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How Enterprises Benefit from Automated Incident Response

Jenya ShvetsovMay 30, 2018

Automated Incident Response Addresses Key Security Operations Inefficiencies

In this era where cyber threats occur rapidly and nonstop, combining incident response and automation is becoming a necessity for enterprises and MSSPs seeking to keep their cyber defenses up around the clock. The following provides an overview covering all you need to know about automated incident response and how it can benefit your organization.

 Automated incident response

What is Incident Response?

Incident response (IR) refers to the systematic response to and management of events following a cyber attack or any security breach. It involves a series of actions and activities aimed at reducing the impact of security breaches and cyber attacks on organizations.

A typical incident response plan includes six phases which help the affected organization recover from an attack or simply contain it once it occurs - preparation, identification, containment, eradication, recovery and lessons learned.

In building an effective incident response plan to address the six aforementioned phases, security teams should be sure to include the following: 

  • The purpose of the incident response plan
  • Details on how to use the plan
  • Event handling protocols detailing the different activity types and how to respond
  • Incident topology with different incident types and which information assets would be affected by such events
  • Setup of a war room for critical decision makers
  • Response plan for each incident type, information asset type and a checklist of what playbook needs to be triggered in the event of a cyber attack or security breach

 

The Role of Automation in Incident Response

Automation expedites typical responses and repetitive tasks so little to no human intervention is required to detect and respond to security threats and incidents. Automation in incident response also aims to help businesses achieve a round-the-clock defense system.

The impact of automated incident response can be mostly felt in detecting and responding to threats in real time. For instance, 91% of cyberattacks start with a phishing email and with automated incident response in place. However, these alerts and threats can be effectively handled without any human intervention. From gathering malware intel to following set processes and remediating threats, automation eliminates the need for analysts to comb through hundreds of alerts daily.

However, most organizations are still early in their adoption of automation as part of IR processes. The most automated processes are for remotely deploying custom content or signatures from security vendors and blocking command and control to malicious IP addresses, followed by removing rogue files, according to the SANS Institute. Processes least likely to be automated at the present include isolating infected machines from a network during remediation and shutting down systems and taking them offline.

Before determining what to automate in your security operations organization, it is vital to first codify existing manual IR processes into playbooks. This makes your workflows repeatable and more predictable, resulting in more consistency and efficiency. Once processes are laid out in a consistent way, it becomes much simpler to identify the steps and tasks that are begging for automation to speed up incident response and free your team to focus on the tasks that most require their expertise.

 Playbooks

Who Benefits from Automated Incident Response?

The benefits of automating incident response know no bounds for any organization seeking to improve their defenses in how they manage and respond to threats in this rapidly evolving environment. The organization broadly, and the security operations team, specifically all benefit from having an effective - and automated - IR plan in place.

Impact of Automated Incident Response on Analysts

By automating incident response, analysts can devote their time to working on more important and less repetitive tasks. Without automation, security analysts devote valuable time to manually combing through alerts from disparate security tools to identify which are in need of actual response. The amount of time spent on routine data gathering subsequently increases their mean time to respond (MTTR) to critical threats because it takes longer to separate the real threats from the noise. Automation enables analysts to pay more attention to the critical items that require their attention and expedites the aggregation of data, putting the relevant details at the fingertips of the analyst for actual analysis.

 

Impact of Automated Incident Response on SOC Managers

Combining automation with incident response helps SOC managers yield better performances out of their teams since they’re able to focus on more productive tasks. This consequently leads to improved capacity throughout the security operations team, an improvement in overall KPIs like mean time to detect (MTTD) and MTTR as well as a reduced employee turnover rate among key SOC team members.  

SOC Dashboards and Advanced ReportingImpact of Automated Incident Response on CISOs

The concerns CISOs have about the lack of capable in-house security staff and the threat of a data breach that will cause damage to their organization's reputation are well documented. Automated incident response goes a long way to addressing these top issues by ensuring CISOs tap into the maximum workload potential of their existing teams and have processes into place that work lightning fast to minimize the impact of a security incident or breach. 

How Organizations Benefit from Automated Incident Response

The benefits of automating the processes involved in responding to rapidly evolving cyber threats and incidents cannot be overemphasized. The following summarizes the primary ways organizations benefit from automating their incident response.

Better decision making
Having an automated IR plan in place will not only speed up the decision-making process in the event of an attack but also ensures that the right decision makers for every action or threat level are clearly established, defined and automatically engaged when required. 

Damage limitation
An automated incident response plan puts your organization in a better position to take strong and swift actions in the event of a cyber attack or security breach to limit its effect on the overall business.

Internal and external coordination 
An effective automated IR plan helps coordinate the interactions not only between an organization’s internal departments and units but also externally with suppliers and partners in the event of a security incident. Automatically bringing the relevant parties together as soon as a security event occurs is vital to managing risk and reducing brand reputation damage.

Improved MTTD and MTTR
Businesses with automated incident response detect and respond a lot faster to threats and attacks than those still running entirely manual processes in their incident response. Automation rapidly improves an organization’s mean time to respond and mean time to detect security threats or breaches by speeding the identification of real threats from false positives.

Reduced SOC operational costs
Since SOC analysts no longer have to focus on repetitive and unproductive tasks, valuable man hours are redirected to more productive tasks more alerts can be handled by fewer people. Overall, automation reduces the running costs of the SOC.

While automation is certainly not a new phenomenon in IT overall, its application to IT security is not yet widespread. This is partially due to hesitation organizations have around automating their full IR processes, including remediation. But as it's said - don't let great be the enemy of good. The potential for automation to expedite the detection of critical threats and help your team improve its overall performance is too huge to ignore if you're looking to mitigate risk and improve efficiency and effectiveness in today's threat landscape.

Topics: Incident Response, Security Automation, Security Operations

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