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Editor’s question: What are the advantages of using automation technology and how are such capabilities secure?

Editor’s question: What are the advantages of using automation technology and how are such capabilities secure?

Enterprise SecurityInsightsTop Stories

Intelligent automation will play a critical role in shaping a new, technologically-enabled, post-pandemic future of work, according to new research by Pegasystems, the software company empowering Digital Transformation at some of the world’s leading enterprises. The global study, conducted by research firm, Savanta, surveyed over 3,000 global senior managers and frontline IT staff for their thoughts on technology’s future role in a significantly altered business landscape.

The research found that preparedness for future pandemics or similar disruptions was still the main focus for many, with an overwhelming majority (84%) of respondents identifying it as a high priority – an unsurprising figure when you consider that nearly one in three (31%) said they were either totally unprepared or ‘not very prepared’ for the impact of COVID-19. It also found that intelligent automation has emerged as one of the key technologies used to future-proof businesses against disruptive events.

A total of 76% of respondents said the pandemic will cause them to increase their intelligent automation investment. Meanwhile, 74% of survey participants agree that further external shocks that temporarily remove people from the workplace will result in more intelligent automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) investment, while 76% also say that unpredictable mass illness and/or self-isolation will drive increased business demand for intelligent automation. Over half (51%) of respondents also said they would increase investment in AI and cloud solutions to guard against the business impact of future pandemics.

More broadly, the study found that technology will have a profound effect on the way we work in the future, with 86% of respondents expecting technology to either ‘significantly change’ or produce ‘quite a lot of change’ in the way people in their organisation work over the next five years. Tellingly, 0% of respondents said that technology would drive no change over that period.

We talked to the experts who offer their best practice advice on how automation can provide business advantages and how such capabilities are secure.

Peter Margaris, Senior Director of Product Marketing, Skybox Security: “Cybersecurity is more complex than ever. Even before the chaos that has come to define this year, the volume of vulnerabilities that security teams needed to manage was becoming unbearable, the pressure to right-size resources was increasing and the variables within the security environment (including new cloud services, third-party environments and newly-deployed technology) were stretching the security function’s capacity to breaking point. Now, they have to deal with all of these issues while securing distributed workforces and supporting ongoing Digital Transformation initiatives. Something has to give.

“One of the best ways that organisations can relieve some of this pressure is by identifying time-consuming processes that could be automated. Context-aware automation technology can be used in a host of useful ways. It can clean up and optimise firewalls, spot policy violations, assess vulnerabilities without a scan, match vulnerabilities to threats, simulate end-to-end access and attacks, proactively assess rule changes, and more. It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Work needs to be done to identify which security functions are the most time-consuming and which will deliver the most value through automation. Careful consideration should also be given to which automation tools are deployed. This is technology that shouldn’t be working in isolation. While it’s tempting to look at solutions that can automate specific processes, it’s critical for the CISO to always consider the bigger picture. The data ingested by any automation solution should be available to be used to gain insights into an organisation’s wider security posture. While it’s true that automation, when used correctly, does a great job at increasing efficiencies, it is most valuable when it can integrate into the wider security ecosystem and deliver insights that improve decision-making capabilities.”

David Shepherd, Global VP of Sales Engineering at Ivanti: “As the business landscape continually evolves, it’s important that enterprises can keep up and investing in automation is key to achieving this. The current global pandemic has placed more impetus on businesses to digitally transform in order to continue supporting their employees while they work from home, in the same way as they would be supported working on-premise. The shift to fluid working has increased the demand on IT and security teams, which they must continue to meet at the same level as before, even though they may have less resources available.

“Cybercriminals are taking advantage of the remote working shift and will likely continue to do so as the equilibrium between remote and office-based working is eventually reached. Remote working places much more responsibility in the hands of employees to protect their corporate networks, which has led to a rapid rise in cyberattacks – an increase of 63% according to the Information Systems Security Association. What’s more, with cybersecurity pros moved from security onto other tasks, such as IT support to enable the smooth transition to remote working, this invaluable business practice risks being left to the wayside. 

“This is where automation comes into play. However, due to the current complexity and dynamic nature of IT and security, it needs to be taken further than basic workflow automation and conversational bots. Businesses should therefore invest in hyper-automation in order to secure their assets and infrastructure, which Gartner defines as ‘the combination of multiple Machine Learning, packaged software and automation tools to deliver work’. With hyper-automation, businesses will be able to self-heal, self-secure devices and self-service end-users proactively, predictably and continuously.

“Promoting a ‘shift-left’ approach with hyper-automation and moving problem resolution as close to the end-user as possible can do much for cybersecurity. At its peak, hyper-automation can enable devices to autonomously self-heal and will help businesses react more quickly to real threats. Hyper-automation means autonomous discovery can take place to continuously monitor for changes to the IT environment, giving security teams maximum visibility. Algorithms will then use this information to anticipate and prioritise threats – responding to the most critical first – and proactive and adaptive remediation will take place autonomously in response to this information. In practice, this capability can respond to a critical patch being released by identifying those devices that need it installed, prioritising it above other updates and proactively installing it before any vulnerabilities are exposed.

“With the addition of hyper-automation, security teams can take advantage of automated and predictive analytics to keep on top of their business’ cybersecurity, despite battling with limited resources. Ultimately, this means security alerts will be responded to faster, and security teams will face less pressure as devices self-heal without alerts or tickets crossing the desks of staff.”

Simon Spring, Senior Account Director, EMEA at WhereScape: “Automation is a key part of maintaining efficiency within business processes. By automating time-intensive, repetitive tasks that don’t involve a high degree of human inventiveness or imagination, developers and data teams can focus on delivering more strategic insights and work on more high-value tasks.

“Automation provides data warehousing teams with a wide-range of benefits commonly associated with Digital Transformation: boosting developer productivity by five-fold, delivering data warehouses more quickly, as well as more easily adapting existing data warehouses as business needs change.

“We know all too well that with every IT investment decision there is the pressure to prove ROI, ensuring the new technology will help to future-proof the business as much as possible. Many organisations have concerns about adopting new technology on the basis that this product may work well now, but what about in the future? Will this mean the business is locked in to a particular vendor’s products, unable to migrate if a new and improved solution comes along? This is what we’ve come to call ‘decision paralysis’ – where IT professionals try to make future predictions on the needs of the business and its IT environment before it is even remotely possible to know.

“Automation can help here, particularly when it comes to avoiding some of the challenges of proprietary systems. Businesses are now growing and changing at speed and ‘planning’ for these future needs is like basing a 20-year plan off a horoscope. No business wants to be investing in a promising IT project only to find it has been entirely outpaced in no time at all.

“Automation can be a powerful tool. By creating the same data infrastructure, the automation layer effectively future-proofs an infrastructure investment by making it easy to move the data in or out when things change – whether that is between the latest solution from the same vendor, or to a new platform entirely. In short, automation refactors code and processes as new capacities become available, future-proofing the overall IT strategy.

“Maintaining a secure and compliant environment through manual operations is unsustainable, and though automation is not a silver bullet, it’s as close to one as organisations can get.

“Automation takes basic tasks out of human hands, reducing the chances of human error from processes, enforcing patterns, improving accuracy, consistency and compliance.

“Automation can be a huge technical and cultural shift, but the benefits will help to spur economic growth and greater productivity. Improving compliance with security policies, the ability to deploy resources consistently at scale, and enabling teams to identify and remediate security issues faster, IT teams can enjoy an extra peace of mind that their processes are future-proofed against the unknown.”

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