When is Security Automation and Orchestration a Must-Have Technology? – Addressing Gartner’s SOAR Question

Last week, Anton Chuvakin from Gartner announced that Augusto Barros and himself are planning to conduct research in Q4 2017 on the topic of Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR), or Security Automation and Orchestration, depending on which analyst firms’ market designation you follow. At DFLabs we are very excited that Gartner is finally showing our market space some love and will be helping end users to better assess and differentiate SAO offerings.

Anton provided many questions that he wanted SAO vendors to prepare for. The questions immediately piqued our interest, with one question, in particular, standing out to us.

1.When is SOAR a MUST have technology? What has to be true about the organization to truly require SOAR? Why your best customer acquired the tools?

Anton also said that he had one main problem with Security Automation and Orchestration. In his own words, “For now, my main problem with SOAR (however you call those security orchestration and automation tools…if you say SOAPA or SAO we won’t hate you much) is that I have never (NEVER!) met anybody who thought “my SOAR is a MUST HAVE.”

The question is not entirely unwarranted. During my own time at Gartner covering the SOAR space, I spoke to many clients who were seeking an SAO solution without knowing that they were. Typical comments were, “I have too many alerts and false positives to be able to deal with them all”, or “We are struggling to hire enough skilled people to be able to respond to all of the incidents that we have to manage”. Another common comment was, “I am struggling to report operational performance to my executives?”. Often, these comments were followed by the question, “Do you know of any technology that can help?”.

Typically, these organizations had a mature security monitoring program, usually built around a SIEM. They often had critical drivers, such as regulatory requirements, or held sensitive customer data. We hear the same buying drivers from our own customer base.

To sum up the most common drivers for someone asking about Security Automation and Orchestration:

  1.  A high volume of alerts and incidents and the challenge in managing them
  2.  A large portfolio of diverse 3rd party security detection products resulting in a large volume of alerts
  3.  Regulatory mandates for incident response and breach notification
  4.  An overstretched security operations team
  5.  Reporting risk and the operational performance of the CSIRT and SOC to an executive audience

One interesting thing is that when there is no external driver like regulatory compliance, deploying a Security Automation and Orchestration solution is often determined by maturity. Most organizations don’t realize that they will be unable to cope with the volume of alerts and the resulting alert fatigue until they have deployed a SIEM and a full advanced threat detection architecture.

The common misconception is that the SIEM can help to reduce the number of incoming alerts by applying correlation rules. This not entirely untrue, but correlation rules will only reduce a small percentage. They are essentially signature based. You need to know in advance what you want to correlate, and adding a correlation rule to cover all and every incoming alert is not a trivial task. Even with correlation rules, additional work will be required to qualify an incident. Gathering additional IoC’s, incident observables and context is still a very manual process. Lastly, detection is only one part of the entire incident response process – notifying stakeholders, gathering forensic evidence and threat containment will also have to be done manually. These are the areas where SAO solutions provide the greatest ROI – as a force multiplier.

Top 5 Features to Evaluate When Selecting a Security Orchestration and Automated Response Product

Security Orchestration and Automated Response (SOAR) is a relatively new cyber security solution category. The aim of these platforms is to provide a centralized software solution to manage the complete lifecycle of a cyber incident, orchestrate security products to a determined goal, and respond to cyber incidents in an automated or semi-automated fashion. The SOAR category is of particular interest to Security Operations Center Teams, as this product is now seen as the backbone of incident management.

Given the differences that can exist between Security Operations Center or Cyber Incident Response teams, it’s rare to find items that share a commonality between the incident response organizations when evaluating incident response solutions. Given that, the following seem to share a common focus during the evaluation process:

In no particular order:

1. Supervised Active Intelligence™
This is a methodology that best describes one of our most powerful features within IncMan™, the ability to arm your SOC teams with selected intelligence related to a cyber incident. This feature provides targeted information and is provided directly to the assigned investigator. This information is paramount to starting a cyber investigation, and we see on a daily basis that cyber incidents without this information have a very slow reaction time. However, the most important factor is your teams take steps that are guided by the intelligence generated within an IncMan playbook as they work through their playbook actions.

2. Intelligent Correlation Engine
As per the Supervised Active Intelligence feature, within our IncMan platform, the intelligence will be captured and build upon the growing information around cyber incidents. This information is analyzed by IncMan, providing a visual representation of how an incident has progressed and if any other incidents share common features. I.e. they affected the same users, or same machine types, patterns that have emerged etc. We visualize this information over a timeline, allowing the SOC team the ability to correlate the cyber security incidents to business events or even basic tracking how malware has traversed through several machines and at what rate.

3. Extended Knowledge base with your own intelligence or from others
We understand as an organization how important it is to use multiple sources of external intelligence. This has allowed us to provide the ability to extend the IncMan knowledge base with the information required by your SOC team. For example, some clients use the knowledge base to add additional fraud intelligence and prevention information. We natively support TAXII and other feeds using the STIX format of intelligence sharing. Alternatively, if you are a part of an intelligence sharing network, IncMan permits the API connection.

Another feature which we often see utilized by CSO’s and CISO’s alike is regarding the knowledge base and Cyber Incident linking capabilities. We allow tagging and linking of knowledge base articles with cyber incidents to aid reporting and impact visibility to the stake holders.

4. Integrating your environment
As mentioned earlier, IncMan allows the use of your current environment and the products you already have readily available. As our client, we want to bring you from “Zero to Hero” in the shortest time span possible with pre-configured integrations that are enabled within minutes. With IncMan you choose how you want to leverage your existing products. The crucial point is we know every environment is a mixture of multiple moving parts and we can integrate with your existing framework to ensure maximum availability while minimizing response time and resource expenditures.

5. Playbooks
Playbooks can be thought of in the context of American football. The term playbook was created to give a visual meaning to orchestrating team members for a single goal, given a scenario presented to a team or organization. The three distinct teams are as follows

Defense, and containment for cyber incident response
Special Teams for enrichment and providing both teams with more information and field position for American football
The offense for mitigating incidents and going on the offensive to put the company in a positive, advantageous position given the situation that is presented in front of them.

For those of you not into the American Football analogy; Playbooks give your teams meticulous control over pre-defined workflows to drive policy and procedures in a repeatable, consistent and enforced manner. This allows for enrichment, containment, and mitigation driven through one product – IncMan.