Technology / DevOps

Implementing Automation in Cybersecurity: The Benefits & Drawbacks

Implementing Automation in Cybersecurity
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Published on February 7, 2023

A cybercriminal has numerous points of entry these days — possibly through security vulnerabilities in existing code, via cross-site scripting, or SQL injection. They can even obtain data through phishing and social engineering. This list is just a tiny fraction of a cybercriminal’s arsenal. There are just too many avenues of attack, so it can be easy for organizations to feel overwhelmed. In fact, many believe it is not a matter of if they are breached, but when.

Luckily, the advent of automation in cybersecurity has made this conundrum a little more manageable. In this article, we are going to discuss what automation in cybersecurity looks like, some of its benefits, and some drawbacks.

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What is Automation in Cybersecurity?

Automation in cybersecurity can be thought of as a series of systems that automatically detect cybersecurity threats and evaluate the overall security posture of an organization. Often, automation in cybersecurity will leverage the vast resources of the cloud.

For example, AWS uses AWS Inspector to provide security assessments and verify the settings and configurations of your cloud resources. Another example is Microsoft Defender for Cloud. This is a suite of products geared toward automatically scanning your cloud services and verifying their security posture.

Automation isn’t just the purview of the cloud. Another example would be Black Duck. Black Duck Software scans third-party dependencies pulled into code repositories. It checks their security, quality, license compliance, and more. Black Duck is generally integrated into the CI/CD pipeline such as Jenkins or Bamboo. 

Those are just three examples of the several options an organization has available to them. Now that we know what automation is, let’s take a look at some of its upsides.

See also: 5 Issues that are Driving Cybersecurity Today.

What are the Benefits of Automation in Cybersecurity?

IT experts are notoriously difficult to find. Often, even when you find one, they may not be an expert in exactly what you need. Thus, some IT pros will require ramp-up time. So naturally, one of the biggest upsides to automation in cybersecurity is that it will ultimately require fewer personnel. Using automation to detect security threats will relieve a lot of pressure off tier-one SOC teams, especially if the automation is able to contain and remediate the threats.

The second benefit automation brings is consistency. For example, software developers use dependency managers with their code. In Java, it is often Maven. In JavaScript, it is usually NPM. By placing dependencies in the dependency manager, a developer can use code created by someone else. However, it is the responsibility of the developer to make sure that the dependency is up to snuff. For instance, it’s free of documented vulnerabilities or it’s on the latest version.

Suffice it to say, it can be very easy to overlook an issue with a dependency. After all, people are notoriously inconsistent when it comes to repetitive tasks. However, cybersecurity in automation will always make sure the dependencies pulled in are up to snuff. 

Consistency and needing fewer experts are two great benefits of automation, but there are some drawbacks. Let’s dive into that.

What are the Drawbacks to Automation in Cybersecurity?

One of the biggest drawbacks of automation in cybersecurity is ironically related to one of its biggest benefits. While automation may alleviate a deficit in manpower, automation itself is a very complex task. It is possible an organization could end up hiring several automators instead of hiring tier-one Security Operations Center employees — thereby canceling out the benefit.

Along the lines of complexity, the different technologies that are integrated into a modern organization are pretty astounding. Even if an organization is able to automate everything it can, there is still a possibility something will be missed or misconfigured. That increases the risk of silent failure and creates an avenue of attack the organization is blind to.

Also, automation doesn’t necessarily mean there will be fewer SOC employees. It just means they’ll no longer be performing tasks that are now automated. They’ll just be busy putting out some other cybersecurity fire. After all, every facet of every job interacts with technology. There will always be some issue that requires a degree of complex thinking that a person will need to do.

Final Thoughts

Do not be discouraged by the drawbacks. Automation makes messy situations far more manageable. Additionally, it frees up employees from patching software and resetting passwords. Now, they can look at bigger fish to fry that would have been overlooked otherwise.

Additionally, every cloud provider has some level of security automation that must be taken advantage of. However, the benefits will ultimately come from the consistency of the process. However, it is not a panacea for an organization’s skill-gap issues. 


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