As we ramp up our research on SOAR and start looking at some interesting tools for automated security testing, something crossed my mind: Why are we only seeing security operations automation and security testing automation technologies come to market now? I mean, automating workflows is not new technology, so why are these specific workflows only being automated now?
I believe the answer includes multiple reasons, but I see two as key:
The need: Of course it would be great to automate SOC tasks back in 2005, but at that time the environments were more stable, and the volume of threat activity lower. Because virtualization was still not everywhere, the number of systems running was also smaller. The smaller pace of change and size of the technology environments, as well as a less aggressive threat landscape were still compatible with mostly manual security operations. With cloud, devops, crazy state sponsored threats and very short breach to impact scenarios like ransomware it is imperative for organizations to be able to adapt and react faster. At the required scale, that’s only possible with more automation.
The tools: Yes, the ability to write an automated workflow was already there, but integration was still painful! There were only some APIs available from the different security (or even general IT) tools, and most of the time they were not standardized and not simple as the abundant REST APIs we see today. In the past, if you wanted to fully automate a SOC playbook you would probably need to include all required capabilities in a single tool, without the option to orchestrate the work of multiple independent solutions. So, it is not that automation tools were not available; the broad menu of tools to be centrally orchestrated didn’t exist.
The increase in need is independent of how the security industry evolves, but I see the second reason in a very positive way. We are constantly bashing the vendor community on the release of new tools based on exaggerated marketing claims, but we should also acknowledge this movement of making the tools friendlier to integration as a positive evolution of the industry. There have been many standards and attempts to create common languages and protocols to integrate tools, but apparently opening them for integration via REST APIs has provided far more benefits than initiatives like IF-MAP, DXL, CIF, IODEF, IDMEF.
What else do you think is driving this automation trend in security?