Security Automation and the CISO

How is automation reconfiguring detection and response practices, and what critical things should the C-Suite understand about the CISO’s needs today? 

With the wealth of emerging technologies flooding the market, security leaders have been some of the most keen to explore how these can further protect their teams and businesses. But malevolent agents have access to the same technology, and the security space race has notched a faster pace as machine learning algorithms, for example, both offer solutions and challenges to the CISO.

With Keme Nzerem moderating, the speakers of this roundtable debate include:

  • Sukhvinder Paul, Head of EMEA Security, Verizon
  • Mansi Thapar, CISO, Jaquar Group
  • Pawan Chawla, CISO, Future Generali India Life Insurance
  • Vukosi Sambo, Head of Data Solutions, Medscheme Holdings


"Eye-opening" threats

Facing increasing external threats, a newly disparate workforce and a continuing global pandemic, the CISO, and their network of partners, solutions and strategies, requires continual focus. And where seemingly small issues need to be addressed, it is the larger, macro problems that are drawing their attention in myriad ways. Automation, therefore, could help. How are security leaders approaching new automation solutions within their already varied arsenal?

“It’s certainly been an eye opener,” said Sukhvinder, discussing the experience of the last eighteen months. “We’ve seen how the human race has been resilient and learned much about ourselves in the process, especially in what automation can do.

“The biggest aspect is in its visibility, helping with predictive defences and in our behavioural techniques,” he added. 

Behaviour, and beyond that, culture, is an increasingly important component of a security strategy and so more and more CISOs are factoring that into their spend. The pandemic created an “adrenaline rush” for businesses and the C-Suite, according to the Verizon executive, who needed to run their organisations in “survival mode”. Automation tools, he said, helped here too.


Survival mode

For other companies, survival mode meant operating in completely novel ways. Jaquar Group is an Indian manufacturing business with over 40 branches worldwide. It’s CISO had to draw up a working from home continuity model in just 24 hours. 

“It was a whole team effort, but, yes, we had to build a model that supported a manufacturing business going remote in a day,” recounted Mansi Thapar. “And we didn’t have to spend a penny because we have about four years worth of automation investment supporting us.”

That investment sped up technology and software rollouts that supported the great shift home, even in a region where a proportion of the workforce don’t have access to the internet. That was factored in too; the workforce were trained with crash courses, in using LAN too. 

“We had very good VPNs already, decent firewalls too with detection and response systems that ensured we were all secure. Finally, our end point software was up to date with policy training in tandem, making sure humans are our best defence [and not our weakest link],” she explained.


Weak spots

Across the world on the continent of Africa, Vukosi Sambo had different priorities.

“When the pandemic hit our priority was to keep the lights on,” the data expert reported. “Security took a back seat to allow us to focus our energies on stabilising the business.”

It perhaps is a little surprising to hear that given how much attention security is (rightly) receiving at the moment. But despite hindsight it can be easy to forget just how disruptive the weeks around March 2020 were for society and business, and sometimes, even the most important tasks move back in priority. That’s when fraudsters attack. 

“As soon as we could, though, we analysed our networks and put ourselves back on high security,” said Vukosi, “quickly recognising how automation was helping us move as quickly as possible.”

He said that automation actually bridged the gap between innovation and protection, whilst advocating that a strong culture of security provides the perfect platform to disseminate new tools. 

“People, process and technology need to come together to enable transformation and for businesses to understand the dynamics between detection and response. Only then can you understand how to allocate budget for your business in a personalised way,” he concluded.


Regulators and customers

Back in India, and Future Generali’s Pawan Chawla brought in the factor of regulators. 

“Regulators keep monitoring insurance businesses like ourselves,” he said, “to make sure even foreign practices can be defined by regulations and that customer data is protected. It therefore means we have to ensure our security meets those too—that’s how it is controlled in India.”

Far from relying on regulators to set its security credentials, however, Pawan also explained that he’s added controls for the benefit of the customer and their data, providing them visibility on what they can view using portals, personalising their access. 

This level of customer experience however has to be tempered with sound security measures. As the level of experience to satisfy customers requires ever more data, attacks will increase to capitalise on the influx of information. For security leaders, it is a constant relay race against antagonists where they hope automation will provide that added boost.

This roundtable is in partnership with Verizon.


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