Automation has become a favorite technology for organizations. It brings efficiency, removal of manual processes, access to aggregated data, and many more benefits. Automation has a place in every aspect of a business, including cybersecurity. Your cyber team already uses many tools to combat attacks, but introducing automation could simplify and streamline. Implementing anything new comes with hurdles and challenges. Intelligent automation and cybersecurity are a perfect friendship.
In this post, we’ll look at what automation in cybersecurity is, its applications, and how to integrate it with your team to ensure adoption.
What Is Intelligent Automation?
Intelligent automation describes leveraging RPA (robotic process automation) and elevating its abilities with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). RPA involves digital robots that can assume rules-based, repetitive, and manual tasks.
By adding AI and ML, the automation gets “smarter” and can do higher-level decision-making work. Its objective is to simplify processes, enable your human resources to do more meaningful work, and improve operational efficiency.
Why Does Cybersecurity Need Intelligent Automation Support?
The world of cybersecurity is fast-moving and dynamic, with hackers always seeking to exploit weaknesses. Cyberattacks are up, with 50% of surveyed organizations stating they suffered a breach in 2022, including ransomware, phishing, and business email compromises. As a result, your team faces more risk every day, which can cause high stress and burnout.
Automation seeks to support human intelligence. Even if you have a robust program with purpose-built security automation solutions, your technical team is likely still overwhelmed. Unfortunately, most technical folks don’t communicate when they feel this way. They think they need to be in control of everything under their umbrella. They’d see it as a weakness to admit they aren’t the smartest people in the room.
The burden on your team may be more significant because you’re understaffed and struggling to recruit and retain new employees. That’s true for almost every organization, with 68% identifying staffing as an issue.
So, you have team members that aren’t communicative about their capabilities and prefer to keep things to themselves. Then you have less staff, as well. You’re also dealing with a threat landscape that’s growing. It would be nearly impossible to ensure security without the help of automation. By adopting it throughout your cybersecurity operations, you can realize many benefits.
Use Cases and Benefits of Intelligent Automation in Cybersecurity
What can intelligent automation do in the realm of cybersecurity? There are many use cases that also deliver specific benefits.
Automating Data Extraction, Analysis, and Inputs
Your security processes require the extraction of data from many sources. Analysis and manipulation of that data are the next steps. Additionally, you have to input results into other systems. RPA software bots can take over these tasks without human intervention. They can query accounts, investigate domains, look up IP addresses, find URL intelligence, and retrieve logs.
As a result, your team doesn’t have to be data taskmasters. These are repetitive processes that don’t need to be executed by humans. With these data workflows, cyber professionals can concentrate more on further analysis.
Protecting Sensitive Data and Maintaining Compliance
You and your team already know that human error is the leading cause of cybersecurity incidents. In fact, 88% of all data breaches result from an employee’s accidental or intended missteps.
The human error component of cybersecurity is the one that’s hardest to control. Your technical team probably expresses frustration about this. Because they can’t “control” it as they do with technology, they may even have great resentment and a skewed perception of users being technically unsavvy.
Automation can help alleviate this pressure cooker of a problem. Bots can securely manage any entryway to sensitive information, including customer data, PHI (protected health information), financial accounts, or proprietary information. The bots would monitor any channel of secure information access and do so reliably. This use case would be especially vital for compliance-related requirements, such as a HIPAA security risk analysis.
Performing Cyber Threat Hunts
Cyber threat hunts are a central part of any proactive cybersecurity strategy. Such a practice continuously scans the networks to find and isolate advanced threats. Often, hunting is a manual process, so it’s time-consuming and tedious. Again, bots can assume these tasks. For example, they could spot unusual network traffic, login abnormalities, user account activity, file changes, or suspicious registrations. When the bots identify one of these, they can pass it to a human analyst to dig further. This allows cyber folks to be investigators with more context and fewer manual efforts.
Such a hand-off would liberate your technical team to be more strategic rather than being on the hunt and mired in the weeds. There could be pushback here from a distrust of automation. However, you can test something like this and measure its accuracy. ML models in automation will “learn” over time and get better. Bots will never be as effective as humans at analysis, and you can confirm that and position automation as augmenting their work.
Malware and Virus Protection
Intelligent automation bots can trigger control and mitigation automatically if malware or viruses enter your network. They can also classify the severity. Depending on this assignment, the bot could either address and fix it or deliver the information to analysts. They can also produce a report of incidents that will be helpful for your team. Bots offer a more comprehensive range of protections, enabling workers to focus on the most serious.
Legacy System Integration
Legacy systems are often a weak spot in an organization’s tech stack. Developers of these systems may no longer release updates or fixes, but the line of business can’t turn these platforms off immediately. As a result, they require extra attention, and integrating them with modern technology is often a massive lift for your team.
The better approach is using automation to extract needed data and relay it to other systems that need it. Your team may appreciate this use case the most because they probably have many misgivings over legacy technology. They also may not understand why the business keeps these systems, even if they recommend decommissioning. It’s a classic case of the tug-of-war that often happens between an enterprise’s security, technical, and business side. Bots are somewhat of a Band-Aid for this problem, but they could also spur more conversation over tech stacks and how both sides can align more on the subject.
Enabling Your Team to Be Innovators
If there’s one overarching point to make on automation and cybersecurity, it’s how it enables people to think, act, and work more strategically. They can work on the tasks that matter and let bots do the repetitive stuff. It can empower your team members to be more creative, analytical, and strategic. When they are, they may be more satisfied at work and stay loyal to your company. In addition, they’ll feel more connected to what they do, often leading to them expanding their mindsets, becoming more innovative, and working with greater purpose.
Automation can do much for your cyber operations, but you should expect some pushback.
Getting Your Team to Embrace Automation
With all these applications and advantages, the case for automation is clear. The next problem to solve is getting your technical folks to embrace it. Simply telling the story of its benefits likely won’t get everyone on board. You must get past some egos and determine why there’s a fear of anything new.
You can take some learnings from the Secure Methodology™ to guide you. The Secure Methodology is a seven-step guide to help transform technical folks into highly communicative and collaborative team members. Its seven principles are a framework to develop soft skills in your people that will make them better at their job.
Here are some ideas:
- Mindset growth: Mindset is one of the Secure Methodology steps. People either have fixed or growth mindsets. Those who abhor change and anything new fall into a fixed mindset, and that’s a big concern for any cyberculture. Automation is “unknown” and “uncertain,” which makes them nervous. The Secure Methodology has many mindset exercises, including coaching and reflection, asking why, and acknowledging mindset shifts.
- Monotasking: This is another step and one that automation can directly impact. You want your people to be monotaskers, focusing on one thing at a time to achieve more in the long run. Automation can remove a lot of the repetitive work they’re doing manually now, along with many other tasks simultaneously. In expressing the importance of monotasking, discuss how automation makes this possible.
- Communication: This step is the most important. Without clear, healthy, and inclusive communication, cybersecurity fails on any level. Recall that bots can deliver information and data that supports this open communication. It must happen within your team and to your clients (internal or external). Challenge your people to leverage automation to help them tell better stories about the threat landscape and simplify the message.
Read Christian Espinosa’s book, The Smartest Person in the Room, for more tips, resources, and more on the Secure Methodology. Or check out the Secure Methodology course.