A quick guide to network security policy change management

Sept. 20, 2021

The benefits of network automation and takes us through a step-by-step process to standardize change management.

For organizations to compete in the modern digital landscape, they need their data to be able to move freely and unobstructed through every branch of their businesses, unimpeded by security issues that require constant manual attention.

The network is the beating heart of an organization, but keeping it ticking requires more maintenance than it once did, owing to constantly changing risk profiles and circumstances. That’s why a greater number of businesses are turning to change automation to bridge the gap between network alerts and the action that needs to be taken.

Barriers to automation

According to Gartner, organizations that can automate more than 70% of their network changes can reduce the number of outages by at least 50% and deliver services up to 50% faster. That’s because many legacy solutions take a reactive (rather than proactive) approach to dealing with security. There are multiple controls in place that simply don’t talk to each other. While most businesses get alerts from SIEM solutions and vulnerability scanners, responding to them turns into a full-time job, distracting your team from other important work they could be doing.

Most organizations know that manual policy changes impact their productivity, but they’re afraid to take the leap to automation because of an ill-placed perception around security. Production environments in all organizations are maintained by different teams—for example, DevOps, maintenance, cloud security, IT and more. Not all of these teams are educated to the same level in security matters, and some see it as a constraint that slows their work. This can lead to conflict between teams, which means that automation is not always welcome.

Despite some resistance, enterprise-wide change automation makes it possible to transform network-security policies without needing to reinvent the wheel or replace existing business processes. Automation and actionable intelligence are proven to enhance security and business agility without the stress often associated with misconfigurations caused by manual, ad-hoc processes.

A typical network change workflow

By elevating firewall change management from a manual, arduous task to a fully automated, zero-touch process, networks can become more agile and organizations far more adaptive.

There are several steps that organizations need to take toward complete network-security automation, from a simple change request to implementation and validation. Let’s take a look at the most common steps in establishing automation for a simple change request.

Step 1 - Request a network change

Every change begins with a request. At this stage, you need to clarify who is asking for the amendment and why, because sometimes the request is unnecessary or covered by an existing ruleset.

Step 2 - Find relevant security devices

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

Step 3 - Plan change

The change-automation platform understands how to deal with different vendor-specific settings and how to implement the requests in a way that avoids creating any duplicates.

Step 4 - Risk check

The administrator will get a ‘what if’ analysis, which checks the change for any risks. In this phase, the decision as to whether to allow the change and expose the network to the risk mentioned is in the hands of the network admin or security manager, depending on who is handling this phase.

Step 5 - Push change to device

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

Step 6 - Validate change

At the end of each request, the solution will check that the request was successfully implemented across all devices. The solution also provides ongoing audits of the whole process, enabling easy checking of each stage.

Step 7 - Documentation and logging

Network security-automation platforms can provide you with a full, automated audit trail. Documentation happens on the go, saving IT and security teams time and accelerating tedious network compliance management tasks.

Put your trust in network automation

While change management is complex stuff, the decision for your business is simple. It’s like the engine of an expensive car. Would you drive at high speeds if you didn’t have your brakes tested or a steering wheel to keep your course straight? Hopefully, the answer is no.

You can continue to slowly chug along 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.

Avivi Siman-Tov is director of product at AlgoSec