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The Automat(i)ons are coming!

by Juniper Employee on ‎06-22-2017 01:00 AM


Automation is an area where IT has always been somewhat nervous, and historically this is with good reason. In the past, I worked for two antivirus vendors where a weekly signature update was released that caused clients to overwrite legitimate files with zero-byte replacements. Even more recently, a vendor accidentally released an update which caused the antivirus software to flag Windows system files as malware and made them inaccessible to Windows!


I’m also pretty sure that most IT admins have a story somewhere in their history about how a software patch was deployed without testing, only to get a rather uncomfortable call at 2am from the CEO to say (probably quite loudly) that they were no longer able to access email or sales data.


Then, of course, there are those technologies which sound great at deployment but, in practice, become an absolute headache. For example, the much-vaunted security protection offered by early IPS (Intrusion Prevention Systems) which actually resulted in too many false-positives to ever be useful.


Yet automation, to a reasonable extent, is well used today, in scripting and configuring, log gathering, provisioning software and deployments, and even automated security signature updates – these are relatively simple tasks, and in most cases, include a degree of testing first.  What connects these areas of automation together is what they ‘do’ – they follow the plan laid down by us - admins who have pre-determined ‘what’ the automation tool sets out to accomplish. 


Where businesses have been less enthusiastic about adopting automation is utilising it in ‘response’ processes – the notion that the machine will do something based on its own determination, has weighed on the mind of the IT department and has prevented automation from being widely implemented in this area. Arguably, truly creative use of automation in the fight against cyber-crime has been somewhat limited as a result.


This needs to change. The truth is that businesses are already fighting off automation used by cyber-criminals. In February 2017, over 94 million pieces of malware were registered by Symantec; these were not written by 94 million malware developers – or even by 94,000 developers coding 1,000 pieces each. For this amount of malware to be released, it had to have been automated.


This sheer weight of numbers is an effort to bypass the typical defences that are implemented today. Security models are typically built around ‘time’ today. It takes time for a research organisation to discover, analyse, identify, update and then provide that update to customers – who then have to deploy the update. This ‘time’ is very likely to be longer than it takes cyber-criminals to develop and distribute malware, especially if – as we saw with WannaCry – the customer also needs to deploy several patches to be fully protected.


Cyber-criminals are exploiting automation to the fullest, to the point where they have even commercialised their offerings to others for sale – automation is actually built into the design – and the result is vulnerable businesses, trying to fight automated threats with semi-automated security solutions.


IT Security teams are already over-burdened. (ISC)2, a non-profit security advocacy group, reported an estimated shortfall of 1.5 million cyber security professionals by 2019 and many organisations surveyed stated it could take six months to identify qualified candidates.


So how do businesses need to change? Can businesses separate the roles of human and machine to both reduce the burden on IT professionals and improve security at the same time?


Let’s consider this analogy – nobody knows your body better than you, we all know when we are feeling ill, we know the difference between a cold and a fever, and we know when it’s something more serious and that we should be visiting the doctor. Nobody knows you better than you, and it’s the same with your business and your data – no other business, no criminal, no competitor – no one knows your business, what’s normal and what’s not normal, better than you.


In other words, businesses need to start to use the data it holds within the business, to protect the business. Doing more than merely collecting logs, it needs to turn ‘data into wisdom’ by taking the information and correlation of a myriad events, that in turn can provide knowledge about what’s normal and what’s not – and wisely using that knowledge to incrementally improve security within the business.


Incremental improvements include identifying tasks which can be automated for the security team, meaning that they no longer spend time watching log files and instead will be promptly alerted to unusual activity. Take the WannaCry ransomware as an example. This malware was atypical of human behaviour in two ways:

  1. Writing large numbers of files on local drives within a short period of time
  2. Multiple and frequent connections over certain (SMBv1) network protocols to find other vulnerable hosts to attack

What security teams need are actionable insights: drawing those data points from behaviour, rather than relying on an out-of-date approach that looks to pattern-match a file in memory, on disk, or on the network – and then create a controlled response to that behaviour, preventing future threats from spreading within the network with little to no maintenance.


This dynamic, machine-automated security system can take the strain and allow the security team to increasingly focus on determining what is and isn’t normal – and improving that understanding incrementally over time.


Thus, the machine is doing what it does well – processing large, repetitive amounts of data, based on human, business-specific rules, to help identify and prevent known attack methods, rather than relying on the pattern-matching, ‘time’ to defend-based approach.


This leaves the user to focus time on what is more difficult for a machine to work out – lateral thinking that identifies a new, innovative attack method. New rules can be created, built on new knowledge, and utilizing that wisdom to incrementally improve the security posture of the business.


Juniper Networks has been investing in this area. Juniper’s Secure Analytics platform can help businesses collect, understand and leverage the security data within the business, mining it for clues and helping the business identify normal and unusual behaviour. This knowledge can then be turned into actionable insights by using them within Juniper’s Security Director Policy Enforcer to dynamically and automatically change configurations on the networking equipment deployed across a business.


Is there a new appetite for automated security?  Well, in answer to my earlier point about traditional reluctance in this area, I think the mind-set is changing. Businesses are already looking at ways to increase the use and scope of the data it holds to help improve and drive engagement with customers through the use of big data initiatives and the analytics associated with it – and the consumer is also seeing convenient benefits in the use of analytics, so it must surely only be a matter of time.


After all – it’s quite a simple question really:


Do we continue to merely maintain security and hope for the best, or use the wisdom of the data across the business to incrementally improve security for the business?

I think the answer is pretty obvious.


If you enjoyed reading this blog and would like to read related security blogs, please visit our security straight talk page here.

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About the Author
  • Andrew is a Juniper Distinguished Engineer responsible for the architecture of Juniper's network management user interfaces.
  • Amy James is Product Marketing lead for Security at Juniper Networks. She brings her knowledge of cyber security from companies like FireEye, Cisco and Cloudmark with deep roots in technology storytelling.
  • Asher Langton is a senior software engineer and malware researcher on Juniper's Sky ATP team.
  • Aviram Zrahia is a consulting engineer at Juniper Networks and an industry researcher of cyberspace. He holds a CISSP and GCIH certifications, as well as a bachelor's degree in computer science and MBA in management of technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship. He is also a research fellow in the Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center (ICRC) at Tel Aviv University, currently focusing on the domain of threat intelligence sharing.
  • Brad Minnis, CPP is the Senior Director of Corporate Environmental, Health, Safety & Security for Juniper Networks, Inc. based in Sunnyvale, CA, where he is responsible for strategic design, implementation and management of the company’s security, safety, environment, crisis management and business continuity functions. He also leads the company’s efforts in corporate citizenship and sustainability, and manages the Corporation’s government-related security programs. Mr. Minnis has over 30 years experience in the Silicon Valley and has managed EHSS operations for a number of high tech companies, including Juniper Networks, 3Com Corporation, and National Semiconductor Corporation. Mr. Minnis’ specialties include security management, supply chain and product integrity, anti-counterfeit, occupational health and safety and crisis management. In his role as Cyber Incident Response Team Leader for Juniper, Mr. Minnis has managed numerous high impact cyber-related incidents and cross-functional responses. Mr. Minnis served for ten years in the United States Navy and has served in leadership positions the International Security Management Association (ISMA) and ASIS International, serving as Chairman of the San Francisco Chapter in 2003. He has also co-written several publications on software integrity assurance and supply chain security with organizations such as SAFECode. Mr. Minnis is certified as a Protection Professional by the Professional Certification Board of ASIS International and attended the University of Connecticut, where he received two certificates in Environmental, Health and Safety
  • Bill is the Director of Federal Certifications and Policy at Juniper Networks. In this role, Bill focuses on several areas unique to the needs of Federal Government customers, including product certifications, IPv6, and security. Bill came to Juniper Networks in January 2008 after more than 20 years in the IT community working with commercial enterprise customers, service providers, and the US Federal Government. Bill started his career as an engineering officer in the US Air Force after graduating with a Bachelor of Aerospace Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Bill has an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • Craig Dods is the Chief Architect for Security within Juniper Networks' Strategic Verticals. He currently maintains multiple top-level industry certifications including his JNCIE-SEC, holds multiple networking and security-related patents, as well as having disclosed multiple critical-level CVE's in a responsible manner. Prior to joining Juniper, Craig served as IBM's Managed Security Services' Chief Security Architect, and held previous security roles at Check Point Software Technologies and Nokia.
  • François Prowse is a Senior Systems Engineer for Juniper Networks, based in Brisbane Australia. Francois joined Juniper in 2006 as part of the New Zealand SE team, subsequently relocating to Australia. Prior to Juniper, Francois worked for four years at Alcatel in both operational and architectural roles, being jointly responsible for the construction of New Zealands' largest MPLS core network. Prior to Alcatel, Francois worked at UUnet, focusing on core network expansion in Europe. In all previous roles JUNOS has been the driving factor behind day to day operations, providing him with over 8 years of operational experience. Francois is a Juniper Networks Certified Internet Expert (JNCIE #144) which he obtained prior to joining Juniper Networks.
  • Greg Sidebottom is a Senior Engineering Manager in the Identity and Policy Management business unit at Juniper Networks. Greg has spent the last decade plus conceptualizing, architecting, designing, and leading the implementation of Juniper's SDX and SRC families of policy based service management applications. Previous to this, Greg held positions in the software and networking industries at Siemens, Cognos, Nortel, GTE labs subsidiary MPR Teltech, and the Alberta Research Council. Greg is an author of eight invention disclosures resulting in two patents issued and three pending. Greg holds a B.Sc. in Computer Science for the University of Calgary and an M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Computing Science from Simon Fraser University.
  • Jennifer Blatnik is vice president of cloud, security and enterprise portfolio marketing at Juniper Networks with focus on enterprise deployments of security, routing, switching, and SDN products, as well as cloud solutions. She has more than 20 years of experience helping enterprises solve network security challenges. Before joining Juniper, Jennifer served multiple roles at Cisco Systems, Inc., including directing product management for security technologies aimed at small to medium enterprises, as well as supporting managed services, cloud service architectures and go-to-market strategies. She holds a B.A. in Computer Science from University of California, Berkeley.
  • Jim Kelly, Senior Product Line Manager – CTP Products Juniper Networks. Jim Kelly is the senior product line manager for the CTP products where he is responsible for the CTP product direction, marketing and circuit emulation applications within Juniper Networks. Mr. Kelly has more than 28 years of experience in the networking industry in technical roles, sales, marketing, and product management positions. He started his career in the United States Air Force. He has worked for Wang, Digital Telecom Systems, American Airlines, Network Equipment Technologies, Carrier Access, and Nortel Networks. He started Juniper Networks federal DoD sales in July 2000 and joined Juniper Networks again in October 2005 through the acquisition of Acorn Packet Solutions where he was the director of sales and marketing.
  • I have been in the networking industry for over 35 years: PBXs, SNA, Muxes, ATM, routers, switches, optical - I've seen it all. Twelve years in the US, over 25 in Europe, at companies like AT&T, IBM, Bay Networks, Nortel Networks and Dimension Data. Since 2007 I have been at Juniper, focusing on solutions and services: solving business problems via products and projects. Our market is characterized by amazing technological innovations, but technology is no use if you cannot get it to work and keep it working. That is why services are so exciting: this is where the technology moves out of the glossy brochures and into the real world! Follow me on Twitter: @JoeAtJuniper For more about me, go to my LinkedIn profile:
  • Kevin Walker is the Security Chief Technology and Strategy Officer for Juniper’s Development and Innovation (JDI) organization. He is responsible for driving the security strategy both internally within Juniper, and externally with investors, partners, influencers, and customers. He provides the guidance required for JDI to conceive, develop and create momentum for industry-leading security solutions. Working closely with the Security Engineering team, Walker identifies the opportunities for improved security, growth, and innovation to deliver the scalable, reliable, and compliant security architecture needed in today’s security landscape. Before joining Juniper, Walker was VP and Assistant Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) at He has served as a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), Chief Security Strategist and Director of Information Security across a number of notable companies including Intuit, Cisco, Symantec and VERITAS Software. With over twenty-five years in various computer science and information technology disciplines, focusing on enterprise applications, network design, and information security, Walker possesses research and engineering expertise across of range of technologies including networking protocols, securing applications at the atomic level, cryptography, and speech biometrics.
  • Security Life timer, who has been described as a true IT security ‘guru’. It is certainly apt: his knowledge and expertise developed over the course of more than 20 years in IT have helped many customers implement a security strategy that not only safeguards their business and information, but enables Digital Transformation. A noted public speaker on security issues, Lee’s passion and style stand out in the sometimes staid world of network security. Prior to joining Juniper Networks, Lee held a number of business and technical roles at Dr Solomon’s, McAfee, Hewlett Packard, Nokia Siemens Networks and Citrix. Lee leads the Juniper Networks security business across Europe, Middle East and Africa. In this role, Lee is responsible for the company’s commercial development in the field.
  • Laurence is passionate about technology, particularly cyber security. His depth and breadth of knowledge of the dynamic security landscape is a result of over twenty years’ experience in cyber security. He understands the security concerns businesses face today and can bring insight to the challenges they will face tomorrow. Laurence joined Juniper Networks in 2016 and is our senior security specialist in EMEA. Security throughout the network is a key area where Juniper Networks can help as business moves to the cloud and undertakes the challenge of digital transformation.
  • 30 Years in Book Publishing, 20 years in Technical Book Publishing, including Apple Developer Press, Adobe Press, Nokia Developer Books, Palm Books, and since 2001, almost 10 years as consulting editor/editor in chief for Juniper Networks Book. Joined the company and started the Day One book line and in 2011, the new This Week book line.
  • Paul Obsitnik is Vice President of Service Provider Marketing for Juniper Networks Platform Systems Division (PSD), responsible for the marketing of Juniper’s portfolio of high performance routing, switching, and data center fabric products to Service Providers globally. Paul's team is responsible for marketing strategy, product marketing, go-to-market planning, and competitive analysis worldwide for the Service Provider segment. Obsitnik has extensive experience in marketing, sales and business development positions with a proven track record in creating technology markets. He has served in senior marketing and sales management positions at several companies including BridgeWave Communications, ONI Systems, NorthPoint Communications and 3Com. Paul holds a Bachelor of Science with Honors in Electrical Engineering from the United States Naval Academy and a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Graduate School of Business. Obsitnik is based in Sunnyvale, California.
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  • Michel Tepper is a Juniper consultant and instructor working for Westcon Security in the Netherlands. He started working in ICT in 1987. Michel is also is a Juniper Ambassador. Currently he holds three Junos Professional certifications and a number of specialist and associate certifications on non-Junos tracks. Michel is an active member of J-Net and, where he uses the nickname screenie referring to the ScreenOS with which he started his Juniper Journey.
  • Scott is the Director of Product Marketing for Mobile Security at Juniper Networks. In his 20+ years in high tech, Scott has worked on Mobile and Endpoint Security, Network Security, IPS, Managed Services, Network Infrastructure, Co-location, Microprocessor Architecture, Unix Servers and Network Adapters. He has held leadership roles at Check Point, McAfee, Symantec, Exodus Communications, Cable & Wireless, Savvis, and HP.
  • Sherry Ryan is IT Vice President and CISO of Juniper Networks. Previously, Sherry held similar positions at Blue Shield of California, Hewlett-Packard, Safeway and Levi Strauss where she established and led their information security programs. Sherry holds the Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) certification from ISACA and the Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) certification from ISC2. She is a member of the High Tech Crime Investigation Association (HTCIA) and the Information Systems Security Association (ISSA). Sherry has a bachelor's degree in Business Administration from the University of Redlands, and earned her MBA from the College of Notre Dame.
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