How to Overcome IT Security Staff Burnout

Overcoming IT security staff burnoutToday’s IT security professionals are under increasing pressure to manage and assure the highest level data protection for their organizations and clients. With the number of incoming threats steadily on the rise and staffing numbers remaining stagnant (or dropping), those in this high-stress industry are burning out at a rapid pace. IT leadership is often painfully aware of the issue at hand, but at a loss as to how to help ease the burden their staff is under. The good news is there is a solution and it’s not nearly as difficult or costly as you may think. But first, we must get to the heart of the problem.

As IT security threats and their subsequent impact continue to increase in number, frequency and complexity, businesses are scrambling to keep up. Furthermore, budgetary restrictions and a skills shortage are also wreaking havoc on IT security teams. As a result, qualified personnel are finding themselves inundated with a relentless stream of cyber-attacks, which is contributing greatly to the high level of turnover in the IT security field. Simply put, employees are overworked and it’s taking a significant toll.

Couple this with the fact that the incident response and remediation process for most companies is still partially or entirely manual. As such, system and network vulnerabilities are not properly being managed, which leads to increased risk to the organization. Further, dependence on tools like spreadsheets, emails and phone calls to handle incidents is not an adequate or effective way to manage incidents. There’s simply too much risk involved, which in turn puts even more pressure on IT security personnel. Something’s got to give.

As a result of all of these critical factors, many organizations are turning to automation to help manage the IT workload and improve service levels. More specifically, IT security professionals are beginning to see the power of automation for more effective management of incident response and remediation. In fact, with the right tool, existing systems and applications can be linked to create a more uniform infrastructure and close the loop on the incident response process.

Additionally, integrating automation into your incident response strategy can provide the following benefits:

  • Remove manual processes that slow response time. Managing IT security incidents manually often results in costly delays and bottlenecks, which slow your mean time to resolution. Automation eliminates these manual processes and thereby dramatically improve MTTR.
  • Enable the use of a single platform for IT security incident management. Gain real-time visibility and maintain control over the entire process to ensure ownership and accountability.
  • Prioritize and manage risk based on criticality. The IT security team can focus on those incidents that present the greatest degree of risk to the organization while the automation tool can handle less significant incidents without the need for human intervention.
  • Free up and optimize use of skilled staffing resources. IT security personnel can be freed up to focus their time, efforts and advanced skillsets on other critical tasks and issues.
  • Gain greater visibility over all IT security incidents. Centralized dashboard allows IT leadership to get real-time updates on any and all issues currently being handled.

As you can clearly see, automation is proving to be the ideal solution to easing the heavy burden of today’s IT security personnel. If you’re not yet taking advantage of the many benefits this technology has to offer for your organization, the time to do so is now.

Get started today by launching your free demo of Ayehu.

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The Role of Humans in IT Process Automation

The Role of Humans in Robotic Process AutomationWhile IT process automation has been touted as the be all and end all of workplace optimization, in reality it’s not necessarily the magical quick-fix that many in business leadership envision it to be. It’s much more complex than that. Will it ultimately lead to greater efficiency and productivity levels? Definitely. IT process automation is certainly poised to dramatically change the way we work, but it’s not as though we’re going to be turning our jobs entirely over to machines. To be truly effective, ITPA still requires a certain degree of human management.

Human input and oversight is critical for ITPA to be successful. In a perfect world, it would be great to simply plug and play, putting the software robots in place and just letting them do their thing. But that’s not what you’d do with human workers, right? Just like your employees, the intelligent bots you implement must first be told what to do. The tasks, workflows and processes they’re employed to do must be built and communicated, and that’s where humans come into play.

The good news is, with the right software solution, this is relatively straightforward (i.e. it doesn’t require any advanced coding or programming skills). Regardless, however, building and implementing a complex ITPA process still time and attention. The most important step is determining what processes can and should be automated to achieve maximum efficiency, and this cannot be done without human input. It’s also equally important that the process be tested regularly, particularly during the building and implementation process, to ensure that it’s working properly. Again, this requires human intelligence.

Those who have already been successful at adopting and leveraging IT process automation within their organization recommend establishing a dedicated team to oversee and manage the automation process. It shouldn’t be assumed or expected that IT will simply add automation to its list of other functions. Those in charge of ITPA should specifically be assigned the duties of managing and modifying workflows, allocating the appropriate number of bots to daily tasks, prioritizing work and, of course, dealing with exceptions as they arise. The latter part in particular demonstrates the important role of humans in ensuring that ITPA runs as smoothly and effectively as possible.

Furthermore, just like their human counterparts, robots will require routine performance reviews. Obviously this won’t require tact and two-way interaction, but rather its purpose is to improve the automated processes whenever and wherever possible. Once up and running, the IT process automation team will need to oversee processes at various intervals, fixing anything that goes awry and identifying areas of potential improvement. Additionally, human input is required to go through, analyze and leverage all of the data and documentation reported by the bots.

So, while the ultimate purpose of IT process automation is to streamline operations, it’s not meant to replace human workers. In fact, at least as of the time of this writing, this wouldn’t even be possible. In reality, ITPA is meant to enhance and improve the work environment for humans and only with their support, input and management can the true benefits of automation be realized.

Curious about how ITPA works and whether it would be a good fit for your organization? Request a free product demo today.

eBook: 10 time consuming tasks you should automate

Here’s What Cybersecurity Data Breaches Cost in 2017

Here’s What Cybersecurity Data Breaches Cost in 2017Welcome to 2018! As we usher in a new year, it can be helpful to take a look back at what occurred over the past 12 months, particularly in terms of cybersecurity. Recognizing what threats are out there and having an accurate understanding of what those risks could potentially cost your business can help you better prepare for and prevent such events from impacting your organization in the future. To gain some insight in this area, we turned to the 2017 Cost of Data Breach Study. Here’s a synopsis of what the study uncovered.

The annual study was conducted by IBM Security and Ponemon Institute, polling 63 U.S. organizations covering 16 different industry sectors. At a glance, the numbers look like the following:

  • Average number of breached records: 28,512
  • Average total cost of data breach: $7.35 million (up from $7.01 million)
  • Increase in total cost of data breach: 5%
  • Average cost per lost or stolen record: $225 (up from $221)
  • Increase in cost per lost or stolen record: 2%

How is the cost of a data breach calculated?

One of the biggest takeaways from this year’s study was the various factors that are used to calculate the cost of a data breach. Some are obvious, others are more obtuse. Here’s what organizations should take into consideration when evaluating risk:

  • Size of breach and/or number of records lost or stolen
  • Time required to identify and contain a breach (this number decreasing, thanks in large part to organizations investing in intelligent cybersecurity technologies)
  • Detection and escalation costs (including costs associated with investigations, assessments, audits and communication management)
  • Post-breach costs, including the expense of notifying victims and appropriate authorities as well as legal expenditures
  • Churn rate (loss of customers due to reputational damage following a data breach)

Some of the factors that are recommended for reducing these costs include the use of cybersecurity analytics as well as recruiting and retaining experienced, knowledgeable personnel. Implementing strategies and advanced technologies that can limit the number of records lost or stolen can also help organizations lower costs and mitigate risks.

Additional Noteworthy Findings

Narrowing down the 23-page report, here are a few of the most pertinent findings:

  • Both the individual and total average cost of data breaches for an organization have reached record highs
  • The amount of abnormal churn (i.e. loss of customers outside of normal course of business) is also on the rise
  • Heavily regulated industries experience higher data breach costs (particularly health care and financial services)
  • Detection and escalation costs are at a record high
  • Malicious or criminal attacks remain the primary cause of data breach (and the most costly)
  • Extensive use of mobile platforms has increased cybersecurity risk
  • Costs associated with lost business continue to increase
  • The use of intelligent cybersecurity analytics reduces the per capita cost of a breach

More money is being spent on indirect cybersecurity costs than direct ones. These costs include the time employees spend on notifications of data breaches as well as incident investigations/remediation efforts.

And, a point that’s so important it’s worth mentioning again: the time it takes to identify and contain a data breach has a tremendous impact on the costs associated with such breaches. In this year’s study, it took an average of 206 days for organizations to detect an incident and another 55 days to contain it. For mean time to identify (MTTI) of fewer than 100 days, the average cost associated was $5.99 million. For MTTI greater than 100 days, however, that cost increases significantly to $8.70 million. Likewise, costs associated with mean time to contain (MTTC) rose from $5.87 million (less than 30 days) to $8.83 million (30 days or more).

The overall conclusion from these facts and figures is that cybersecurity continues to be an incredibly costly risk to organizations. To mitigate this risk (and the hefty costs associated with it), business leaders must take a proactive approach, developing strategies and leveraging advanced incident response technology to stay a step ahead of hackers. Intelligent automation powered by AI and machine learning can provide this level of security.

To see the Ayehu platform in action and prepare your company for an uncertain future, click here.

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How To Get Prepared For The 2018 GDPR Deadline

How To Get Prepared For The 2018 GDPR Deadline

This article was originally published in Forbes.

The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is set to affect thousands of organizations worldwide. In fact, GDPR is the most important change in data privacy regulation in 20 years. For those unfamiliar, GDPR defines a broad set of rights and principles governing the protection and use of EU citizens’ data, independent of physical location.

Heavy fines for noncompliance and rapid breach notification requirements, coupled with a mid-2018 implementation deadline mean that organizations must immediately and aggressively begin working on GDPR. At a minimum, they should start by developing data classification strategies, data usage and retention guidelines and baseline security controls. Furthermore, by automating these processes and controls, they can lower the cost and ease the implementation of GDPR compliance.

GDPR Background, Rights And Principles

GDPR was developed by the EU in order to formalize the rights of its citizens and their personal data. It applies to any firm or organization that processes or stores such data, regardless of where they are located. For example, a U.S.-based company that held client data in Singapore would still be subject to GDPR, provided that data included clients who are EU citizens.

Unlike its predecessor, GDPR contains strong enforcement measures. First, fines for noncompliance of up to 4% of worldwide revenue can be assessed for extreme violations. Second, in the event of a serious breach, violators may have to notify both EU authorities and the citizens affected within 72 hours, which will be extremely challenging and potentially disruptive.

The key element of GDPR is the definition of data protection rights for its citizens. The list of rights is extensive and will impact business models and processes in many ways. Some of the more important rights to take note of include the following:

• Consent must be given for data processing, and the way the data will be used must be stated in a way that is easy for the citizen to understand.

• Organizations must clearly state what data is being processed, how it is being processed and with what other organizations the data might be shared.

• Citizens have a right to be forgotten. That is, they can request that all copies of their data be deleted. They also have a right to be easily able to transfer their data from one organization to another.

Given that there is less than a year before the deadline for compliance, organizations absolutely must begin preparing immediately. There are several areas that are high priorities for action. These include staffing, data audit and classification, risk analysis and basic system logging. Beyond that, organizations must begin aligning their business models with acceptable GDPR practices, building their client notification and consent frameworks and defining a fundamental security control set.

GDPR Preparation

The first step in adapting to global regulation change, beyond understanding what the change entails, is preparing as far in advance as possible. With just about five months until implementation, the time to start prepping is upon us. While each individual organization will ultimately need to develop its own unique strategy, there are certain constants that are recommended for all enterprises to remain GDPR compliant. Those constants include four key steps, as follows:

Discovery: Identifying what personal data the organization is in possession of and where it resides.

Management: The governance of how personal data is accessed and used.

Protection: Establishing security controls to prevent, detect and respond to infrastructure vulnerabilities and data breaches.

Reporting: Acting on data requests, reporting data breaches and maintaining required documentation.

These four key factors should become the foundation of any GDPR policy. There is, of course, leeway as to how these steps are carried out and what tools and techniques are applied in doing so. Forward-thinking business leaders will leverage as many tools as available in order to streamline and strengthen their GDPR compliance.

Using Technology To Close The Gap

In response to the proposed change in data security regulation, many developers and vendors have begun offering various tools and technologies specifically designed to help organizations prepare and comply with GDPR. For instance, there is a growing number of risk assessment tools that provide deep analysis and visibility into database infrastructure along with recommendations for remediation. There are also a number of implementation solutions that have been preconfigured with GDPR rules, standards and processes.

From a control standpoint, automation is emerging as a valuable option, particularly because it creates a consistent, automatic and well-documented process that will stand up to scrutiny during an audit. It makes it much more certain that a spot check for compliance (e.g., validating the control for a particular day) will pass successfully. And with a flexible solution, an automation platform can integrate with virtually all security solutions in the market. This means that the organization can choose whatever security solutions they feel are best and still have the automated process they need to be successful.

Another consideration is segregation of duties. A security control must be separated from the people the control is monitoring. Using an automated process means that staff members do not need to be involved, eliminating the risk of staff members having access to both the data and the security control that protects it. Furthermore, a reliable record of that access is created in a data store that is closed to system administrators, creating a solid audit trail to validate the controls.

No Magic Bullet

It should be noted that there is no absolute perfect solution when it comes to compliance. The question of whether a control set is sufficient to protect data relative to risk is quite subjective. What auditors look for is not a fixed set of deliverables but a consistent methodology for analyzing risk, arriving at a control set and implementing those controls. By preparing ahead and leveraging the appropriate tools and technologies, organizations can improve the chances of maintaining compliance on a consistent basis.

EBOOK: HOW TO MEASURE IT PROCESS AUTOMATION RETURN ON INVESTMENT (ROI)