Benefits of a security operations center (SOC)

June 18, 2020 | Ericka Chickowski

This blog was written by an independent guest blogger.

Why having a SOC is paramount

A well-run security operations center (SOC) stands as the central nervous system of an effective cybersecurity program. SOCs serve as a hub of organization-wide detection and response capabilities for the people tasked with stopping cyber threats within their organization.

While the everyday duties of the SOC vary by organization, the overarching mission driving the typical SOC tends to be three-fold:

  1. Consolidate and correlate log data from networks, clouds, and devices across the organization
  2. Coordinate the analysis of alerts and information from that data
  3. Orchestrate the incident response that's triggered by alerts

Organizations need effective and efficient coordination from the SOC because the threats attacking their environments are relentless. By some estimates:

5 goals of any modern SOC

1. Reduce time to response

One of the top goals of a modern SOC is to accelerate the pace at which security analysts can detect signs of an attack, investigate the associated activity, and start remediation to shut down the threat. The less time cyber attackers have to poke around, unrestricted on organizational systems, the less opportunity they have to break into high-value assets and steal sensitive information.

2. Minimize breach impact

Everything a SOC does comes down to minimizing the impact of breaches and other risks to the organization. The SOC's work on cutting down on attack dwell time—the time before detection — helps minimize breach impact. So does effective prioritization of SOC activity based on factors like the severity of vulnerabilities in an asset, threat intelligence about attack trends, and business criticality of an asset. Effective SOCs can make all the difference in keeping minor security incidents from becoming a major breach.

3. Increase security visibility

SOC operators understand that the more they know about their systems, the easier it will be to identify attacks against them. SOCs seek to expand security visibility and incident response coverage by establishing thorough inventories of their organizational IT assets and instrumenting near-real-time security monitoring to be ready to alert when threats strike.

4. Stay a step ahead of attackers

SOCs aim to move beyond reactive incident response and strive to evolve their activities to include proactive threat hunting. The stealthiest attackers work hard to avoid detection, which is why veteran SOC analysts sift through digital clues to find early evidence of attacks that may not always trigger alarms but are nevertheless worth investigation.

5. Keep business informed of risk

The final goal of the SOC is to keep up with reporting and communication with the business to keep everyone informed of risk. The trend data from SOC monitoring and response activities can help shape future security road maps, streamline compliance reporting, and help the business better calculate financial risk from cyber threats.

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SOC best practices 

To achieve their risk reduction goals, highly effective SOCs engage in the following best practices.

Base investments on risk assessment

SOC leaders use formal risk assessment practices to find gaps in detection and response coverage and guide future investments.

Facilitate data collection and aggregation

Best-in-class SOCs utilize cutting edge platforms to effectively aggregate and analyze a wide range of data from all over the organization.

Prioritize and triage

The volume of security data and alerts can quickly overwhelm even the largest SOC teams. Creating formalized methods to prioritize and triage incident response is important to avoid missing critical threats.

Establish playbooks

SOC playbooks are operating procedures that give analysts structure and step-by-step actions for common attack scenarios. They speed up response and drive investigative excellence.

Leverage automation

SOCs automate data collection, analysis work, and certain incident response steps to improve response time and give analysts more time to do work that requires human intervention.

Hunt proactively for threats

SOCs dedicate resources to proactive threat hunting to find hidden attacks that may not necessarily trigger automated alerts.

Measure and report on everything

SOCs don't just respond to security incidents; they also serve as a crucial record keeper for measuring cybersecurity effectiveness and proving compliance.

The benefits of SOC as a Service

According to the SANS Institute, the two most frequently cited barriers to SOC excellence are a lack of skilled staff and the absence of effective orchestration and automation of threat detection and response. Organizations that choose to augment their security program with SOC-as-a-service can quickly tap into a talented pool of security analysts with the flexibility of a subscription service model.

SOC-as-a-Service helps organizations achieve:

  • best-in-class incident response without long deployment periods
  • faster detection and remediation of threats
  • improved security visibility and reporting through 24x7 monitoring
  • predictability of costs with a capital expenditure investment model

FAQ

How important is the SOC to cybersecurity readiness?

A SOC is crucial for aggregating security monitoring, data collection, and analysis, and for acting as a command center for incident response and forensic investigation.

What role does the SOC play in threat hunting?

SOC analysts and technologies play an essential role in sifting through detailed security logs to find hidden clues that could point them to zero-day attacks and stealthy threats.

Why would an organization choose SOC-as-a-service?

SOC-as-a-service helps organizations overcome the challenge of the cybersecurity skills gap and offers rapid scalability of advanced security technology.

Ericka Chickowski

About the Author: Ericka Chickowski

An award-winning freelance writer, Ericka Chickowski specializes in telling stories about the intersection of information technology and business innovation. Her perspectives on cybersecurity have appeared in numerous trade and consumer magazines, including Dark Reading, Entrepreneur, InformationWeek, and Security Boulevard.

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