Last weekend, I had the honor of giving the opening keynote on Friday at the 2015 Ohio LinuxFest and a session presentation on the Assimilation project the next day. Both talks were very well-received, but the reception the Assimilation project talk received from the standing-room audience was extraordinary. So it seems good to give a summary of the talk and why I think they resonated so strongly to it.
Today’s blog post is about the imperative, absolute necessity for automation in cybersecurity. Those of you who read this blog regularly will note that this has been the theme for a while – with three recent articles about automation and one on the IT best practices project (which is all about automation). In this article we talk about why to automate cybersecurity, what to automate and how to automate cybersecurity.
The Assimilation System Management Suite (ASMS) provides integrated capabilities in monitoring, general system management, network management, and cybersecurity. The next few releases will concentrate on strengthening our cybersecurity portfolio of low-noise automated security tools. The new capabilities include security best practice analyses, checksum integrity analyses, and patch tracking and management and integration with a few SIEM products. This post talks about our plans for those releases in more detail.
Although this article and title are a bit tongue-in-cheek, the reality behind the title is serious. In the average data center, 30% of their servers are mainly space heaters [they had their brains eaten ;-)]. Given that many data centers are strictly limited on power, cooling and floor space, and that power and maintenance are significant costs, this is a big deal. This happens primarily because the staff managing those servers have don’t have a clear idea of what all their servers are doing.
Getting into security compliance is a big effort. Worse yet, Verizon says 80% of those who get in compliance have trouble staying there. When you discover you’re out of security compliance, there’s typically high drama if an auditor notices, or even higher drama if your security team discovers you’ve let an intruder in. Too much drama and too much elapsed time reduces security and impairs organizational learning.
What’s needed is a way to find these problems right after they’re created – while the people involved still remember what they did and why they did it. This changes the whole dynamic and creates teachable moments instead of high stress drama – before an intruder or auditor finds the weakness.
One of the key things that make DevOps deployments possible is more automation to make things more reliable. These tools include things like Jenkins, Ansible, Chef, Puppet, SaltStack, and even tools like Hubot, and concepts like Infrastructure as Code, Test Automation, and Test Driven Development, Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery, and ChatOps. These tools have changed the face of system administration in the last decade. Unfortunately, security automation has lagged significantly behind the DevOps movement.
Getting your organization into security compliance is a lot like eating an elephant. It’s a daunting task, but there’s really not much you can do but eat it one bite at a time. A recent Verizon survey indicated that 80% of all organizations surveyed indicated they have trouble staying in compliance. For these organizations, they get to eat that elephant again and again – and worse yet, under the critical eye of an auditor. Once you eaten the elephant, you don’t want it to become an annual event.
Computer security is problematic today, is expected to get worse for years to come. The security field is widely acknowledged to be suffering from a shortage of qualified security experts. Many people believe that significant improvements in automation are the only way to address this growing problem. Compared to the level of automation that system management has experienced in recent years, security has been estimated to be at least a decade behind.
Our IT Best Practices community was created to help support security automation efforts. We aim to collect, categorize and curate mechanically-verifiable best practices for servers, services and networking, in support of the idea of “best practices as code”.