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Finding Risk: Introducing Remediation Operations

The security space has evolved in complexity and scale, especially since 2020’s forced digital transformation hit virtually every industry. Day to day tasks for IT and security teams extend beyond the scope of people and their devices. Cyber attacks are now a “when” rather than an “if,” and security operations (SOC) teams are on the front lines of their organization’s attack surface: collecting, evaluating, routing, and remediating a continuous stream of high priority risk findings that reflect all of the exploitable gaps or vulnerabilities within an organization. 

These methods, although largely manual, have worked until recently; but, in a digitally transformed world, they are outdated and untenable for SOC teams to keep up with.

 

High vulnerability volume, low remediation velocity

 

Most job functions have workflow and project management tools that keep their teams running smoothly. HR teams can use Workday or Rippling. Engineering teams can use Jira and Azure Boards. Marketing teams can use Asana or Monday. But vulnerability and risk management teams are still largely using static spreadsheets and manual communications. 

Today’s security practitioners can no longer fulfill their main responsibility; instead, they’re functioning as project managers that evaluate risk, route findings to developers and operations teams, call meetings and update information across teams, project management software (or spreadsheets), vulnerability scanners, and reporting tools.

While this might work to an extent, there are a few problems that impact the efficiency and effectiveness of remediation teams: 

  • Inefficient process and scalability

Security teams that manually collect findings from an array of scanners are often leaving critical context behind and presenting remediation teams with incomplete risk data. The consequences of these inefficiencies will only magnify as the organization scales up, resources are lost, or the IT ecosystem changes.

  • Communication and coordination issues

Similar to a game of telephone, lapses in communication are amplified when spread across multiple stakeholders and tools. As priorities shift, it’s imperative that updates be made to all stakeholders and documentation. Manually executing this level of communication and coordination will exhaust any team over time.

  • Limited visibility and inefficiencies

There are an increasing number of point solutions and security vendors looking to address the volume and complexity of today’s risk and vulnerability management challenges. Multiple testing tools across multiple domains typically result in uncoordinated, conflicting, remediation requests and gaps in visibility.

  • Focus on findings, not on fixes

Discovering vulnerabilities is only half the battle. After ticket creation, the burden of prioritization, resolution, and communication is left to an already-overwhelmed DevOps, CloudOps, or ITOps team.

  • Unlimited backlog, limited resources

Because of their limited bandwidth, remediation teams often default to a first-in-first-out process where exceptions are ad-hoc and untrackable. 

 

Vulnerability management needs to change

 

This complexity is never going to slow down, and the scale is never going to shrink. Yet, this new digitally transformed world requires teams to scale up their efficiency. But how? While adding another vulnerability scanner onto your existing tech stack can help you achieve a bit more visibility, simply knowing these vulnerabilities exist isn’t enough. 

According to Gartner, CISOs that evolve their security assessment practices toward continuous threat exposure management (CTEM) programs will experience ⅔ fewer breaches. To achieve sustainable exposure management, organizations should be looking for a few key things: 

  • Cross-domain visibility

Organizations should be looking to achieve comprehensive visibility of their assets and attack paths across cloud, code and infrastructure domains. This insight informs severity assumptions and prioritization actions.

  • Time-to-value

Integrating the findings from a new security testing scanner into workflows shouldn’t require weeks to months of ramp time and tiresome work – especially when it comes to something as time-sensitive as finding attack vectors.

  • Automation

Whether you’re dealing with hundreds of thousands of findings from one testing tool, or weaving together results from several, leveraging no-code automation accelerates today’s manual efforts to tailor definitions of severity, vulnerabilities, connect remediation owners to findings, and more.

  • Collaboration

Gaps and discrepancies between teams, tools and perceptions clouds remediation actions and outcomes. Investing in a tool that delivers quantifiable facts and clean collaboration empowers teams to work seamlessly together, and gives them direction when it comes to solving difficult problems.

Many of the solutions on the market today are focused on one or two of the areas listed above – only visibility, automation, depth of integrations, or collaboration. But without having all four, manual, case-by-case decisions still have to be made.

 

Introducing Remediation Operations

 

Imagine that one of your security testing tools found a critical vulnerability in your attack surface that requires a massive shift of focus from security, development, IT, DevOps, and DevSecOps to come up with a remediation plan. Developing this plan requires the teams to rally, and prioritize collaboration over pre-existing tension.

The entire exercise can be frustrating, chaotic, time-sensitive, and slow all at the same time. Someone on the security team will have to pull all of the details and context related to that finding from their scanner, and try to determine who on the developer and/or IT operations team has the bandwidth and the capability to fix it. From here, the scenario could go one of two ways:

  1. Begin the remediation ticketing process:

    Once the security team determines the appropriate remediation owner, they must create a ticket, include all the necessary information, and ensure that all remediation actions are executed. Once the vulnerability is addressed, the IT operations or developer team communicates the update to the security team who then validates that the remediation action was effective.

  2. Accept the risk:

    If your IT operations or developer team is unable to attend to the vulnerability, security teams are tasked with the job of evaluating the risk. There are a number of components to this evaluation, such as the magnitude of the risk and whether it is part of an attack path to or from third-party applications, the Internet, or critical infrastructure. Assuming they determine that they can accept the risk for a certain amount of time, they will eventually need to revisit it and follow the steps in part 1 above.

     

Although these might seem like small logistical steps, some organizations have thousands or hundreds-of-thousands of vulnerabilities. When these steps are multiplied across a massive volume of vulnerabilities, it becomes a monotonous, error prone task, and untenable for the security team’s already-limited resources. 

Enter remediation operations, or RemOps, a new category of technology that transforms outputs from a wealth of security scanners, cloud misconfiguration testing tools, and other automated testing tools into actionable outcomes, so that teams can remediate smoothly and collaboratively.

A RemOps platform brings a holistic view and approach to the remediation process, eliminating guesswork and manual processes by unifying remediation teams, tools and processes in one connected, continuous flow. It brings clarity to the situation by automatically aggregating and normalizing all necessary data into a single backlog. From that centralized, de-duplicated view, teams can achieve a clear understanding of the risk at hand, prioritize accordingly, tailor their remediation workflow to the appropriate parties, and validate that the vulnerability was actually resolved – all while monitoring the efficiency of the security program overall.

 

Seemplicity, a RemOps platform

 

Introducing automation and connectivity into the remediation process revolutionizes the existing fragmented, manual process. Security teams can focus on finding vulnerabilities, remediation teams can cut down on fatigue and oversaturated backlogs, and organizations can maintain a new level of security hygiene and agility. The Seemplicity platform achieves these outcomes with six unique approaches:

  • Cross-domain Automated Findings Collection

Instead of navigating to siloed, environment-specific scanning tools to find and manage vulnerabilities across the attack surface, Seemplicity integrates with the scanners already testing your attack surface and centralizes findings into one consolidated, deduplicated backlog. 

  • Seemplicity Remediation ChoiceTM Engine

Choosing what to remediate next looks different for each organization, based on critical assets, PII, attack paths, business context, and more. 

  • Seemplicity Intelligent RemediationTM Router

The severity, priority, and remediation timeline is always prone to shifting, and manually assigning these tickets leaves room for error, lag, and oversight. Seemplicity makes remediation actionable by routing tickets to the appropriate remediation teams, in the work tools they already use, and makes adjustments when necessary to protect your organization better. 

  • Bi-directional Multi-Fixer Queue Management

A backlog with thousands or tens-of-thousands of open issues is intimidating for anyone, so make the backlog work for your team – not the other way around. Adjust the number of tickets in each remediation team’s queue based on their bandwidth so they know what to address in the next sprint or patch cycle. 

  • No Code / Low Code Remediation Workflow Engine

Seemplicity is an end-to-end remediation operations platform that supports code, cloud, and infrastructure remediation teams from the moment a vulnerability is found to the moment it’s closed, including quality assurance. It will update the status of a ticket throughout its lifecycle.

  • Remediation SLA Tracker and Manager

SLA compliance can be hard to achieve. Seemplicity makes sure teams stay on track by monitoring remediation progress against process and SLA compliance goals, and helps you evaluate remediation efficiency.

 

By empowering security and remediation teams with Seemplicity, they’re able to achieve the level of organization, process, and scalability needed to stay secure in today’s digital world.

Learn more about Seemplicity’s RemOps platform today.



Why Less is More In The Modern IT Environment

As IT environments expand, security teams adopt new tools and technologies in an attempt to effectively manage risks. However, in most cases, the growing arsenal of security tools has the adverse effect. 

With each tool built differently, and producing its own results, it’s difficult to integrate and synthesize their output, which leads to a number of challenges. The whitepaper on Staying Ahead of Risk and Exposure Using a Remediation Operations Platform by TechTarget’s Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) unveiled that the top three challenges associated with managing an assortment of security products are:

 

The use of multiple, siloed security technologies prevents a streamlined workflow. Instead, security teams must manually intervene, which only adds to their workloads and puts a strain on their already-tight-resources. 


 

According to ESG, 45% of organizations claim to have a problematic shortage in cybersecurity skills, with Fortinet’s 2023 Cybersecurity Skills Gaps report revealing that 56% of respondents indicate their organizations struggle to recruit cybersecurity talent. The skill shortage can have serious consequences, with 70% of leaders in Fortinet’s research agreeing that it creates additional risks for their organization.

 

Fail to scale, fail at scale

 

 

With security teams overworked and under-resourced, it is difficult to keep up with findings. In fact, the top challenge to vulnerability management is keeping up with the volume of open vulnerability findings. 

Overwhelmed with the number of findings from the various segregated tools, security teams’ processes slow down and fail to scale with the faster development cycle. As a result, development teams get held back due to security concerns and have to go back and fix earlier issues, which is extremely disruptive and delays releasing code to production.

But even more concerning is that the top three challenges associated with the faster development lifecycle are:

 

 

These challenges mean findings and alerts can easily go undetected and unremediated, resulting in development teams releasing vulnerable code and placing the organization at risk of a breach. 

 

Moving towards productive remediation operations

 

  • Grow your arsenal…to an extent

As noted at the outset, when security teams adopt new technologies to effectively manage risks in the increasingly dynamic enterprise, the opposite often happens. They end up with a complex, siloed collection of data that must be manually reconciled. Not only is this time consuming and inefficient, but the overwhelming number of findings are almost impossible to keep up with, resulting in an ineffective remediation process, 

So, while it is necessary to acquire more security testing tools as the IT environment gets more complex, it’s imperative that such tools enable security teams to gain a complete picture of their security status to facilitate actionable and effective remediation. 

  • Tools must fit in to stand out

Security teams should use a platform that brings all the data streams from their various security testing tools together in a single unified view. By compiling all the findings into one place, security teams are left with actionable information which they can then feed into the relevant stakeholder’s workflow.

The consolidation of disjointed data streamlines the remediation process so security and development teams better understand what needs attention – and in a more timely manner – allowing for more productive and scalable remediation efforts.

  • Remediation automation

Tools that automate remediation processes eliminate the need for security teams’ manual intervention and reduce disruption to development teams. Seemplicity’s Remediation Operations platform collects and aggregates findings across various siloed tools to reduce visibility gaps and eliminate ticket duplications, intelligently routing remediation requests to the relevant fixers.

A remediation operations platform enables an efficient and effective remediation process that enhances productivity and significantly reduces risk, all while using the security team’s existing tools so as to get the most value out of them.


To learn more about how Seemplicity can help automate remediation operations across your organization and accelerate risk reduction, click here.