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Use Automation to Enhance the Value of Human Expertise in the SOC

By Elliot Anderson  |  May 12, 2023

Automation isn't always a replacement for human expertise. The two must work together to generate lasting security value. 

Security Operations Centers have struggled with workforce shortages for years. Experts were already alarmed at the growing cybersecurity talent gap back in 2017 

Now, more than half a decade later, the problem is just as severe. But security analysts have access to an entirely new set of tools for managing that gap. Modern SOC automation solutions give analysts access to resources that would otherwise be limited to the largest and best-equipped teams. 

 

It should come as no surprise that software vendors are now promoting highly automated solutions for almost every challenge analysts take on. Automation – especially AI-powered automation – is marketed as a solution to the skills gap that puts enterprise power in the hands of even the smallest teams. 

Some security leaders are even experimenting with the idea of an autonomous SOC. While some people are attracted to the idea of a fully autonomous SOC environment, the fact is that automation isn't a replacement for human expertise. It' a tool that can enhance the scalability and power of human expertise, but only when used properly. 

Understanding How Automation Works in the SOC 

Automation tools have a wide range of roles to play in the SOC environment. They help lessen the burden of repetitive, low-impact tasks on analyst workflows and boost the productivity of individual team members when handling complex security tasks. 

These are valuable benefits for any team. They're especially useful in time-sensitive, high-impact security contexts. Some examples of automated technologies that modern SOCs are using right now include: 

  • Automated SIEM Analysis. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) platforms like Exabeam gather an enormous amount of data from across the network. Analyzing this data requires transferring it between various data aggregation tools. This is a perfect use case for intelligently automating a process that analysts can't economically perform manually. 
  • Automated Incident Response with SOAR and XDR. Security Operation, Automation, and Response (SOAR) tools allow analysts to combine multiple third-party security tools into a unified defense that adapts dynamically to specific threats. Automated XDR solutions like SentinelOne increase the organization' ability to automatically detect and respond to security incidents when they occur. 
  • Automated Threat Intelligence Curation. Public threat intelligence feeds contain data about every type of emerging threat there is. Analysts need to cut through the noise to find useful information that applies to their unique environment and context. Anomali ThreatStream uses automation to curate threat intelligence data and prioritize the most relevant, high-severity threats first. 

All of these use cases help analysts reduce time spent on repetitive tasks, make fewer errors, and standardize their workflows in helpful ways. This leads to improved decision-making speed, greater cost savings for the organization, and higher profit margins for managed security services and managed detection and response providers.  

Be Careful When Choosing What to Automate and Why 

Automation has a lot of value to offer security analysts in resource-tight SOCs. However, security leaders must remember that some processes cannot be automated. Even with dramatic leaps forward in AI technology and large language modeling, many core tasks will continue to depend on human expertise. 

Automated tools can't make critical decisions on their own. They can't configure themselves to anticipate where security resources will be needed most. Most importantly, they can't take responsibility for the actions they take or explain unexpected outcomes. 

These are things that require human insight and expertise. Analysts and security leaders must work with one another to implement automated tools in ways that augment these capabilities, enhancing the efficiency and accuracy of the decisions that human security professionals make every day. 

Security leaders should ask themselves what they expect to gain from automation, and why automation is the best way to achieve that result. Correctly identifying what automated SOC solutions can and cannot do in a specific security context demands great care and patience. Having expert insight on hand can make the process much easier. 

Implement Automation the Right Way 

McKinsey reports that vendors using security automation to serve small and medium-sized businesses will be one of the greatest growth factors impacting the cybersecurity market in the next few years. Many of today' current providers overpromise and underdeliver on automation capabilities, leading stakeholders to overlook the real promise of automated solutions with a well-defined scope. 

Castra utilizes automation to empower its analysts, providing them with the resources they need to make faster and more accurate security decisions.

Contact us to find out how you can unlock the value of automation in your SOC environment and enable human expertise to reach its full potential. 

By Elliot Anderson

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