What Is A Security Operations Center (SOC) and How Does It Work?

A Security Operations Center (SOC) is a center that collects information about the security of an organization or system. The SOC team analyzes the incoming data, determines if it is relevant, and responds to any potential threats by taking appropriate action. A SOC can either be built in-house or outsourced to a third-party provider. The following guide will explain everything you need to know about a SOC, including its benefits, what its primary functions should be, what some of the challenges of setting up a SOC are, and the roles and responsibilities of a typical SOC team.

Why Is SOC Important For Your Company?

All companies depend heavily on data collection for various aspects of their business, whether by keeping track of personal customer information or improving marketing and sales strategies based on data analysis. However, due to the sensitivity of any kind of data, it must be kept secure. With that in mind, setting up a SOC can be incredibly beneficial for improving your security system and data protection. The following are just a few ways in which a SOC can do this:

Quick Response

A SOC allows for centralized, real-time data monitoring, allowing your team to identify potential security threats and take action more quickly. The sooner you can detect a security incident, the less damage it will cause to your organization. By responding quickly, you can prevent the incident from spreading and ensure that it doesn't escalate into something more serious.

Gets Rid Of Skepticisms

In addition, having a SOC can help to quell any fears or skepticism from your customers. By having a proactive security team, customers will know that you are doing everything in your power to protect their information and keep them safe. As a result, you'll give customers peace of mind, which can go a long way towards building your company's reputation.

Cost-Effective

The IT security market has become increasingly competitive in the last few years, with many companies offering similar quality security services . This is where a SOC comes in; having a SOC allows you to minimize costs and improve the quality of your data security. With a SOC, no money is wasted since your resources will be distributed and used to their full potential.

Primary Functions of a Security Operations Center

A SOC involves the coordinated effort of a group of professionals who monitor and detect potential threats or breaches, such as hackers or malware. The primary functions of a SOC are to identify potential risks, engage in continuous data monitoring and analysis, carry out incident response activities and keep a constant vigil on your data security, using various processes and technology to do so.

Prevention And Detection

The first function of a SOC is to prevent security incidents from happening in the first place. This is achieved using various processes and technologies, such as threat intelligence, security analytics, and Security Information and Event Management (SIEM). Some of the tasks involved in prevention and detection include:

  • Monitoring and responding to threats and breaches in real-time using hardware, software, and networks.
  • Intrusion prevention and firewall monitoring and management.
  • Detection and removal of malware, ransomware, and antivirus threats.
  • Traffic management of e-mail, voice, and video.
  • Whitelisting and patch management.
  • Detailed analysis of various security log sources.

Investigation of Breaches in Security

If a security breach occurs, the SOC team will launch an investigation into how it happened and what steps need to be taken to resolve the issue. The investigation of a breach in security has three main steps:

  1. Identifying the source and nature of the issue.
  2. Documenting the issue and any steps taken to resolve it.
  3. Reporting the incident, including details of what happened, why it shouldn't have happened in the first place, and what steps are being taken to prevent it from happening again.

 

Implementation & Enforcement

SOCs also help implement and enforce security policies, such as user authentication access control, permissions for file sharing on the network, and data backups, storage, and recovery. The main goal of having a SOC is to install security policies and procedures, such as requiring certain levels of authentication for various types of access, in order to provide an additional level of security.

Reporting

SOCs are responsible for the creation of reports, including post-incident or regular status updates. The primary goal is to ensure that all threats and incidents are documented thoroughly in the system for future reference. As a result, you'll be able to create new security policies, procedures, or protocols as needed.

The Challenges Faced In A SOC

Hiring and maintaining a skilled SOC team is one of the biggest challenges faced by companies. The threat landscape changes constantly, so it's crucial that your SOC team is one step ahead and apprised of any new developments. With the constant increase in the number and severity of cyber-attacks, it's becoming more and more challenging to safeguard security. The following outline some of the challenges you'll face building and maintaining a SOC over time:

1. The Shortage Of Skills In Cyber Security

Cyber security professionals are becoming increasingly sought after as businesses worldwide work to protect their data and IT infrastructure from a growing number of cyber threats. While the demand for cyber security professionals has increased, there is a shortage of people to fill those roles.

An ISACA Conference report indicated the shortage is due to an influx in new security roles and a lack of training programs. The report found that the skills gap is worse in small companies with fewer than 100 employees, but it also found that small organizations are the least prepared to handle a cyber-attack.

2. Alert! Alert! Alert: Too Many Alerts!

One of the biggest challenges for SOC managers is to keep up with all alerts. A study by Ponemon Institute found that organizations receive an average of 4,000 alerts per week, 25 percent of which are false positives. Organizations spend a significant amount of time configuring and adjusting these alerts into various lists, such as priority lists, whitelists, and blacklists.

3. Complex Operations

The volume of data collected by SOCs is growing rapidly, increasing the need for advanced tools that can help SOC managers scan alerts to prioritize and identify true threats. Some organizations don't apply enough integrated systems for their organization, thereby making the operation more complex than it should be.

4. It Can be Costly

Even though SOCs are becoming increasingly common, they can still be very costly. Such costs often include the labor cost of staff that run the operation. The actual cost will depend on your business and how much data it produces, and the size of the team required to support the operation. If the operation is complex and you don't have enough integrated systems, this will also add to the costs.

5. Compliances

When it comes to SOCs, compliance is critical. The reason being you need to adhere to strict rules and regulations to protect your company's reputation. For example, you need to be compliant with regulations such as PCI-DSS or HIPAA. Also, if you are a public company, you need to adhere to the regulations set by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC). Remaining compliant will always be a challenge since issues and regulations are always changing. As a result, certain processes must be adjusted to remain in compliance, and all SOC teams need to be prepared for such changes.

Addressing The Challenges

As more organizations adopt the use of SOCs for their businesses, challenges arise. Fortunately, there are several steps that you can take to ensure that your SOC team will be able to confront such challenges. Arguably the most critical step is to use an integrated system, thereby allowing your team to monitor alerts from a single, integrated source.

Who Works In A SOC?

The professionals that work within a SOC are typically referred to as SOC analysts. These teams consist of different types of analysts who work together in a well-orchestrated manner to ensure the SOC can oppose any challenges. The standard SOC team consists of the following positions:


  • SOC Manager: This is the person that manages all aspects of an organization's SOC. They are responsible for directing, monitoring, and prioritizing tasks to ensure they are completed promptly.

  • Level 1 - Incident Responders: These are the first responders that analyze and respond to security incidents. They take care of regular reports.

  • Level 2 - The Deep Fixers: These analysts are in charge of fixing the root cause of an incident. They usually conduct investigations and perform follow-ups to ensure a security issue is resolved.

  • Level 3 - The Hunters: These analysts search through the system for any errors or vulnerabilities that need to be addressed.

  • Level 4 - The Experts: These analysts typically have a lot of experience and knowledge about security. They understand the big picture, in addition to having technical expertise. They are responsible for hiring and training other SOC members, overseeing regulations, and both designing and mastering system architecture.

Discuss The Possibility Of Outsourcing Certain Roles Or Tasks Within The SOC

Setting up an in-house SOC can be expensive, especially when you consider the cost of hiring a full-time SOC team and implementing all of the processes, operations, and technology required to run an effective SOC. As a result, many organizations outsource specific roles and tasks.

There Is A SOC And There Is Also A NOC, Are They Different?

A Network Operations Center (NOC) and a SOC are quite different, despite the similar acronyms. A NOC acts as an intermediary between the company's internal network and its external connections. They are responsible for ensuring connectivity, problem resolution, and performance monitoring, among several other tasks. On the other hand, a SOC is responsible for monitoring and logging all security-related events as they occur and reacting to any alerts generated by systems.

Never Neglect Your Security And Always Enforce It

Data security is critical to your company's continued success. As such, it's imperative that you don't neglect your security and that you take every step possible to enforce it. The inability to address security breaches or vulnerabilities can lead to considerable damage to your company's ability to continue doing its business, not to mention to its reputation. Arguably the best way to enforce your company's data security is through a SOC, whether you set one up internally or decide to outsource.

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