Security Questionnaire Automation: Why Automation Leads to Inaccuracy

Sam Colt
August 22, 2022
Security Questionnaire Automation: Why Automation Leads to Inaccuracy

The average security breach in the U.S. results in $9.05 million in losses, according to IBM Security. With that much money on the line, it’s no surprise that security and risk management is the number one tech initiative driving IT investments, according to CIO. Yet, many of these investments have been misdirected towards automation initiatives. Typically, this is due to a lack of understanding about the weaknesses of automation that lose deals and increase oversight costs.

Many CISOs think increasing automation for time-consuming tasks like foundational Security Questionnaires is the solution to increasing efficiency and security in a cloud environment. However, layers of automation and application programming interface (API) data links increase the chances that Security Questionnaires will be (a) incomplete, or (b) inaccurate.

So, where are these automation breakdowns happening?

Integration Flaws

At the root of these automation breakdowns are SaaS artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools that don’t have the nuance to address an ever-evolving security landscape or your security posture. Automation tools simply don’t have the data structure to accommodate the hundreds of different formats and portals that are required to complete a Security Questionnaire. Even if these tools manage to access the portal and play nice with the forms, each questionnaire is also unique to the organization. What it comes down to is that it’s impossible to build a data structure around required inputs you may have never seen before. Using automation is basically just asking for an incomplete questionnaire and/or one full of errors.

According to a survey by D3 Security, 29% of respondents said limited capability for integration with existing tools was one of the greatest risks with security automation. The lack of integration between tools results in more jerry-rigged connections between automation software.  Companies have to invest more and more time and bandwidth babysitting these systems to make sure they play nice together and double-checking every entry. And, if inaccurate information manages to slip through the cracks of these automated responses, it could negatively impact external confidence in your security as a vendor and lose your organization deals. Using automation to improve efficiency and speed up deal cycles ends up having the opposite impact.

To put it simply, there’s probably a good reason IBM Security found that only 25% of organizations have fully deployed automated security systems.

Data Decay

Systems that run solely on external inputs will only ever be as good as the data that’s entered. Many organizations make the mistake of thinking automated systems are as simple as plugging in a spreadsheet of data and hitting play. However, regular database maintenance is necessary to not only keep data current to your organization but also to keep your data secure amid changes in the security landscape.

The reality is that automated systems often lack the checks and balances necessary to maintain data independent of human intervention. Data decay results in inaccurate questionnaire responses and compliance failures. Ultimately, that means lost deals, missed quotas, inaccurate sales forecasts, and poor external trust signaling. According to Ponemon Institute research, 33% of senior information technology professionals say an increase in compliance burden is one of the main factors that could cause a decline in their security posture.

Not only do these automated Security Questionnaire systems require regular maintenance, but you need visibility into the data to maintain it as well. According to the D3 survey, 48% of respondents said one of the greatest risks with automation is the fact that there is a lack of openness and access to the data from third-party tools. Imagine trying to manage your own data — get this — without access to it. How completely ridiculous.

Accelerates an Already Failed Process

According to CIO, 76% of CIOs say it's challenging to find the “balance between business innovation and operational excellence.” That has never been so true as when applying automation to Security Questionnaires.

The thing with Security Questionnaires is there is no way to create a template for every use case because every questionnaire is tailored to the organizations involved. Not only that, but policies and procedures have to keep up with constantly changing cybersecurity protocols. We get it, Security Questionnaires are time-consuming and tedious, and no one wants to deal with them, so why not just have automation take care of them? Well, quite simply, automation can’t evolve fast enough, ML can’t learn quick enough, and AI isn’t intelligent enough for a process that is so nuanced. Applying automation to Security Questionnaires may help them get completed faster (does it?), but faster doesn’t mean more accurate or secure.

Efficiency and Security: You Can Have it All

Using automation to “fix” the Security Questionnaire response process is like a toddler using a glue stick to put their stuffed animal back together after the dog tore it up. Connecting siloed workflows and disjointed tech stack APIs to create a system of record for security data is the right idea, but how you do that is equally important.

The key to an efficient deal cycle is streamlining multiple department’s data inputs to complete questionnaires in a timely way. And keeping up with the shifting security landscape is essential to maintaining compliance and a robust security posture. Essentially, you need the speed and ease of effective automation married with the expertise and accuracy of human specialists. How do you accomplish this? Enter the Yeti.

Here at SecurityPal, our team of seasoned service delivery specialists actually focus on working to stay up to date on your security posture. Our specialists are well versed in every nuance of the landscape and have completed over 80% of Fortune 500 Security Questionnaires. Basically, they know their sh*t. Our team is the ultimate efficiency solution. It’s not automation, it’s just done. In your inbox, within 24 hours. Book a meeting today to see how you can save time and just get to closed-won faster

arrow_upward