A step-by-step guide to managing network security policy changes

In today’s fast-paced, data-driven environment, the only constant businesses can bank on is change. For organizations to function and compete in the modern digital landscape, they need their data to be able to move freely and unhindered in all areas of their business, unimpeded by security concerns that require constant manual attention.

The network is arguably the beating heart of an organization, but its smooth operation requires more maintenance than ever before, due to constantly changing risk profiles and circumstances. That’s why more companies are turning to change automation to bridge the gap between network alerts and action.

Obstacles to Automation

According to Gartner, organizations that can automate more than 70% of changes to their network can reduce the number of outages by at least 50% and deliver services up to 50% faster. This is because many legacy solutions tend to take a reactive rather than a proactive approach to managing security. There are several controls in place that just don’t talk to each other. While most businesses receive alerts from SIEM solutions and vulnerability scanners, responding to them turns into a full-time job, distracting your team from other important tasks they might be performing.

Most organizations know that manual policy changes have an impact on their productivity, but they are afraid to take the leap to automation due to a misplaced perception of security. The production environments of all organizations are managed by different teams, for example DevOps, maintenance, cloud security, IT, etc. All these teams are not trained to the same level in terms of security, and some see it as a constraint that slows down their work. This can lead to conflict between teams, which means automation is not always welcome.

Despite some resistance to change, automating enterprise-wide change can transform network security policies without having to reinvent the wheel or replace existing business processes. Automation and actionable intelligence are proven to improve business security and agility without the stress often associated with configuration errors caused by ad hoc manual processes.

A typical network change workflow

By elevating the management of firewall changes from a manual and arduous task to a fully automated, contactless process, networks can become more agile and organizations much more adaptive.

Organizations need to take several steps to completely automate network security, from simple change request to implementation and validation. Let’s take a look at the most common steps to establish automation for a simple change request.

Step 1 – Request a network change

Every change begins with a request. At this point, you need to clarify who is requesting the change and why, as sometimes the request is unnecessary or covered by an existing set of rules.

Step 2 – Find the relevant safety devices

Once this request is translated, the change automation platform will process the request and implement the changes on the hybrid networks. The administrator will be able to see which firewalls and routing devices are involved and what impact the change will have.

Step 3 – Change of plan

The Change Automation Platform understands how to manage various vendor-specific parameters and how to implement requests in a way that avoids creating duplicates.

Step 4 – Risk verification

The administrator will get a ‘What if’ analysis, which verifies the change for any risk. In this phase, the decision to authorize or not the change and to expose the network to the mentioned risk is in the hands of the network administrator or the security manager, depending on who manages this phase.

Step 5 – Tap on Device Edit

Once the planned changes are approved, the “magic” happens. The change automation platform automatically implements and pushes changes to desired devices, either through APIs or directly on the device (CLI). This is a fully automated action that can be performed on multiple devices, whether they are cloud-based or on-premises. The push can be done on a scheduled basis, in your maintenance window or on demand.

Step 6 – Validate the change

At the end of each request, the solution will verify that the request was successfully implemented on all devices. The solution also provides continuous audits of the entire process, allowing easy verification of each step.

Step 7 – Documentation and Logging

Network security automation platforms can provide you with a complete and automated audit trail. Documentation is available on the go, saving IT and security teams time and speeding up the tedious tasks of managing network compliance.

Trust in network automation

While change management is complex, the decision for your business is straightforward. It’s like the engine of an expensive car. Would you be driving at high speed if you hadn’t tested your brakes or a steering wheel to stay on course? Hopefully the answer is no.

You can keep moving slowly with manual change management processes, or you can accelerate those processes with an automated network change management workflow solution that aligns stakeholders and helps your business run more smoothly.

Photo credit: Stuart miles/Shutterstock

Avivi Siman-Tov is Product Manager at AlgoSec

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