simple Tasks 

By automating the simple, time-consuming tasks, like querying technologies or resetting passwords, you can achieve quick wins and a better Mean Time to Resolve (MTTR).  

Leverage Existing Tools to Automate Security Procedures

Discover methods to utilize the capabilities of your team and leverage the technological investments you have already.   

Prepare for Changes in Standard Operating Procedures 

Be prepared to modify the way your team approaches certain tasks, reallocate physical resources, and change operating procedures for individuals who will be significantly impacted once automation is deployed within your environment.   

What to Consider When Automating Tasks

  • What’s the effectiveness of the automation? Does it ensure an immediate and effective countermeasure to prevent further damage of an ongoing threat? 
  • Will it free up time? Is the automation a routine and well-established task that humans usually take?  
  • Does the automation impact productivity or service delivery? Will it maintain operational efficiency while addressing threats? 
  • Is the automated response within the organization’s acceptable risk parameters and overall cybersecurity strategy?  
  • Can you reverse the automated action if the initial detection is incorrect or circumstances change? 

ReliaQuest GreyMatter for Security Automation

ReliaQuest GreyMatter automates security operations, including low-brain high-time tasks, alert enrichment with threat intel and correlated artifacts, investigation workflows, response playbooks, to avoid team burnout and accelerate threat response.

GreyMatter's security operations platform dashboard