The What, Why and How of Auto-Remediation in Cybersecurity
When you’re facing a cyberattack, waiting even just minutes to respond could be the difference between business as usual and a calamity. It may only take that long for threat actors to exfiltrate sensitive data or disrupt critical systems.
That’s one reason why automating remediation is an essential ingredient in an effective cybersecurity strategy. Although automated remediation can’t mitigate every threat, it gives organizations a leg up against the bad guys by helping them to react as quickly – not to mention as efficiently – as possible when threats arise.
What Is Automated Remediation?
In cybersecurity, automated remediation, or “auto-remediation”, is the use of tools to mitigate threats and risks automatically.
In other words, auto-remediation allows you to resolve cybersecurity problems with little to no action on the part of humans. Your tools automate the response for you.
As an example of an auto-remediation workflow, consider a Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR) tool that detects malware on an endpoint within a business’s network. If auto-remediation tooling is in place, the SOAR can isolate the endpoint automatically from the rest of the network in order to prevent the malware from spreading. These rules can remain in force until the endpoint is cleared of malware.
How Does Auto-Remediation Work?
To set up auto-remediation, you have to deploy three basic types of resources:
- Conditions or rules that trigger an remediation workflow.
- The steps that should be performed when the remediation begins.
- Tools that can interpret the rules and perform the remediation steps.
You may also want to configure alerts to your Security Operations Center (SOC) so that the team is kept in the loop during automated remediation, even if there is no action required on the part of your security analysts or IT team.
Many modern SOAR platforms provide automated remediation functionality or integrate with external tools to support them.
Full vs. Partial Auto-Remediation
As noted above, automatic remediations may or may not require participation by humans.
If you configure a fully automated remediation, your cybersecurity tools can mitigate threats or risks entirely on their own. Full auto-remediations are typically used to resolve relatively simple security issues, such as blocking potentially malicious endpoints from the network.
In the case of partial auto-remediation, your security tools perform some of the steps required to mitigate a risk, but there still needs to be a “human in the loop” in order to complete the workflow. This approach to auto-remediation makes the most sense for resolving more complex threats or risks. As an example, you might configure partial auto-remediation to respond to malware that your tools detect on a mission-critical server. You could automatically isolate the server so that the malware doesn’t spread, but wait on a human to perform the malware removal. Since it’s hard to predict ahead of time exactly how malware needs to be removed, it’s best to leave this work to a human.
The Benefits of Auto-Remediation
Automated remediation provides three key benefits: speed, efficiency, and a reduction in toil.
By eliminating the need to wait for a human to respond to a cybersecurity issue before mitigation begins, auto-remediation ensures that threats and risks are blocked as quickly as possible.
That’s important because in some cases there is a short time separating an initial breach of your environment from significant harm to your business. For instance, ransomware that attackers plant on your servers will usually begin encrypting data immediately. But if you can automatically remediate the ransomware as quickly as it is discovered (or, at a minimum, isolate infected endpoints so that it doesn’t spread), you may be able to prevent a serious ransomware incident. On the other hand, if you have to wait a few hours for a human engineer to notice and respond to the issue, critical data might already be encrypted and held for ransom.
A second key benefit of auto-remediation is that it helps teams operate more efficiently. By automating work that humans would otherwise need to perform, auto-remediation helps SOCs do more with fewer staff resources.
Given that the frequency and complexity of cyberattacks are steadily increasing, the ability to gain efficiency through auto-remediation is a critical advantage for businesses going forward.
Last but not least, auto-remediation helps minimize toil for security teams. The more you can automate mitigation workflows, the less time your team has to spend on tedious, time-consuming, unrewarding tasks.
In this respect, auto-remediation helps increase team morale and satisfaction while simultaneously strengthening your security strategy.
You can’t automatically remediate every type of threat. But you can partially or fully mitigate many cybersecurity issues using automation tools. In doing so, you save critical time, increase efficiency and make your team happier due to a reduction in toil. It’s a win-win-win – unless you’re one of the bad guys who doesn’t want organizations to react quickly and effectively to cyberattacks, of course.