Enterprises increasingly depend on security automation and orchestration to help them keep up with the growing volume of cyberthreats. But at the same time, backlash is growing against the vendor marketing trope that security automation is the answer to bridging the cybersecurity skills gap.
According to a Dark Reading survey conducted earlier this year, just 45% of organizations report that their security teams are fully staffed, and only 33% say they're armed with the right mix of skills they need to meet the threats coming in the next year. More startlingly, 14% of those surveyed say there are plenty of skilled cybersecurity workers available to fill the ranks. Meantime, the latest Global Information Security Workforce Study from (ISC)2 says we'll be facing a shortfall of security workers of 1.8 million by 2022.
And those are just a sampling of the skills shortage metrics. There are plenty more where these came from.
The reflexive answer from many in the industry is, "Well, let's just automate our way out of this problem!" But security leaders on the front line of enterprise defense are stepping forward with more frequency to poke holes in that simplistic solution. The latest evidence of this comes by way of a study out this week from Ponemon Institute and Juniper Networks.
The study shows that, yes, 64% of organizations believe security automation can increase the productivity of their security personnel. And 60% believe automated correlation of threat behavior is essential to addressing the volume of threats today.
But at the same time, respondents' answers indicate that automation isn't going to solve the team-building problem. In fact, those hiring issues are making it difficult for many organizations to effectively leverage security automation. The study shows only 35% of organizations say their organizations have the in-house skills to effectively use security automation for responding to threats.
"Automation will do anything but close the cybersecurity staffing gap," says Druva CISO Drew Nelson. "Apply automation to security, and you are in a catch-22. Any tasks that are automated are likely to be simple, with defined start and end points. Any 'remaining items' are going to be left over for the security staff to carry out. Arguably, these are going to be the more painful and arduous tasks that are repetitive in nature but require deep technical and domain knowledge."
Not only are the incident response and risk mitigation tasks left behind by automation more likely to require a more skilled responder to deal with, but getting automation properly set up also is an issue. More than half of organizations say they're unable to recruit knowledgeable or skilled personnel to deploy their security automation tools. It also often requires a lot of in-the-field experience to identify and codify the processes to be automated within any given organization. And then there is the issue of integration. The study shows that 63% of organizations report difficulties integrating their security automation technology and tools with existing systems.
"While the desire to automate is understandable, the process of setting up the automation can be incredibly complex and resource-draining," says Tim Helming, director of product management at DomainTools, which recently sponsored a different Ponemon Institute survey out last month that offered up similar results as this most recent study. That research concluded that automation is actually exacerbating rather than helping the skills shortage problem.
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