Security Automation: Understanding the Risks and Benefits

When does security automation help businesses, and when does it cause more problems than it solves?

The rise of automation has been a common theme in stories that touch almost every business sector—including IT. In fact, one of the places where automation has shown the most value has been in IT security, where it can reduce costs and mitigate vulnerabilities in many situations.

Consider a simple automation that most businesses have already enacted: software updates. In an un-automated system, either the IT staff or employees themselves would be responsible for keeping their computers up to date. Unfortunately, this either places a significant burden on the IT department, or it puts security responsibilities in the hands of employees who may not understand the consequences of noncompliance, or who may need extra training to conduct the procedure properly.

Automation resolves both these problems, but it can lead to risks of its own. That’s why, before automating different security tasks, businesses should carefully consider the risks and benefits.

Risk: Automating the wrong task.

Let’s say you’re worried about password security at your business, so you automate your system to force all users to change their password once a month. This is actually a bad move: frequent password changes can often cause users to pick simpler—and less secure—passwords.

The better course of action would be to automate a two-step verification system that would require users to enter a secondary code that would be sent to a personal device after their initial logon attempt.

Risk: Unidentified weaknesses and lack of monitoring.

Very few systems are fail proof. Yet it’s tempting for many businesses to be overconfident about their security, certain that they’ve crossed their t’s and dotted their i’s and have nothing to fear. Unfortunately, without a breach detections system in place, a business could have an unknown security compromise infecting their system for months without realizing it.

Risk: Set it and forget it mentality.

Automated systems require less oversight which can in turn lead to complacency. Businesses construct a system that seems fool proof, then forget to stay abreast of shifting security threats. Pretty soon, they’re finding that their system has been outsmarted by a new form of cyberattack and their security hasn’t evolved to keep up.

Benefit: Reduction of routine tasks.

The most face-value benefit to automation is that it handles repetitive tasks that suck up time employees could be investing elsewhere. This reduces fatigue while also saving the company resources which can then be diverted toward projects that provide additional value to the organization. This means fewer tradeoffs between IT security and other projects, such as a hardware upgrade.

Benefit: Lower chance of human error.

Speaking of fatigue, the more an employee has to repeat a task, the more careless they are liable to become. A lack of training and experience can also lead to security errors. Automation can take the burden of following best practices off the shoulders of under-qualified workers, while simultaneously saving businesses from having to train their workforce to accomplish extra tasks.

Benefit: Automated security systems scale easily.

When your systems are in the hands of your employees, those systems must be scaled every time your business grows. That means hiring and training more staff to maintain them, which in turn means taking additional steps to ensure those new employees can follow the compliance standards relevant to your business. An automated system doesn’t have these issue because it scales instantly with each new user.

Benefit: Greater predictability.

Finally, an automated system is reliable. While it isn’t enough on its own, it can be depended on to do the thing it was designed to do, exactly how it was designed to do it, every single time. Automated security is only as smart as the people who design the system, but when combined with the appropriate monitoring and maintenance, it can be an invaluable support to your security team.

Understanding the risks and benefits of security automation will help your business stay prepared.

Any time you undertake a new security project you expose yourself to a certain level of risk. New systems take time to install, test, and implement. At each stage, your business could be vulnerable un unpredictable ways. However, failing to take the next step forward can just as readily leave your business in a bind. That’s why it’s crucial for ever organization to understand the risks and benefits of a new technology before following along with the latest trend.

However, unless you fully understand the threats and vulnerabilities of your business, it’s important that you work with an IT professional who can help you successfully implement a system for your business. Used effectively, security automation can perform the routine maintenance tasks that keep your business safe, while identifying breach attempts before they infiltrate your system. If you are interested in learning more about how security automation can benefit your business, contact us today to learn more and for a free network assessment.

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