Can Cyber Security Automation Help Stop Ransomware?
With the surge in ransomware over the past few years, there has also been a surge in cybersecurity costs. The majority of companies have been hit by ransomware attacks by now, and being lax with cybersecurity is no longer an option. To cut down on costs, many organizations are turning to cyber security automation methods like security content automation protocols (SCAPs) or security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR). Network security automation itself requires some investments, so before deciding to use it, it’s important to understand what it is and what it can (and can’t) do.
What is cyber security automation?
Cybersecurity automation refers to automating any cybersecurity function so that it no longer requires direct human attention. This can be accomplished with simple programs that send alerts when they detect certain kinds of activities. It can also involve more complex algorithms and AI. It’s not currently possible to completely automate cybersecurity, but it can reduce the amount of work needed for cybersecurity professionals and make them more effective at detecting and fighting threats.
What are the advantages of security automation?
There are several advantages to cyber security automation.
- Increase speed. When it comes to ransomware attacks, one of the biggest advantages of cyber security automation is speed. Dealing with ransomware hackers is often a race against time— the sooner the threat is detected, the less damage the hackers can do.
- Reduce attack depth. The deeper the hackers penetrate into a network, the more of a company or organization will be affected, the higher the average ransom demand will be, and the longer down time will be. With larger companies, every hour of downtime can mean millions of dollars worth of losses, so every minute, and sometimes every second, counts.
- Reduce post-breach recovery cost. Some research found that companies that use automation need approximately $2.7 million USD to recover from a breach. Those that don’t use it spent an average of $6.7 million. For this reason, around 95% of organizations deploy some form of cybersecurity automation.
- Decrease operating costs. Even if you don’t get hit by a cyber attack, you will still have cybersecurity expenses, and automation can help lower these expenses. Automation can handle some tasks like installing updates, managing backups, and detecting and prioritizing threats. This can lower the number of full-time cybersecurity staff needed.
- Improve morale. Aside from saving money, automating mind-numbing tasks can help to prevent burnout and improve working conditions for cybersecurity staff.
- Digital forensics. In the aftermath of an attack, security automation can help to determine the cause and the anatomy of the ransomware attack. This could be very useful, because in many cases it’s possible to restore from backup, but only after you know how an attacker gained access.
How does it work?
Cybersecurity automation takes many different forms. Depending on budget and staff capabilities, automation could be very minimal, or could handle multiple complex tasks. One of the most common types of automation is security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR). This mainly handles threat and vulnerability detection, incident response, and security operation management.
SOAR consists of software tools which aggregate system data into one stream, and then monitor the network to detect unauthorized activity. This is the “orchestration” part, since all of the information is “orchestrated” into a usable form.
Automation can actually be part of orchestration in different ways, including managing user access and activity logs. It can also automate other tasks— for example, if malware is detected, automation tools can upload it to a database to determine what the threat is, and then submit a report to the system administrator. The admin can then decide if it’s a serious threat that requires immediate action or not.
Response automation means that when a threat or software vulnerability is detected, steps are taken to mitigate or stop it. This capability needs to have some intelligence— if network access was frozen anytime malware was detected, it would be a real nuisance, but if a serious threat is detected it could save millions of dollars. A good response automation will be able to distinguish between minor and major threats and respond accordingly.
SOAR vs. SCAP
Security content automation protocols (SCAPs) are less comprehensive in scope that SOAR, but have some similar functions. SOAR covers all aspects of cybersecurity, but SCAPs are mainly focused on implementing security standards throughout a network. SCAPs can be a useful tool for building and maintaining defenses, but SOAR can actually help with the work of watching for and responding to attacks. A SCAP can be useful for situations where a company policy or insurance requirement requires the implementation of a particular security standard like PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard), NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), FedRAMP (Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program), and FISMA (Federal Information Security and Management Act).
What is Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)?
SIEM solutions may have some overlap with SOAR software, but they can also integrate and enhance the capability of SOAR. SIEM software collects notifications throughout a network, improving intelligence on any potential attacks. These notifications can then be passed on to SOAR software for triage and automated response. This may be an important way of scaling cyber security capabilities on very large networks.
Types of Cybersecurity Automation
Different cybersecurity automation tools come in different forms. There are no-code, low-code, and full code solutions. No code uses a graphical user interface and is easy to use, but has limited customizability. Full-code software is much more adaptable, but also more difficult to use. Low-code solutions offer a mix of both. Low code platforms include software like Appian and Mendix, and popular no-code software include Zendesk and Zapier.
Do you need security automation?
The short answer to this question is almost certainly “yes.” The threat landscape is getting worse every year, and unfortunately, good cyber security is just a part of doing business today. It’s important to thoroughly research your organization’s needs and determine your priorities. Technology is changing fast, so it’s a good idea to conduct an annual audit to find out if there are new tools which can help cut down on costs and improve security. No security solution is perfect, but with a modest investment you can vastly improve your security stance. Remember that as impressive as AI capabilities may be, it is not a substitute for human beings. Automation software must be continuously adjusted and optimized. Human experience and intuition still far exceed even the best AI capabilities when it comes to cybersecurity. There is no doubt that automation is fundamentally changing the way cyber security professionals work, but the role of hands on experts is more important than ever.