Cybersecurity threats are now more common, dangerous, and difficult to detect and defend. Enterprises of all sizes need a formal organizational structure that is responsible for information security and can create efficient processes for detection, mitigation, and prevention of threats. This is where the Security Operations Center (SOC) comes into play.
What is a Security Operations Centre (SOC)?
SOC has traditionally been a physical facility within an organization that houses information security teams. This team analyzes and monitors your organization's security system. The role of the SOC is to protect the organization from security breaches by identifying, analyzing, and responding to cybersecurity threats. The SOC team consists of management, a security analyst, and in some cases a security engineer.
SOCs are a proven method for improving threat detection, reducing the likelihood of security breaches, and ensuring proper organizational response in the event of an incident. The SOC team isolates anomalous activity on servers, databases, networks, endpoints and applications. Identifies and investigates security threats, and responds to security incidents that occur.
At one point, SOCs were considered suitable only for large enterprises. Today, many small organizations have set up lightweight centres such as a hybrid SOC that combines part-time internal staff with sourced experts, or a virtual or remote SOC that does not require any physical facility and consists of external service providers delivering SOC services.
How does a SOC work?
SOCs have two main responsibilities, which include managing security monitoring tools and investigating suspicious activities. Some of the core processes they carry out are alert triage, alert prioritization, remediation and recovery, and reporting.
SOC roles and responsibilities:
Security analysts: They are the first to respond to incidents. The response includes threat detection, threat investigation and timely response. This requires correct training and proper implementation of policies and procedures within the enterprise. They work with internal IT staff and business administrators to communicate information about security shortfalls and have support in creating documentation.
Security engineers/architects: They maintain and suggest monitoring and analysis tools and can be software or hardware specialists. They develop tools that aid enterprises in responding effectively to threats. Documenting procedures, requirements and protocols is a part of their job.
SOC manager: The manager oversees the SOC team and reports to the CISO. They supervise the team, provide guidance and manage the overall metrics. Some responsibilities include creating processes, developing a crisis communication plan, and assessing incident reports. They also write compliance reports, measure SOC performance and report on operations to business leaders.
CISO: A CISO defines the security operations and objectives. They have the final say on policies, strategies, and procedures relating to cybersecurity. They also have a central role in risk management and compliance and implementation of policies.
Benefits of SOC
SOCs operate 24x7 to detect and respond to incidents. They use threat intelligence tools to fully understand incidents and curate an appropriate response. They also play a vital role in reducing ad hoc security costs in the long run. By coordinating data and information, they can also reduce the complexity of investigations.
Challenges faced by SOC teams
Apart from the unknown challenges of identifying attacks, below are some key challenges SOC teams face every day:
- Keep the entire team updated on the latest threats and the changing dynamic of attackers.
- Logistics of maintaining an operational status of all the tools in use by the SOC.
- Connecting threat signals to identify the larger threat campaigns.
- Responding to threats in a way that they don't reoccur.
- The ability of the threat team to perform consistently and at their optimum best, every day.
Key questions before you decide to set up a SOC
Here are a few questions to ask yourself before setting up a SOC:
- Availability and hours - will your SOC function 8x5 or 24x7?
- Do you plan to implement a SOC in-house or use an MSSP?
- List of tools you will need to run a SOC, also a plan to maintain/upkeep them continuously
- Will you use the cloud extensively? Are you amenable to using a cloud SaaS tool instead of setting up and managing on-prem infrastructures?
- What is the scope of your SOC, and what assets are you trying to protect?
- Do you want to extend your NOC (Network Operations Center) to a SOC?
- What are the metrics you will use to measure the effectiveness of a SOC?
- How will you ensure consistency in investigating and responding to threats?
(Read : IT'S TIME TO MODERNIZE YOUR SOC)
Stages involved in setting up a SOC
Building a SOC is a process, key aspects need to be planned correctly before being implemented. Below are some of the key stages in building a SOC -
Scoping and planning - understand what you are trying to protect, the tools and processes you will need to defend these assets
People and tools onboarding - based on the design, identify and onboard the expertise required to operationalise your SOC, adopt a similar process for tools
Design investigation and response playbooks - begin with enlisting different threat scenarios followed by documenting procedures that will be used to investigate and respond to them
Training and lab testing - often overlooked, training and lab testing each analyst and incident handler is key to getting optimum and consistent results
Production - cautiously move towards production, and implement a cyclic process that continues to evaluate the operational effectiveness of the playbooks
Metrics and maturity - identify the key metrics that are required to measure the effectiveness of the SOC and develop programs to improve the maturity of the SOC going forward.