Posted: 3 Min ReadExpert Perspectives

The First Step Towards Automation: Assessment

The right security tools for the job

Today’s fast-changing economic climate is pushing CISOs to do more with less while still reducing risk to their environment. Automation can play a role in increasing efficiency and improving security posture. In this blog series, Broadcom Software partner Braxton-Grant will look at the key factors to consider when implementing automation in your network.

Policy automation can play a key role in your security posture. But how do you decide what security policies to automate? Often, many organizations don’t have a comprehensive view or understanding of how their business operates. Teams can also disagree on the pain points that need to be addressed to better streamline – and secure – their operations.

For example, there is often a breakdown in communication between management and IT administrators. Management might see an increase in overall ticket numbers and think “we’re not solving staff issues fast enough.” The question that should be asked is: “What are the pain points for the actual folks who are doing the work?” If you talk to the technicians, they may say that they're just overwhelmed, or don't have the right tools to do their jobs. Management, in fact, may only be seeing a watered-down version of the actual problem. For example, did you have an influx of support tickets because you held a conference but didn't have an access policy in place to allow people to reach the online conference website?

To get to the heart of this type of misunderstanding and get a clearer assessment of the problem, we may ask a customer to pull their ticket statistics and share their current policy. Then, the next part of the conversation might be, “Okay, we see you have this type of policy. You've identified you've had XX number of types of tickets in the queue during the past year or the past few months. How long did these tickets take to solve?". How long was it from when the technician identified the problem and potential fix to getting final approval to make the fix? The technician could approve the ticket fast, but the chain of management approvals might be lengthy and cause unintended backup.

Gain Visibility and Stakeholder Alignment

You don’t want to automate spaghetti or a tangled mess; before you decide what policies you want to automate, you first need to assess your current business processes and gain stakeholder alignment on how automation can help. Assessment should include:

  • Identifying repeatable tasks: Are there repeatable tasks – things that are done once a day, a hundred times a day, once every three months? For those tasks that are repeated infrequently, they may not be candidates for automation. The goal is to find the things that take the most time and are repeatable.
  • Understanding pain points:  What is driving the increase in tickets – lack of user education, changes to the network, more? Be sure to communicate with stakeholders and gain alignment on the comprehensive issues that are facing your team. Some pain points can’t be solved by automation, but you still need a way to report them so they can be resolved in the proper manner.
  • Evaluating your tools: Are you using the right tools for the right job? Sometimes users don't have the right tools or the tools don’t fit the need. Management may think, “We don't have people working hard enough. I have a hundred people on my team, and I should be able to solve this." Sometimes it's not about having the right manpower – my team is “smart, educated and competent” – instead, it is that they don’t have the right tools for the job. Are you using your security tools for their intended purpose?  Is your security team educated about how to use these tools? What are your education gaps? Before you decide to deploy another new tool to your infrastructure, be sure you are leveraging your current investments. Do you have other tools that are part of your network infrastructure that could be leveraged to improve your security posture?

Once you have completed these tasks, you are ready to move to the next step in your automation journey: Policy Audit and Cleanup.      

Policy Audit and Cleanup

You have completed your assessment of your current business processes, understand your pain points and achieve alignment on what can – and can’t – be automated. Before you automate new or existing security policies, it’s important first to do a policy audit and cleanup. In the next article in this series, we’ll discuss the value of auditing and cleaning up your security policies and, if you don’t, how it can hinder your user experience and introduce risk to your environment.

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About the Author

Aileen Kara Hudspeth

Technical Director - Braxton-Grant Technologies, Inc. (Broadcom Software Knight)

As a cybersecurity engineer for 20+ years and Broadcom Software Knight since 2013, Aileen architects technical solutions for a wide variety of government agencies and industries. With a relentless passion for developing new approaches for complex missions, Aileen uses her analytical skills and experience to help organizations solve real-world challenges.

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