How automation improves the response to phishing attacks

Automating Incident Response: A Use Case for Streamlined Remediation of Phishing Attacks


Manual incident response processes are time-consuming, error-prone, and resource-intensive, which has resulted in security automation gaining in popularityBy combining the power of automation and orchestration, security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) platforms provide a comprehensive solution to streamline and enhance incident response processes. In this article, we will dive into a real-world use case that highlights the benefits of automating incident response and demonstrates how organizations can use automation to specifically improve the remediation of phishing attacks 

What is Security Orchestration, Automation and Response?

First, let’s establish a clear definition of SOARSOAR platform is software that integrates security incident response, orchestration, and automation capabilities into a single, unified platform. SOAR platforms help security teams automate repetitive and manual tasks, orchestrate actions across various security tools, and gather valuable threat intelligence to enhance incident response processes. 

Key Benefits of Using SOAR for Automating Incident Response 

There are many benefits that organizations can realize from using SOAR for incident response automation, and they include:  

  • Increased Response Speed: SOAR helps security teams automate time-consuming and repetitive tasks, such as alert triage, data enrichment, and incident management, leading to faster response times.  
  • Consistent Processes: By automating response actions, SOAR reduces the risk of human error, ensuring consistent and accurate incident response for every alert.  
  • Enhanced Scalability: SOAR platforms can easily handle numerous security alerts and incidents, which allows organizations to scale their incident response capabilities effectively without adding additional headcount or resources.   
  • Actionable Data: SOAR platforms provide valuable insights to an organization’s incident response metrics, allowing management to analyze trends, identify vulnerabilities, and better optimize their security operations strategies.  

SOAR Use Case: Detecting and Responding to Phishing Attacks 

Although incident response includes the response and remediation of nearly any type of attack, phishing attacks remain a prevalent and persistent threat, targeting individuals and organizations in hopes of stealing sensitive information or gaining unauthorized access. Let’s explore how automating incident response can streamline the detection and response to phishing attacks. 

The first step in incident response is triaging all incoming security alerts. In a manual process, security analysts review and analyze each phishing alert individually. By leveraging automation, organizations can implement a system that automatically processes and prioritizes phishing alerts based on predefined rules, such as sender reputation, suspicious URLs, or email content analysis. This automated triage helps identify high-priority phishing incidents immediately. 

Once phishing attacks are suspected, automated systems integrated with external threat intelligence sources enhance the effectiveness of incident response. These sources provide real-time information on known phishing campaigns, malicious IP addresses, or indicators of compromise (IOCs). By integrating threat intelligence, the system automatically enriches the incoming alerts, cross-referencing them with known threat data. This empowers security teams with actionable insights and helps identify previously undetected or emerging phishing threats. 

Investigating phishing incidents typically involves analyzing many elements, such as email headers, attachments, or URLs, to determine the scope of the attack. When using SOAR, data is automatically gathered and correlated from multiple sources. Automated systems then extract email metadata, conduct link analysis, and perform sandboxing of suspicious attachments. This automated investigation aids security analysts in understanding the attack vector, identifying compromised accounts, and uncovering potential indicators of a broader security breach. 

SOAR platforms also provide seamless orchestration of response workflows and help to automate standardized incident response playbooks across different security tools and systems. These playbooks outline the steps to be taken when a phishing attack is confirmed. For example, if a user clicks on a suspicious link, the playbook can initiate a series of actions, such as blocking malicious URLs on firewalls, updating email filters, quarantining compromised accounts, resetting passwords, and notifying relevant stakeholders. By orchestrating these actions, organizations can rapidly contain the attack and minimize its impact. Additionally, the automation platform can generate real-time notifications and alerts, ensuring that the incident response team is promptly informed and can take immediate action. 

In an increasingly complex threat landscape, organizations need to optimize their incident response processes. Automating incident response processes, as demonstrated by the use case of detecting and responding to phishing attacks, significantly enhances an organization’s cyber defenses. By leveraging automation, threat intelligence integration, playbook-driven response, and orchestration, organizations can detect incidents more efficiently, respond quickly, and reduce the overall risk of successful cyber attacks. SOAR empowers security operations teams to focus on strategic tasks and enhances their ability to protect sensitive data and maintain business continuity.