By Christopher Saul, Territory Sales Lead for East Africa at Red Hat
Enterprises often approach cybersecurity through the lens of mitigating risks that originate outside of the business. And of course, that is important. Between July and September 2023, the Communications Authority of Kenya detected nearly 124 million cyber threats and issued more than 5.5 million threat advisories, with system attacks making up most detected threats.
Despite these alarming figures, enterprises need to remember that cybersecurity encompasses much more than fending off outside attackers. It involves eliminating vulnerabilities that come with operating IT infrastructure and identifying blind spots and misconfigurations that could be the lynchpin for bigger targeted attacks.
It’s also about ensuring compliance, making sure personnel are aware of risks, and eliminating any potential for human error. This is where security automation comes into play and can increase the security resiliency of enterprises across East Africa.
We all make mistakes
In my professional experience, the majority of security issues that enterprises encounter are not the result of some malicious entity attempting to hack their way into company systems, or looking to exploit a bug in proprietary software. Instead, many issues are the result of complacency or employees not properly following a process, like storing the default password on a piece of hardware.
Research has shown that human error plays a part in successful cyberattacks. This can range from system security misconfigurations and poor patch management to a lack of awareness and mistakes on the part of employees. Enterprises need to take note of this as many organisations still handle their security operations manually, and increasing IT infrastructure size and complexity means security teams have a tougher time identifying vulnerabilities or completing security-related tasks expeditiously.
At the same time, many African businesses and employees remain uninformed about how to mitigate cyber threats, making them even more vulnerable.
Automation as a business trend
As the typical enterprise’s IT infrastructure continues to grow in size and complexity, they face the challenge of speed of scalability. Whether you’re building something from the ground up or maintaining legacy systems, IT operations can be resource-intensive and can quickly outgrow your team’s capacity.
In the face of that, infrastructure automation has emerged as a leading trend in enterprise IT. The basic premise is to complete work with reduced human input, automating manual, repetitive tasks that unnecessarily draw attention away from more important ones.
In the case of IT infrastructure, this includes provisioning infrastructure, managing network operations, migrating data, deploying applications, and other functions.
Automation is such a prolific trend that Gartner predicts that by 2025, 70% of organisations worldwide will have implemented structured automation to deliver increased flexibility and efficiency, a staggering increase from 20% of organisations in 2021. Furthermore, automation can be applied to IT security, which makes it the next important step in enterprises’ cybersecurity journey. Because, if you can remove human error, you are, by default, more secure.
A new approach to IT security
At its core, security automation aims to improve Kenyan enterprises’ resiliency and reduce the likelihood of vulnerabilities and attacks. It accomplishes this through several practices, based on response and remediation, day-to-day security operations, compliance, and general infrastructure hardening.
Automation for IT security offers three primary sets of benefits:
- Increased speed and efficiency: Automating tasks removes the need for manual, human intervention and allows employees to focus on other tasks and high-value projects.
- Increased scalability: Better consistency and a holistic approach to security means teams can manage resources, tools, and devices at scale and more accurately.
- Reduced risk and potential cost of breaches: Organisations are better positioned to prevent incidents and business disruptions. According to the IBM Security Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023, investing in security AI and automation is important for reducing costs and shortening the time to identify and contain data breaches.
A single, unified automation platform can serve as the integration layer between security resources, personnel, and processes. It can help improve communication and collaboration as a security portfolio automated in the same language (e.g., Ansible) means all operators and team members can execute actions more efficiently. Enterprise automation platforms come supplied with security-focused sets of resources – modules, rules, and playbooks – that coordinate and ensure a unified response to deployments and detected threats.
On its way to maturity, Kenya’s IT landscape has the potential to fully integrate all essential functions from the ground up, and that includes security. Security automation can help enterprises respond to growing cyber threats with greater ease, while also streamlining the security process for the benefit of organisations and their people.
The writer (Christopher Saul) is the Territory Sales Lead for East Africa at Red Hat