Stolen data is a lucrative line of work for cyber criminals. The Dark Web Price Index, an annually published list of “products” for sale on the dark web, listed prices in 2021 that ranged from 1,000 Spotify followers for $2 to verified Stripe accounts, fetching as much as $6,500.

That prospect of financial reward means criminals will keep coming after any time of data a corporation might have. Financial data, intellectual property, personally identifiable information (PII), source code – nothing is safe from hackers. So corporations need to keep improving their security defenses against that relentless onslaught.

To prevent breaches, organizations need comprehensive, multi-layered cybersecurity programs and cutting-edge protection tools. Even with such programs, however, many struggle to identify, analyze, and mitigate security threats and then protect their business-critical data from malicious adversaries.

This explains why almost 2,000 breaches were reported in the first half of 2022, and why security experts anticipate that by the end of the year, the number of security breaches will match or exceed 2021’s total.

Additionally, security tools such as SIEM (security information and event management) and endpoint security platforms require human intervention to review alerts and take action. As long as organizations rely on human security personnel, it will be hard to keep data resources safe from threat actors. The only way to achieve this objective is with data security automation.

The Role of Automation in Data Security

Automated data protection tools work consistently and automatically to detect, investigate, and remediate threats to enterprise data. The machine-based execution of data security actions means that security teams don’t have to manually review and address every alert; as much as possible (which is a lot), the software does it for you.

Automation also minimizes the chances of human error that comes with negligence and alert fatigue. According to one recent survey, 70 percent of security professionals said that they check more than 10 security alerts per day. Additionally, 78 percent spend at least 10 minutes investigating each alert. That’s almost two hours of the work day spent weeding through alerts – most of which are false positives that pose no actual harm.

In such circumstances, no wonder that plenty of security personnel tune out those high alert volumes: 57 percent turned off some alerting features, while 39 percent simply ignored certain alert categories. These actions help your human employees to keep from being overwhelmed, but they also increase the risk of breaches.

Automated tools can address both problems. They can respond to and address security alerts, which helps to reduce the staff’s alert fatigue. At the same time, the tools also respond appropriately and quickly to genuine alerts to minimize the possibility of breaches.

Advanced automation platforms adapt to your organization’s unique security requirements and threat landscape. They can automatically execute tasks defined by the security operations team to accelerate incident response and to prevent damage to the organization’s data assets.

Automating data security processes also helps to strengthen the organization’s overall threat intelligence, threat hunting, and threat detection capabilities, refine the data security strategy, and implement controls to defend data resources against future attacks.

The Benefits of Data Security Automation

The best data security automation tools work independently (read: without human intervention) to identify existing and emerging threats to data. They also categorize threats and vulnerabilities, triage them by severity or potential harm, and automatically respond to them to prevent (or at least minimize) damage from threat actors.

While performing these actions, these security solutions follow the same workflows taken by security personnel. This brings greater consistency into the IT environment along with fewer errors, both of which are common pain points for human security teams.

Security teams can choose prebuilt playbooks or build their own customized playbooks with encoded logic and enterprise-specific rules. Each playbook will function as a “blueprint” which the tool will follow to execute specific tasks and address security issues. By removing humans from many workflows, the tool increases transparency and control, and makes it harder for a threat actor to manipulate or steal sensitive data.

Automation standardizes and streamlines incident response for future use. Such repeatability reduces response times and allows the organization to better mitigate risk to its critical, sensitive, or confidential data assets. It also speeds up audits for security certifications.

Who Can Benefit From Data Security Automation?

Data security automation empowers organizations to stop attacks to critical data resources earlier in the attack lifecycle, which lowers the risk of full-out breaches. It benefits security teams by automating alert triaging and incident response, minimizing the need to analyze and address alerts manually.

As a result, the day-to-day operational burden for security teams is lower. Instead of struggling with alert fatigue, personnel can use their time more effectively to address threats where their specific skills are really required – say, an advanced persistent threat (APT) from a criminal enterprise; or drafting new policies for a changed IT environment.

Sophisticated data security automation tools provide advanced features for case management and reporting; that allows team members to better identify threats and to improve metrics such as MTTD (mean time to detect) and MTTR (mean time to respond). The tools can also support management with strategic security initiatives and help to create a single source of truth for the security program.

In the long term, data security automation platforms help to strengthen security defenses. They also allow companies to control labor costs while increasing the ROI of their security investments.

Should My Organization Invest in Data Security Automation?

In the modern digital economy, data security automation can benefit any organization, especially those in industries where data is critical to operations and service delivery. These include:

  • Healthcare
  • Financial services
  • Utilities
  • Technology
  • Education
  • Government

If your organization collects, processes, or stores data, data security automation with artificial intelligence, machine learning, analytics, or security orchestration can bring tangible benefits to your firm and keep your data safe.

Automation will also benefit you if:

  • You have experienced a breach in the past
  • The volume of security alerts raised by SIEM and other tools has increased
  • Your security team is struggling to keep up with alerts through manual means
  • Your team is overwhelmed by false positives and at risk of burnout
  • Employees are spending too much time on repetitive, day-to-day tasks instead of using their skills on high-value tasks that can strengthen the company’s data security program
  • Incident response takes too long, increasing the risk of irretrievable data loss following a breach

According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2022, organizations with a fully-deployed security automation program have a breach lifecycle 74 days shorter than those that don’t. These companies can also identify and contain a breach in 249 days, compared to other organizations that take 323 days to do the same. Equally important, automation lets firms save an estimated $3.05 million per data breach – a 65.2 percent difference in average breach cost.

SOAR and XDR tools are particularly useful since they can standardize security processes, shorten the breach lifecycle by 29 days, and reduce average breach costs by $400,000 or more.

Tips to Automate Data Security Processes

Data security always starts with data discovery. Traditional data loss prevention (DLP) solutions rely on manual pattern-matching for data discovery. That approach, however, tends to get bogged down by too many false positives and false negatives.

Look for automated data discovery solutions that eliminate the need for manual data mapping, can automatically scan all unstructured and structured content residing in different types of files, and provide a 360-degree view of all sensitive data.

Confirm that the solution can also:

  • Set up and enforce data privacy and security policies
  • Control access to sensitive data to different audiences based on their needs
  • Automatically redact sensitive data to keep it out of the hands of unauthorized users
  • Create audit logs to increase transparency about who is accessing data and when

Improve Your Data Security with Reciprocity ZenRisk

Strengthen your data security controls and data-centric security models with Reciprocity ZenRisk. ZenRisk is an advanced solution to automatically identify, assess, and mitigate risks to your business-critical or sensitive data.

With its built-in content library, cross-object risk scoring, and automated workflows, ZenRisk will help keep your information resources safe from adversaries. Need greater visibility into your attack surface? Want to monitor risk to data? Looking to better understand your information’s risk posture?

Get a demo of ZenRisk and you can do all this and more.