The CISO’s 2018 Resolution: Security Orchestration and Automation

It’s that time of the year again when we set resolutions to create better communities and selves. Many of us will resolve to do more and to do better, and, for a time, we will.  With most resolutions, however, human nature inevitably sets in.  We fall back to our old habits, while that new treadmill starts to gather a layer of dust.

Why are resolutions so hard to keep?  Psychologists and sociologists have a lot of theories, but if we look at the obvious, it’s because they are usually focused on things we’re not good at.   Whether it’s skipping dessert, coming home from work earlier, or calling your mother more often – resolutions are all things that take muscle memory and practice.

Security response works the same way.  Despite massive investment, it still takes an average of 191 days to detect a threat and another 66 to contain it.  We know vulnerabilities will need to be patched, but today it takes significant research to determine which ones have the highest potential to impact your company.  At the same time, security teams are overwhelmed and understaffed, and the shortage of qualified security personnel is only expected to increase.  In 2018, we need to make security work better to reduce the almost-daily cascade of breaches we saw in 2017.

We know what we need to do.  More importantly, we now have the tools and approaches to do it.  Gartner recently published a report calling on leaders to consider investing in Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) technologies.  Gartner predicts that “by the end of 2020, 15% of organizations with a security team larger than five people will leverage SOAR tools for orchestration and automation reasons, up from less than 1% today*.”

Gartner goes on to say that “SOAR supports multiple activities for security operations decision making such as: prioritizing security operations activities; formalizing triage and incident response; and automating containment workflows.”*

Source: Gartner (November 2017)

I agree; and in my experience these benefits can have enormous business impact for clients.  Let’s look at each one in turn.

  1. Prioritizing operations activities. SOAR technologies should combine numerous data inputs from security detection tools, threat intel feeds, third party data sources, and the IT asset database to identify not only where there is a threat – but its risk compared to others in the queue.
  2. Formalizing triage and incident response. With SOAR, everyone can be a superhero, not just a select few.  Through playbooks and pre-defined workflows, ServiceNow can help any analyst more quickly assess and begin to remediate security incidents based on best practices.  This is critical as we continue to face shortages for security skills in 2018 and beyond.
  3. Automating workflows: Use SOAR technologies to automate the first, repeatable (and often mundane) steps in containment and analysis. Then the analyst can make a decision based on the automated investigation.  Not only does this significantly speed time to resolution, it frees up analysts to work on more complex issues.
  4. Creating transparency and a common business language –– ok, I added this one… but great SOAR tools should also give the CISO and SOC director unprecedented transparency to all aspects of the security environment. Through dashboards and visualization techniques, CISOs will be more easily able to communicate with senior management which vulnerabilities and threats exist and the risks of inaction.

In 2018, improving security response is a resolution you can keep.  In fact, it may even free up enough time for you to keep your resolution to get to the gym more often, too.

*Gartner Innovation Insight for Security Orchestration, Automation and Response, Claudio Neiva, Craig Lawson, Toby Bussa, Gorka Sadowki, 30 November 2017.

 

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Sean Convery
Sean Convery is vice president and general manager of the ServiceNow security business unit, responsible for delivering solutions that help organizations improve their security posture and team effectiveness. Prior to joining ServiceNow, he was vice president of product management at MobileIron, where he led strategy for the mobile security leader’s core products. Earlier in his career, Convery spent time at Cisco in security-focused product and architecture leadership roles. He also served as Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Identity Engines, a startup focused in the then emerging role-based access control market.

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