November 17, 2022
Automate and strengthen your security with Ansible
WORDS BY Lucija Korbar
POSTED IN IT Automation
This post was originally published on XLAB Blog.
Modern IT systems and infrastructures are becoming increasingly complex, and while technological advancements bring many benefits to organizations, they also open up new opportunities to exploit their security vulnerabilities and weaknesses. The consequences of sophisticated cyber attacks can be severe, ranging from financial losses and lost productivity to legal liability and reputational damage, so security of IT infrastructure should be among the company’s priorities. And while this is not an easy task, it is definitely one that companies must address to ensure the security of their business.
Siloed security teams. Unintegrated tools.
Unfortunately, none of the solutions on the market solves all security problems at once, so security teams usually have to juggle a variety of tools and services simultaneously.
Enterprise firewalls control traffic between untrusted and trusted sources, intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) monitor network traffic and detect suspicious activity, security information and event management (SIEM) systems monitor and analyze security events, privileged access management (PAM) tools control privileged accounts and access, and endpoint protection platforms (EPP) monitor and protect endpoint devices from malicious activity.
Each of these solutions plays an important role in managing and controlling risk, but the problem is that they come from different vendors and cannot be integrated with each other. In addition, many security-related activities are still performed manually, which is time-consuming, tedious and error-prone due to human involvement. Security teams are overburdened and under constant pressure, and it takes more time from detection to response. As a result, security breaches are not handled appropriately, putting the organization at high risk. Read on to learn how to overcome these challenges.
Strengthen your security posture
By transforming security processes into automatically executed workflows, organizations can free up their overworked security teams to focus on other activities, reducing the amount of time spent on each activity. Automation significantly reduces the risk of human error while improving reliability, accuracy and consistency. An improved security strategy provides more effective protection against security incidents and business disruptions, minimizing the costs associated with security breaches.
And who benefits most from security automation? It is relevant to security teams facing increasingly more sophisticated cyber attacks, managed security service providers (MSSPs) dealing with thousands of security solutions across their customer base, and security ISVs providing security orchestration and automation solutions currently using custom automation frameworks.
The Ansible Automation Platform provides everything an organization needs to successfully implement security automation – supported set of Ansible modules, roles and playbooks. The library of more than 700 included automation modules allows you to quickly execute tasks, and the easily reusable roles let you to write automation procedures once and deploy them across your infrastructure. Not to mention, Ansible is as powerful as it is easy to use, allowing you to automate almost anything in your security and IT infrastructure. It acts as a unified platform enabling security teams to better collaborate in addressing various cyber security challenges.
Ansible serves as a security enabler and a glue between disparate security technologies, systems and processes, as well as aligns the processes of siloed teams across the organization. It allows you to define and implement security policies and integrate them with other automated processes. With Ansible, you can also automate security solutions and standardize procedures for detecting and responding to security threats. Automated security provides security teams with a more efficient and streamlined way to identify, search for, and respond to security events. Ansible integrates seamlessly with the following vendors: IBM, Cisco, Check Point, F5, Splunk, Snort, Fortinet, Palo Alto, Cyber Ark and Syncope.
Security automation in action
Implementing security automation is a journey that is unique to each organization, depending on its needs. And it should be a gradual and well thought out project, that starts with determining your organization’s maturity level to avoid implementing advanced tools too early and wasting your time and resources.
In the early stages, organizations opt to simplify security tasks. They standardize security measures across different devices and technologies and replace manual processes performed with security tools from different vendors with automated processes. The next phase involves integrating security processes across the organization and centralizing security response processes. The final phase is suitable only for the most mature companies, that are ready to build a fully mature security automation strategy. It focuses on the integrated automation of workflows covering all aspects of security.
The Ansible Automation Platform is suitable for all maturity levels and supports various aspects of your security strategy.
The most popular use cases
Security teams investigate security alerts and incidents daily. Gathering information from different parts of the infrastructure is a highly inefficient process involving many different teams, delaying the actions needed to defend against threats, and leaving the company in a vulnerable position.
Automation relieves teams of tedious manual tasks and enables programmatic collection of logs from security systems such as firewalls and intrusion detection systems (IDS) to optimize and support activities performed via security information and event management (SIEM) systems.
The daily tasks of security teams include investigating and identifying potential security threats. Threat hunting is a proactive approach to cyber defense that goes beyond traditional detection technologies such as endpoint protection platforms and SIEM and includes tasks such as triage and identification of emerging threats. It is typically performed by security operators and analysts, who dig deeper to search for malicious activity that has bypassed initial endpoint security measures and has not yet been detected.
When a security breach is suspected, security analyst responds by gathering all relevant information across the infrastructure. Unfortunately, it can take days to understand what’s going on, extending the time from detection to remediation. The Ansible Automation Platform unifies the separate processes of different teams into a single, streamlined process. Automating alerts, correlation searches, and signature manipulations, as well as creating and updating SIEM correlation queries and rules for the intrusion detection system, accelerates the investigation of potential threats and enables more frequent and efficient updates to the organization’s security defenses to better protect the business. Effective identification shortens the time from intrusion to detection, reducing the damaging impact of cyber attacks.
The primary responsibility of security teams is to respond to incidents with approaches and techniques that neutralize and mitigate cyber attacks to protect the organization from the damaging consequences. The response to such attacks must be immediate, decisive and coordinated, which is often problematic because many different teams are involved, and a variety of security tools are used that usually lack integration capabilities. As a result, response is delayed, human error is possible, and the organization is unprotected for longer.
Security automation with Ansible enables integration and interoperability of security technologies, resulting in a unified, integrated and rapid response to security incidents. Using automation, you can turn processes into repeatable playbooks and speed up tasks such as setting up blacklists, blocking attacking IP addresses or domains, allowing non-threatening traffic, freezing compromised credentials, and isolating suspicious workloads for further investigation.
There is more
Thanks to Ansible’s versatility, there are many additional options to automate your security and make your life easier. To name a few:
- Automating SIEM with Ansible gives users programmatic access to a vast source of data that security engineers can use to assess situations and take timely actions.
- Firewall automation enables manipulation of policies and log configurations, speeding investigation and response processes.
- With Ansible, organizations can configure security rules within operating systems (e.g., user access rights), remote access (VPN), user and rights management and logs across systems, and more.
Rely on the experts
Implementing security automation can be challenging. To find the right automation strategy that fits your business needs, and to truly reap the benefits of security automation, it is advisable to work with experts.
As IT automation specialists and Ansible experts, we help companies on their journey towards optimization with automation through consulting, deployment and support. We’re specialized in transforming business processes into automated workflows, supported by unified IT automation in the areas of security, system infrastructure, OS management, networking and cloud.
Reach out and our experts will be happy to help you on your way to simplifies security operations.