May 17, 2022
June 1, 2022
Best Practices

How to successfully automate vulnerability prioritisation

Jumping straight into automation can come with its risks, as well as benefits. We'll explain how to navigate these and take a great step forward for your business.

~ 0 min read

There are many reasons why automation can be good for a business. It can help speed up processes, improve quality and accuracy, and free up employees to do other tasks. In cybersecurity, when teams can commonly feel overwhelmed and overstretched, this can be particularly helpful. But, jumping straight into automation can come with its risks. We'll explain how to navigate these and ensure you make the most of what should be a great step forward for your business.

Why automate?

As mentioned above, there are many potential benefits to automating a service. To illustrate each one, we'll use the automation of vulnerability prioritisation as an example:

  • Improving quality and accuracy of results – When it comes to sorting through new scan data, which can contain hundreds, if not thousands of new vulnerabilities, different team members may make different decisions over how each one should be prioritised and addressed. This inconsistency can be dangerous. By automating this process, you ensure that vulnerabilities are ranked according to your risk appetite every time.
  • Reducing labour costs – Did you know that manual triage can take seven hours for a business with just 250 assets? Many businesses can have 10x that, meaning the process of prioritisation can take days at a time. And that’s not the only cost of manual triage.
  • Increasing efficiency and productivity – Automation carries out the work of your team in a fraction of the time. In the case of vulnerability prioritisation, this tedious yet crucial task is done in seconds.
  • Allowing employees to focus on other tasks (or focus on what is most critical) - your team can divert their attention to other tasks, helping you to achieve more overall. If vulnerability prioritisation is automated then remediation teams can focus on what is most critical immediately.

However, there are also some risks to consider.

The risks of poor automation

There are several risks to consider when automating a process. These include:

  • Loss of control - When you automate a process, you're handing over control to a machine. This means you need to be confident that the machine will do what you want it to, every time.
  • Liability - If something goes wrong with an automated process, who is liable? For example, if an employee is injured or a customer is unhappy with the results of an automated service, your business could be held responsible.
  • Security – Could the automation of a process create new potential entry points for cyber criminals because you're introducing new software and hardware into your network or that of your clients, which could have security vulnerabilities?
  • Staff insecurity - Whenever work is handed from a human to a machine, there is a risk that employees will feel threatened by the change. This could lead to decreased morale and motivation, and even increased staff turnover.

How to do it right

There are several key things you need to consider before embarking on automating a service to minimise the risks and ensure it delivers the benefits you're looking for.

1. Define the goals and objectives of the automation

The first step is to define what you want to achieve with automation. This might be increasing efficiency, quality, or productivity, or freeing up employees to do other tasks.

With vulnerability management, many of the biggest challenges - burnout; staff shortages; confusion of which vulnerabilities to tackle first - stem from the fact that there is just too much scan data to work through. The number of vulnerabilities being identified within business systems has increased 280% in the last decade. Businesses simply cannot tackle them all. The only solution for making a positive impact to your security posture is to prioritise your vulnerabilities in order of criticality to your business. But, as mentioned above, this manual triage work can take hours and hours with every scan, delaying the crucial work of the remediation teams.

This makes vulnerability prioritisation a key activity to automate, provided it's done in a way that avoids the use of secret algorithms that take away all the transparency and control you should have over the process.

RankedRight empowers security teams to take immediate action over their most critical risks by automatically prioritising the data from every new scan, according to rules pre-set by the user. Data goes in, it’s enriched with vulnerability intelligence, and then sorted in order of criticality and assigned to the most appropriate team or person to resolve. Not one minute of the precious time needed for remediation is wasted.

2. Assess the risks involved

We've discussed above the risks you must consider when automating a process.  With RankedRight in place, the risks of a loss of control, liability, security and staff insecurity remain unaffected. Let's go through each one to explain.

  • Control - With RankedRight, you are in control of how vulnerabilities are prioritised and assigned, and you have a full audit trail for each one to keep on top of activity.
  • Liability - As the system is rule-based, no action will be taken that doesn't follow your instructions and we do not remediate on your behalf; we simply help you to order your risk in a way that's easier to manage.
  • Security - Our tool gives you the ability to improve your security posture; not weaken it.
  • Staff insecurity - Many of the causes of staff turnover and burnout - too much work; not enough clarity over impact made; tedious and repetitive triage work - are reduced or removed by automating the process of vulnerability prioritisation. Staff are given clear task lists and can get on with what they do best without delay.

3. Choose the right tool for the job

There are many different automation tools available, so it's important to choose one that's right for your business. In this article, we've focussed heavily on automation of vulnerability prioritisation but there are many other areas of cybersecurity that you can automate. Some things you might want to consider include:

  • The size of your business - If you have a small business, you might want to choose a tool that's easy to set up and use.
  • The price of the tool - Some tools can be expensive, so it's important to consider whether the benefits justify the cost. Against the labour costs of manual triage, RankedRight can save businesses significantly both financially and in terms of reducing risk. [cost saving calculator link]
  • The features of the tool - Make sure the tool has the features you need to achieve your goals, particularly if you've had to secure budget to adopt it. Think about the expectations that you've set.

4. Train employees on how to use the tool

Once you've chosen your automation tool, you'll need to train employees on how to use it effectively.

If you sign up for a free demo with RankedRight, you’ll be able to see how easy it is for you and your whole team to use the platform.

5. Communicate to clients and stakeholders

It’s likely that by automating a process, you will significantly change the team required, the costs and impact of the activity, as well as how business data will be used and stored. For this reason, it is vital that clients or stakeholders are informed of the change, particularly as the latter point may affect insurance cover or other regulations.

Communicate early and explain all the benefits of this change to get them on board. Your clients may be so pleased that you may be able to pass the costs on to them.

6. Monitor the results

Once you've implemented automation, it's important to monitor and review the results to identify any problems and ensure it’s having the desired effect. It's also a good idea to review the automation regularly to ensure that it's still fit for purpose as your business and customer needs evolve.

Automating a service can have a huge positive impact on your business and vulnerability prioritisation is one of the easiest places to start. Get in touch with RankedRight to book a demo today.

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