SOC stands for Security Operations Center, and it’s a single, centralized team or function in any business that handles the security of the organization, protecting the business from cyber-risk.
A security operations center will manage and control all of the security elements of running the business, from monitoring assets, to employing the right people and processes, and detecting and responding to threat. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about forming and utilizing a SOC as an IT professional.
What is a SOC responsible for?
Depending on the size of your business, a SOC might have more or less employees or budget at their disposal, but the main responsibilities of a SOC largely remain the same. This can be split into three categories:
A key part of a SOC’s role is to monitor operations 24/7, and alert to anything anomalous or unusual. This will help a business to spot any signs of threat or error before they can evolve and become a fully-fledged cyberattack. SOC analysts will gather intelligence about normal operations, track and monitor logs to set up defensive baselines, and have technology in place that can send smart alerts at the first sign of trouble.
Other tasks that a SOC might manage that come under the “prevent” category could be patch management, firewall deployment, or keeping assets protected with Antivirus and other security software.
Once an alert has been sent to the SOC regarding a potential issue, it is the SOCs responsibility to investigate this risk, looking for IoC (Indicators of Compromise), and assessing what should be done next. Today, SOC teams are often plagued with “alert fatigue”, where so many notifications are being sent their way, they find it tough to read what’s really of concern.
Discarding false positives and considering context is really important here. For example, security tools might uncover a cloud misconfiguration on a certain cloud bucket. But if the bucket doesn’t hold any sensitive data, this might not be as urgent as it first appears.
Your SOC will also be your first line of defense when a threat has been confirmed. The SOC will therefore have a high level of control over the network, for example to isolate endpoints that may have been breached or to terminate specific processes to stop an attack spreading. Once an attack has been mitigated, your SOC will also be responsible for restoring business as usual, including accessing backups where necessary, or wiping endpoints clean and then restarting them and helping users get set up again. The SOC’s role is not complete until the network is back to its pre-incident state.
In fact, even once the business is putting the attack behind them, the SOC may have additional work to do. For example, the SOC might also be responsible for making regulatory reports or audit trails for compliance requirements, or they might need to do more forensic incident response to uncover the root cause of the issue. Once this has been uncovered, they can then implement better tools and processes to add to the “prevent” section of their role, making a SOC’s job cyclical in nature.
What are the challenges for today’s organizations in creating an in-house SOC?
For today’s businesses, there are two main options, either create an in-house SOC to manage security, or outsource it to an MSSP (Managed Security Services Provider). Increasingly, thanks to a cybersecurity skills gap for full-time employees, the challenges of alert fatigue, and the growing sophistication of attackers and their tools – organizations are looking to outsource SOCs rather than go to the trouble of housing them under their own business umbrella.
This approach allows businesses to benefit from robust and intelligent security teams without the need to employ full-time staff at a high salary point. It also takes a lot of the weight off a business, who can leave protecting security defenses to those who have true expertise in this area, and instead focus on their own core product or service.
What are the benefits for clients of having a Security Operations Center?
If you’re offering a managed SOC to your IT clients as part of your managed services, you need to be able to talk about the benefits with ease. Without offering the SOC role under your managed security services, you’ll likely be offering clients very specific one-off jobs such as installing endpoint protection software on their devices, setting up firewalls as a “one and done” task, or worst-case scenario – coming in after an attack has caused existing problems to try and solve a crisis in real-time.
Instead, speak to your clients about value like this. Offering a managed SOC means they receive:
- A proactive approach: Don’t wait for a problem to occur, make it less likely that an attacker could breach your environment in the first place.
- Continuous monitoring: Rest assured that there is someone watching your logs for the first sign of problem, especially as the majority of attacks go undetected.
- Improved incident response: What can attackers do in the time it takes you to pick up the phone and find a cyber-response team? Let’s not find out.
- Reduced downtime: A SOC will organize backups and plan Bs so that even in the event of an attack, your business doesn’t have to go dark.
- Greater visibility: With all security tools and processes managed from a single centralized team and dashboard, nothing falls through the gaps.
- Predictable costs: Most MSSPs or outsourced SOCs over a transparent monthly charge, while leaving cybersecurity up to chance can be an expensive risk.
- Smart incident response: Benefit from the expertise of the IT team who already know your business, systems, hardware, and software inside and out.
So there you have it! That’s everything you need to know about Security Operations Centers, and how to discuss security prevention and protection as a value-add with your own clients and business stakeholders.
Wondering what the difference is between a SOC and a NOC? We have a cheat sheet for that, too!