Security automation: 3 priorities for CIOs

Struggling to stay ahead of security gaps while still meeting release schedules? Here’s why security automation is a must-have
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CIOs and CISOs juggle many critical priorities, but security automation is muscling to the top of the to-do list. A big part of this is the urgent need to automate application security (AppSec) as IT leaders find themselves stepping in to manage teams in continuous-release environments increasingly porous with security gaps. As apps get pushed out at a breakneck pace across the enterprise, vulnerabilities pile up within websites, user portals, APIs, and other elements of this ever-expanding app ecosystem.

Underscoring the problem, research from Invicti recently found 79 percent of organizations have knowingly released vulnerable code on more than one occasion because they’re strapped for time, or their tools don’t produce accurate results. The operative word here is “knowingly,” – and it speaks to a systemic challenge that must be solved at the leadership level.

CIOs are realizing that without the benefit of automation, their developers and security teams frequently face the impossible choice of holding up release schedules or going ahead with an app deployment that is not fully secure.

[ Related read: Why 2023 is the time to consider security automation. ]

Leveraging security automation: 3 top priorities

To solve the challenge, more CIOs are turning to platforms that automate dynamic application security testing (DAST) and other scanning protocols that are highly customized for the app ecosystem. These deployments increase security coverage and take human error out of the equation to better fulfill essential priorities for business stability and growth.

Here are the top three:

1. Enhancing scalability

The human factor in security is perhaps the biggest obstacle to scalability. Those responsible for protecting the IT estate see how manual security processes quickly break down at scale as their teams struggle to identify vulnerabilities, assess risks, and prioritize remediation efforts.

That’s why security testing automation is crucial for smoothly scaling up dev processes and workflows without leaving security behind as businesses grow their requirements and expectations for application development.

2. Streamlining compliance

Automation facilitates compliance by expanding security coverage across the entire IT ecosystem. It allows developers to focus on security earlier in the software development lifecycle (SDLC) to find and address issues. Recent updates to the ISO 27001 framework added a requirement for security testing in the SDLC, making automation more crucial than ever for compliance.

3. Prioritizing and reducing risks

Since automated security checks provide more coverage with less manual intervention, this helps identify more risks and frees up security teams to focus on higher-value risks – analyzing result trends, investigating more advanced vulnerabilities, and implementing measures to prevent the introduction of new vulnerabilities down the road.

Perfecting the CIO's playbook for implementing security automation

A CIO’s role is to identify security automation options and use cases and implement these transformational improvements in existing enterprise systems. This requires setting priorities, making implementation choices that drive the security team’s efforts, and ensuring proper coordination with other C-suite leaders.

To begin with, the CIO has choices to make about the testing approaches that will be deployed. Automation in AppSec can refer to tools and processes, ranging from automated vulnerability scanning (dynamic analysis) and static code analysis to software composition analysis and other types of security testing.

[ Also read Automated dynamic application security testing with RapiDAST and cross-team collaboration ]

The most advanced approaches can take things a step further by combining multiple forms of testing – perhaps augmenting DAST with interactive application security testing (IAST) and software composition analysis (SCA) – into a single scan for a comprehensive analysis of the organization’s security risk posture in a single frame.

Meanwhile, in workflow terms, IT leaders should use customizable solutions to trigger scans at certain points in the development pipeline or based on a predefined schedule. This will allow CIOs and their teams to coordinate scans at specific times or in response to certain events like deploying new code or detecting a security incident.

These are just a few considerations for sharpening the CIO playbook for effective security automation.

As CIOs and the teams they manage become more versed in how automation can be applied to the world of application scanning, the possibilities for enhanced enterprise value and system-wide security become endless.

Organizations can improve their security posture by prioritizing AppSec and leveraging the right tools, processes, and platforms to execute automatic security checks and schedule when scans are launched to create fewer incidents, less downtime, and more value for the enterprise.

[ Learn how leaders are embracing enterprise-wide IT automation: Taking the lead on IT Automation. ]

Matthew Sciberras, CISO and VP of Information Security at Invicti, is a technically astute and accomplished leader with extensive experience in information security management.