The role of automation in mitigating cybersecurity risks

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Cyberattacks are on the rise around the globe. Recent data suggest that there are 2,200 cyberattacks every day and that the average cost of a data breach is $9.44 million.

Of those cyberattacks, 92% are delivered via email in the form of malware and phishing. In 2022 alone, businesses reported 255 million phishing attacks with an average cost of $4.91 million.

The sheer scale of cyberattacks today means that human intervention simply isn’t adequate. Instead, cybersecurity specialists must incorporate automation within their wider cybersecurity strategy. Automation can reduce the risk of human error, flag potential threats, and guard against security fatigue.

Pros and cons of automation

Businesses around the globe use automation to speed up their operational efficiency, decrease risk, and reduce workplace fatigue. This is particularly important in a field like cybersecurity, where constant vigilance and critical thinking are necessary to avoid costly data breaches.

However, automation isn’t a silver bullet that eradicates the risk of a cyberattack. Even cutting-edge systems still need to be monitored and updated regularly. Failing to maintain systems may result in flawed security protocols or accidental shutdowns due to false threat detections.

That said, the pros of automation far outweigh the cons. An effective automation program can free up staff and boost employee morale. When folks aren’t constantly stressed about threat detection, they can focus on fine-tuning threat intelligence and re-training employees. This minimizes the risk of security fatigue, which may otherwise lead to:

  • Reduced attention during security training
  • Unsafe password practices
  • Ignored software updates
  • Risky behavior online

Mitigating security fatigue is in every IT department’s best interest, as failing to adhere to compliance regulations due to fatigue can be extremely costly. 

Reducing the risk of human error

Human error accounts for 88% of all data breaches. This troubling statistic highlights the vulnerability that employees pose and the importance of proper training in the workplace. Data collected by researchers from the University of Stanford found that:

  • 45% of employees cite distraction as the reason why they fell victim to a phishing scam
  • 57% of employees are more likely to be distracted when working from home
  • 43% of respondents say they are most likely to open phishing emails that look legitimate

Cloud-based automation systems can reduce the risk of human error and back up existing documents and data. This can help employees limit distraction and ensure that businesses remain operational following a breach. Automated threat detection software shuts down servers following a breach, but employees can still access important files when working on the cloud.

Companies looking to reduce the risk of human error can invest in Robotic Process Automation (RPA), too. RPA handles the heavy lifting associated with simple, back-office tasks. This ensures that folks follow security procedures while boosting day-to-day productivity.

Threat detection

Rapid threat detection is vital when facing a cyberattack. A timely response can save businesses from hefty fines and help eliminate vulnerabilities before they can be exploited again. Companies that leverage machine learning (ML) threat detection can even preempt some breaches.

ML threat detection works by “teaching” an AI algorithm to recognize the parameters of harmful files. The ML software can create accurate models of potential threats in order to pre-emptively block malware when it appears. ML algorithms can learn from a myriad of sources, meaning cutting-edge ML algorithms can draw data from other machines, human input, or their own findings.

This is particularly useful in the finance sector, for example, where ML plays a key role in fraud detection and risk management. Algorithms are trained to detect patterns common in fraudulent transactions and alert employees, who then review the flagged activity. Meanwhile, automated software scans huge amounts of financial data for risk indicators, including vulnerability to hackers.

ML algorithms also reduce the risk of false positives interrupting day-to-day operations. Unlike rules-based software, ML software can embrace flexibility and make “smart” decisions based on contextual factors. This can keep firms running without interruption and ensures that the incident response team is only called in when necessary.

Incident response

A robust incident response strategy is crucial to the efficacy of any cybersecurity strategy. Automating incident response helps businesses expedite responses by starting the process as soon as a threat is detected.

Automated incident response procedures vary based on the tool being used. However, both security information and event management (SIEM) as well as security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) tools help with:

  • Malware detection
  • Firewall effectiveness
  • Application logging
  • Identity and access management
  • Endpoint security software

Even simple automation tools, like application logging, can produce automatic alerts that update relevant stakeholders in real time. This can make a world of difference during an attack, as a fast mean time to detect (MTTD) can result in a shorter mean time to repair (MTTR).

Conclusion

Automation plays a crucial role in any modern cybersecurity strategy. Automated tools, like SIEMs and RPAs, can empower cybersecurity specialists and improve adherence in the workplace. This is particularly important today, as cyberattacks become increasingly common. Businesses looking to firm up their security can invest in cloud-based solutions, as this will keep them up and running should an attack shut down their usual operations.

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