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.