In a complex IT environment, even small tasks can take extended time to complete. Sprawling and legacy systems are hard to develop, deploy and maintain. Constituent demands only increase the complexity, and IT teams struggle with management, availability and cost.
Unfortunately, despite this growing complexity of systems, state and local IT professionals often have limited resources. This makes proactively combating changing security vulnerabilities challenging and leaves their data and applications exposed.
Additionally, many organizations lack a basic ability to determine what software runs on their systems, due to years of intertwining legacy systems built over one another. This means state and local governments are sometimes operating in the dark when it comes to their attack vectors and potential remediation.
Deploying security patches is a critical remedy for many of these issues. Unfortunately, it can be an extremely complicated, manual and time-consuming process. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), “Timing, prioritization, and testing are intertwined issues for enterprise patch management. Ideally, an organization would deploy every new patch immediately to minimize the time that systems are vulnerable to the associated software flaws.” But the reality is that prioritization and limited resources affect when and which patches are applied, causing many governments to patch behind schedule.
Furthermore, state and local IT departments don’t always have the staff to constantly survey their assemblage of systems, networks and applications. Problems have to be taken care of retroactively, and it can often take months to find and patch a failure, even with IT departments working quickly.
“A lot of security today, for these reasons, is reactive,” said Kraus. “This means you’re reacting to scan results as they come in, rather than being proactive and upfront with hardening and securing the system.”
What’s the best way for state and local governments to overcome these issues and meet security and compliance demands? The answer is moving to an operationalized and automated process for better IT security and protection.
Solution: End-to-End Security Automation
Automation tools make it easier for cybersecurity professionals to enforce security best practices, as well as meet internal and external security mandates.
Security automation refers to the use of automatic systems to detect and prevent cyberthreats while contributing to the overall threat intelligence of an organization to plan and defend against future attacks.
As we’ve discussed, due to the entanglement of IT systems, patching or maintenance isn’t as simple as it should be. Networks have dependencies, and if a vulnerability is patched, the temporary fix could throw off a string of intertwined applications.
Automation, however, can patch, maintain and protect systems as soon as a vulnerability is detected. Tests can also be conducted automatically to ensure connected applications are still in working order.
“Humans are notoriously bad at repetitive tasks,” Kraus said. “With the expanded complexity of IT systems, a small fat-finger mistake can cause massive security implications. But if you build a culture of automation, when security teams codify their requirements for systems, they can be assured that systems will be stood up the correct way every time.”
End-to-end security automation is key to staying on top of today’s growing threat environment. In today’s complex IT environments, security is paramount — security of your systems, security of your data and security of your citizens’ data. Not only must you be able to define what it means for your systems to be secure, but you also need to be able to simply apply that security, constantly monitor your systems and remain compliant with that security.
Using automation is a necessary first step for security. The proper automation tooling allows you to apply the security you need in a simple, consistent manner, allowing you to concentrate on more mission-critical tasks.
This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s report, “End-to-End Security Automation in Government Today.” Download the full report here.