Turning to automation can keep agencies one step ahead of cyberattacks

Palo Alto Networks Chief Security Officer Rick Howard said automation is key to detecting and preventing attacks – and maintaining a healthy network


As the volume and sophistication of cyberattacks increases against agency networks, so too must the security technology available to detect and prevent those attacks. Rick Howard, chief security officer at Palo Alto Networks, said automation of cyber tools must play a critical role in staying ahead of adversaries.

“When you think about what you have to do as a network defender in order to accomplish threat prevention, there’s a couple of things you have to be able to do,” Howard said. “First you have to have complete visibility. Wherever your employees are and wherever your customers are, you have to have a view of the data transactions that are going on. You also have to block all known attacks, discover new attacks quickly and turn them into known attacks.”

Howard said this could be inside the perimeter, on a phone, tablet, home computer or in the cloud.

“Most organizations don’t have the resources to read the intelligence report, decide what’s important, what to do about it and then do it,” he said. “Most take days, weeks, or months to get done – if they do it at all. The only way to fix this is with automation. The information security staffs haven’t gotten any bigger.”

Howard said using automation to discover new threats, then write protections and deploy them in near real-time leaves time for network defenders to focus on the unique malicious activity that happens to their organization.

“My recommendation is to jettison old best practices,” he said. “Pick vendors that integrate. If they integrate, a lot of that work is done for you and you don’t have to do it on the back end.”


Jason FornicolaJason Fornicola, Director of Custom Media, Federal News Radio

Jason Fornicola joined WTOP and Federal News Radio in February of 2014 as the Director of Custom Media, where he manages the stations’ sponsored and custom content initiatives. Fornicola provides clients with access to high-quality content consistent with the stations’ standard of excellence and works to solve clients’ needs through a multi-platform approach which includes on-air, digital, video and social media. His journalism and social media experience support the stations’ efforts to ensure the client message is conveyed in a way that will achieve their marketing campaign objectives.



Rick HowardRick Howard, Chief Security Officer, Palo Alto Networks

Rick is the Chief Security Officer (CSO) for Palo Alto Networks where he oversees the company’s internal security program, leads the Palo Alto Networks Threat Intelligence Team (Unit 42), directs the company’s efforts on the Cyber Threat Alliance Information Sharing Group, hosts the Cybersecurity Canon Project, and provides thought leadership for the company and the Cybersecurity community at large. His prior jobs include the CISO for TASC, the GM of iDefense, the SOC Director at Counterpane and the Commander of the U.S. Army’s Computer Emergency Response Team where he coordinated network defense, network intelligence and network attack operations for the Army’s global network. Rick holds a Master of Computer Science degree from the Naval Postgraduate School and an engineering degree from the US Military Academy. He also taught computer science at the Academy from 1993 to 1999. He has published many academic papers on technology and security and has contributed as an executive editor to two books: “Cyber Fraud: Tactics, Techniques and Procedures” and “Cyber Security Essentials.” The Christian Science Monitor named him a Passcode Influencer in 2015; a pool of 70 experts who are big thinkers on security and privacy.


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