Guest Column | April 22, 2021

Adopting Automation For Stronger Security And Compliance

By Ray Kruck, CEO, Tugboat Logic

Intelligent Automation AI

The pace of business progress can slow dramatically when disconnected, manual processes are in place. Cybersecurity must move quickly to keep up with cybercriminals, and manual processes create greater security risk and slow security progress. This is especially true for later-stage companies focused on growing and scaling their business because they also need to remain compliant and safeguard their data. Increasingly, organizations are turning to automation to manage their security needs as they grow.

As security needs and requirements evolve, automation can help manage them all. By understanding where automation can bring the most benefit and how to best use it, IT leaders can reduce compliance headaches even as their business' ecosystem expands.

A Lack Of Continuity

As a company grows, it must consider security compliance. However, it’s an element that can be overlooked – sometimes with extreme consequences. Failing to maintain compliance (with whatever set of regulations apply to your specific industry, whether it’s SOC 2, ISO 27001, or something else) can lead to fines or other penalties. It also can lead to vulnerabilities and data breaches.

It’s typical to have a lack of continuity of processes across the organization. In larger organizations, for instance, you might find that the lower levels of the IT organization are still using manual practices, while higher levels have moved on to more efficient processes.

Remote work certainly hasn’t made security and compliance easier. Not only do you have different kinds of users, but now you have the added complexity of remote users. That’s quite different from standard operating procedures, where everybody is tied to a physical location or set of physical locations.

Larger organizations also suffer from the challenge of technical debt, where cybersecurity and IT security management have a lot of competing systems that are trying to monitor for different metrics. Some of them are focused on response and remediation. Others are focused on monitoring and automating that monitoring, and these tend to compete with each other.

4 Automation Use Cases

For repetitive tasks like configuration management, control access, patch management, and monitoring, it makes sense to use automation.

Monitoring: Humans cannot possibly analyze the quantity of data flooding into and being generated by today’s networks. In addition, controls change. It used to be that security controls were treated as a “set it and forget it” activity, but that’s no longer the case. There needs to be regular monitoring and sometimes, remediation. Automation can address these needs.

Control access: Especially when it comes to your infrastructure, access controls are one of the most important security controls in any organization’s security strategy. But because most organizations lack both complete visibility into and control of their cloud infrastructure, it’s tough for security and operations teams to know what actions are being performed by which users, leaving them wide open to accidental or intentional misuse of privileges.

Configuration management: Consistency is key for IT teams, who need to establish and maintain the consistency of a product's performance throughout its life cycle. Configuration management streamlines the delivery of software and applications. It helps organizations keep track of which changes have been made and why, and it creates an audit trail that helps to quickly identify bad configuration changes so they can be rolled back if needed. This typically involves a high degree of automation.

Patch management: When software patches come out, the security team needs to act quickly. Many times, these updates are resolving critical security vulnerabilities. Patching and management of patching are necessary to make sure all systems and devices are compliant – but this can be tedious when done manually.

Begin The Automation Journey

It’s important when beginning to implement automation to determine what your security program will look like and define a common, standardized language or set of principles around that. Then, define the purpose. Using that standardized language, clearly define what it is you are trying to do with the automation and what risk you are trying to minimize. Next, conduct an inventory of your IT assets – everything from the smallest tool to the largest business applications, including shadow IT.

After this foundation has been laid, start your implementation from the bottom up, at the lowest level of where your IT data is generated and sourced. Begin applying automation here so that you get the true benefits of economies of scale, as well as the ability to implement IT controls as close consistently and accurately to the source of data creation as possible.

Greater Security And Compliance

It’s just too complicated and complex today to try to scale your business while using manual processes. There is such a profusion of data from within and without the network that manual processes cannot keep pace. That’s certainly the case with cybersecurity. These days, you can’t scale effectively without automation of low-level tasks. Compliance technical debt and data and application siloes call for automation, as well. Consider the above best practices as you forge ahead into an automated, more secure, and compliant future.

About The Author

Ray Kruck is CEO at Tugboat Logic.