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Automate And Orchestrate Workflows For Better Security

Security automation has become a central goal for many organizations as they try to respond faster to more threats with limited resources.

Brett Kelsey

November 4, 2016

2 Min Read

Automation has always been a big part of technology, from the earliest machines of the industrial revolution to modern robots. We have managed to greatly expand the list of devices we can automate, but these efforts are still mostly relegated to rules-based, repetitive tasks. This can be great for humans, acting as a force multiplier and leaving us those tasks that are outside the rules, requiring judgment and insight.

Cybersecurity is no stranger to the forces of automation, and it is now a central goal for many organizations as they try to respond faster to more threats with limited resources.

The next phase of automation is orchestration, stitching together automated tasks into workflows. The goal of security orchestration is not to replace the human, but to augment human skills by linking the people, processes, and technology involved to speed up detection, investigation, and response. A level of human interaction still exists, where you want the right person to see and apply judgement at the right time.

Security orchestration involves more than just security operations; it has to be aware of and even encode business processes and policies. For example, if a data loss prevention system identifies and possibly blocks an attempted data exfiltration, it may be necessary to quickly communicate with the user’s manager, human resources, or legal, not just the security department. Processes in the affected departments, their data owners, and related workloads may also need to be triggered.

Orchestration forces and encourages higher levels of communication and integration among the various components, including endpoints, data centers, clouds, and threat management. The more they can see and hear each other, the better job each one can do. Just like an orchestra cannot play with isolated musicians and instruments, security can’t effectively operate without integration.

When automating and orchestrating security, there is an initial appearance of overwhelming complexity. However, orchestration actually helps reduce complexity by identifying it in manageable chunks, forcing the development of rules and processes, and leaving the judgment-related items for humans to work on. This reduces overall load on the work force and speeds up reaction times.

In addition to these benefits, orchestration also stitches together humans. By assigning tasks to appropriate team members, it can help with skill development, training, and education. Task assignment can be broadened to include supplementary resources from other departments during periods of high demand, or assigned to junior/senior pairs during times of lower demand.

The proliferation of data and devices cannot be adequately protected from the dramatic increase in threat volume by siloed security tools and the ongoing shortage of security professionals. Automation and orchestration are the only way we are going to resolve more risks, faster, with fewer resources. 

About the Author(s)

Brett Kelsey

VP & Chief Technology Officer, Americas, Intel Security

Brett Kelsey is the VP and Chief Technology Officer for the Americas for Intel Security. In this role, he has leveraged his business and practice development, technical expertise, and innovative thought leadership to evangelize Intel Security's go-to-market strategy across key customer segments in the Americas; drive strategic customer engagements; and provide customer feedback to product engineering to help shape the direction of our technology.

Mr. Kelsey is a well-respected executive in the information technology field with a successful career spanning more than 25 years. An internationally recognized expert, he is renowned for his exceptional ability to conceptualize, develop, and implement technology strategies for government and private-sector clients across the healthcare, financial, education, telecommunications, and power industries. He offers in-depth knowledge of information security practices, including complying with state, federal, and industry regulations, standards, and laws such as HIPAA, ISO, NIST, ITIL, CoBIT, Sarbanes Oxley, and GLBA. Additionally, he has served as Chief Security Officer in several government departments and financial organizations.

While serving as CSO, he led the corporate security program, which is focused on ensuring the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of critical information and computing assets, as well as managing risk to enable positive growth for the company's business. Brett also oversaw security in development practices, research in critical infrastructure assurance, electronic discovery, physical security, and internet security research.

Prior to joining McAfee Inc., Mr. Kelsey was the VP of dervice felivery for NWN Corp. by way of the acquisition of Western Blue Corp. At NWN, he led a team of over 75 technical consultants focused on delivering complex IT solutions in information security, cloud & data center computing, virtualization, end-point management, network infrastructure, and IT application modernization.

In addition, Brett was a founding partner and principal security consultant with S3 Group and managing principal at Lucent Professional Services (formerly International Network Services) where he led numerous Fortune 500 client engagements providing comprehensive security solutions encompassing risk and vulnerability identification, risk assessment and mitigation, and security program development incorporating infrastructure recommendations, policies, procedures, and processes to protect critical information, systems, and assets.

Mr. Kelsey has been called upon as an expert high-tech crime witness and certified computer forensics investigator examiner in numerous high-profile computer hacker arrests and convictions. He has served as a member of the Cisco Systems Technical Leadership Council, the McAfee Partner Advisory Council, the Microsoft Security Advisory Council, the Computer Security Institute (CSI), the Information Systems Security Association, InfraGard, the Information Systems Audit & Control Association, and the Project Management Institute.

In addition to extensive professional development and technical training, Mr. Kelsey holds certifications as both a certified Information Security Systems Professional and Certified Information Security Auditor.

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