April 15, 2020 By Jamie Cowper 4 min read

One of the biggest challenges facing security teams when it comes to incident response is complexity. The continual growth in volume and severity of cyberattacks has led to increased business process and technical complexity as different threat vectors have required security leaders to purchase point solutions with unique user interfaces, custom APIs and business logic.

According to a recent Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) study, 35 percent of organizations use 26 or more disparate technologies for security analytics and operations from as many as 13 vendors. Although there have been more efforts by the industry to integrate security tools into a wider framework, this is often very vendor-specific, leaving the burden firmly on the security team. This, in turn, results in manual processes, increasing the room for error and slowing response times. In fact, only 23 percent of organizations cite significant use of automation tools to respond to security incidents, according to a Ponemon Institute report.

This increased sophistication of cyberattacks and data breaches — and the elevated business risk that comes with them — means that incident response is not a problem that can be addressed by security alone. A data privacy breach, for example, may involve security, IT, privacy, legal and PR teams. Challenges facing security teams are no longer confined to security, and thus, require more collaboration with IT and other parts of the organization.

At the same time, the entire IT department is facing similar challenges around complexity: an increase in hybrid multicloud environments, existing and outdated legacy applications, and a lack of integration and standards. This leads to increasing pressure on IT staff, who may be doing manual tasks while being expected to respond quickly. The only way to keep pace with today’s ever-changing IT environment and cyberattacks with speed and scale is through automation and standards.

Automation and Open Source Are Driving Growth in DevOps

The growth in DevOps has been a response to the need to accelerate software development and delivery to meet these rapidly changing use cases and deployment environments. A key principle of DevOps has been to break down the silos between development, quality assurance (QA) and operations in order to facilitate cross-functional communication, reducing time to market and improving software quality. Central to this shift to DevOps has been automation: “Automate everything” is the basis for much of this work.

In order to make automation scalable across applications, cloud services and development environments, the industry has looked to open-source technologies as a way of driving community participation and collaboration. An example of this is Ansible, an open-source community project sponsored by Red Hat. This approach has worked well to address scale and interoperability concerns in DevOps. As a result, Ansible is the most popular open-source automation tool on GitHub, with more than 4 million downloads in February and 6,800 contributors developing and sharing additional automation modules to cover new and evolving use cases.

Automation Is Critical to Accelerate Incident Response Times

The security industry is also working on incorporating automation as well. The past few years have seen a growth in security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR) technologies. In the Market Guide for Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) Solutions, published in June 2019, Gartner predicted that “by year-end 2022, 30 percent of organizations with a security team larger than five people will leverage SOAR tools in their security operations, up from less than 5 percent today.”

This growth is driven by the need to accelerate incident response and minimize the business risk associated with cybersecurity incidents. SOAR platforms assist security teams by automating responses, standardizing processes and integrating with existing security tools. By better aligning case management workflows, organizations can speed up threat investigations, increase the productivity of staff and allow for better collaboration.

Open Source Helps Reduce Complexity Through Interoperability

With the growth in automation for security use cases comes some of the same challenges of scale and interoperability that DevOps faces. That is, the need to integrate with an increasing number of security and IT applications, services and endpoints to both retrieve relevant security information and trigger processes and commands to speed up incident remediation.

One industry initiative to help improve this interoperability challenge is the Open Cybersecurity Alliance (OCA), launched in late 2019. The purpose of the OCA is to develop and promote sets of open-source common content, code, tooling, patterns and practices to maximize interoperability and the sharing of data among cybersecurity tools. This industry working group, co-founded by IBM Security and McAfee, now includes more than 25 member organizations and is pushing forward to bring its work into the open-source realm.

Another way to bring together the world of DevOps and security teams today is by integrating the current generation of SOAR solutions with existing IT automation frameworks. One benefit here is that security teams can quickly add existing, pre-approved automations into their security playbooks. Another is that security and the wider business now have a standard way of sharing best practices across IT and security automation use cases.

An example of this is around securing cloud services. A very common security problem exists around poorly configured Amazon S3 cloud storage buckets, which can then expose confidential data to external parties. This can also be true of other cloud platforms as well. By integrating a SOAR tool with an existing DevOps automation tool, such as the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, it is possible to query and even update the configuration of common cloud services through existing automation modules, rather than having to create new integrations.

By linking security and DevOps use cases through common automation practices, security teams can better scale their ability to respond quickly and effectively to security incidents across a range of different technologies and deployment scenarios.

To learn more about how security automation and an open-source approach is helping organizations reduce incident response times, join us for our upcoming webinar, where security experts from IBM and Red Hat will provide an overview of how security teams can leverage IBM Security SOAR and the Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform to automate and respond to security incidents beyond security and across the entire IT organization.

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