Omar Rafik, SolarWinds Senior Manager, Federal Sales Engineering
Here’s an interesting article by my colleague Jim Hansen where he provides tips on leveraging automation to improve your cybersecurity, including deciding what to automate and what tools to deploy to help.
Automation can reduce the need to perform mundane tasks, improve efficiency, and create a more agile response to threats. For example, administrators can use artificial intelligence and machine learning to ascertain the severity of potential threats and remediate them through the appropriate automated responses. They can also automate scripts, so they don’t have to repeat the same configuration process every time a new device is added to their networks.
But while automation can save enormous amounts of time, increase productivity, and bolster security, it’s not necessarily appropriate for every task, nor can it operate unchecked. Here are four strategies for effectively automating network security within government agencies.
1. Earmark What Should—And Shouldn’t—Be Automated.
Setting up automation can take time, so it may not be worth the effort to automate smaller jobs requiring only a handful of resources or a small amount of time to manage. IT staff should also conduct application testing themselves and must always have the final say on security policies.
Security itself, however, is ripe for automation. With the number of global cyberattacks rising, the challenge has become too vast and complex for manual threat management. Administrators need systems capable of continually policing their networks, automatically updating threat intelligence, and monitoring and responding to potential threats.
2. Identify the Right Tools.
Once the strategy is in place, it’s time to consider which tools to deploy. There are several security automation tools available, and they all have different feature sets. Begin by researching vendors with a track record of government certifications, such as Common Criteria, or are compliant with the Defense Information Systems Agency requirements.
Continuous network monitoring for potential intrusions and suspicious activity is a necessity. Being able to automatically monitor log files and analyze them against multiple sources of threat intelligence is critical to being able to discover and, if necessary, deny access to questionable network traffic. The system should also be able to automatically implement predetermined security policies and remediate threats.
3. Augment Security Intelligence.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning should also be considered indispensable, especially as IT managers struggle to keep up with the changing threat landscape. Through machine learning, security systems can absorb and analyze data retrieved from past intrusions to automatically and dynamically implement appropriate responses to the latest threats, helping keep administrators one step ahead of hackers.
4. Remember Automation Isn’t Automatic.
The old saying “trust but verify” applies to computers as much as people. Despite the move toward automation, people are and will always be an important part of the process.
Network administrators must conduct the appropriate due diligence and continually audit, monitor and maintain their automated tasks to ensure they’re performing as expected. Updates and patches should be applied as they become available, for example.
Automating an agency’s security measures can be a truly freeing experience for time- and resource-challenged IT managers. They’ll no longer have to spend time tracking down false red flags, rewriting scripts, or manually attempting to remediate every potential threat. Meanwhile, they’ll be able to rest easy knowing the automated system has their backs and their agencies’ security postures have been improved.
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