What is a Security Operations Center and Why is it Important?

Cyber attacks continue to increase in both volume and sophistication. Organizations are 24/7 targets of malicious lone wolf hackers and dedicated hacking groups looking to exploit their networks, applications, and endpoints. The onslaught of cyber threats faced by companies calls for continuous monitoring, analysis, and incident response. This article describes the central role played by a security operations center in improving cybersecurity defenses.
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What Is a Security Operations Center (SOC)?

A security operations center (SOC) is a team of information security professionals who combine their expertise with processes and technologies to monitor an organization’s information security posture. The SOC assumes responsibility for the operational, day-to-day need to protect against cybersecurity threats.  

Roles and Responsibilities Within a Security Operations Center

Getting the right expertise working within a security operations center is critical to its success. Your SOC team needs to work in harmony to defend against threats and mitigate risks to your information assets. Here are some key roles any SOC needs along with the responsibilities each role needs to take on. 

  • SOC Manager: The leader of the operation center who oversees all important aspects, including organizing workflows and 
  • Security Engineer: A professional who fine-tunes tools and systems to improve protection against cybersecurity threats. 
  • Security Analyst: A professional who monitors, analyzes, and detects threats within your network. 

These are the three core roles you’ll find as part of any security operations center. However, some SOCs accommodate other roles, such as a dedicated incident response manager/director who oversees how the organization responds to detected incidents and prioritizes remediation actions to deal with such incidents. Some SOCs in heavily regulated industries may require a compliance auditor to ensure the organization adheres to external regulations and internal policies. 

Challenges and Benefits of a Security Operations Center

Something as important as a SOC brings many benefits when implemented correctly, such as:

  • Risk reduction: The nature of a SOC’s continued 24/7 monitoring and analysis reduces information security risks. 
  • Human expertise: A SOC heavily depends on human expertise to bolster cybersecurity defenses by providing detailed analysis, insights, reports, and remediation recommendations that tools can’t provide.
  • Alert triage: The SOC inspects the alerts received from monitoring tools, discards false positives, and helps prioritize emerging threats based on severity.     

There are also several challenges to successfully implementing a SOC at your business, including:

  • Alert fatigue: SOCs can become inundated from the high volumes of alerts generated by many different tools. The volume of alerts continues to increase as organizations expand their IT infrastructure to the cloud and as the traditional network perimeter dissolves due to employees working from home. 
  • Tool overload: Compounding the alert fatigue problem is the fact that a SOC uses several different tools to monitor, analyze, and detect threats. Efficient SOCs need to be ruthless in their tool selection. Teams must find a balance between sufficient ability to defend their organization without being burdened by keeping track of too many disparate tools. 
  • Cost: There’s no getting around the fact that building an in-house SOC requires a large investment of both money and resources. 
  • Skills shortage: There is a global skills shortage within cybersecurity, which makes it very difficult to get the right people into a security operations center. The success of any SOC implementation highly depends on the level of expertise available. In fact, 70% of cybersecurity professionals claim that their organization is impacted by the cybersecurity skills shortage.

Tools Used by SOC

Tools are imperative in building out a successful SOC. It’s essential to leverage a range of tools that help the SOC team better detect and respond to threats on your network. 

Log and Network Traffic Analysis.  

A critical part of analyzing and monitoring your IT infrastructure for security issues involves gathering logs from different tools, devices, and systems to gain visibility into patterns that indicate cyber threats.  SIEM solutions typically power this log analysis. Network traffic analysis tools can extend SIEM to include analyzing network activity.  

Vulnerability Discovery

Vulnerability discovery calls for a combination of aggressive threat hunting and using software. Vulnerability scanners are particularly helpful tools for security operations experts to find insights about weaknesses within your IT infrastructure. Knowing about your vulnerabilities helps you mitigate them before a malicious intruder can exploit them. 

Detection and Response.

Detection has always been a part of what a SOC does. Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) are often used to detect threats and provide alerts. Many organizations now want their SOC to provide incident response capabilities, which necessitates using tools such as endpoint detection and response (EDR).  

User Behavior Monitoring. 

Often, anomalous user behavior is the main indicator of an in-progress cyber attack. In fact,  Modern SOCs need a tool that can analyze user behavior against a baseline and identify suspicious activities, such as multiple failed logins. Verizon reported in 2020 that stolen credentials and phishing were the top two causes of data breaches. Next-generation SIEM tools come with user and behavior analytics (UBA) capabilities that can help a SOC monitor user behavior. These tools use machine learning to understand what normal behavior looks like for every user on your network and detect deviations from that norm.

Automation Tools

Alert fatigue and time spent on other manual tasks that computers can easily perform is a real problem for security analysts in SOCs. Tools that help automate security operations’ workflows by providing automated rule writing and alert prioritization improve both efficiency and productivity within a SOC. 

Who Needs a Security Operations Center?

It’s not just enterprises that need a security operations center. You can think of a SOC as the eyes and ears of your organization; the SOC team’s modus operandi is keeping constant vigilance of your company’s information security posture. 

Cybercriminals are relentless in their attempts to exploit systems, networks, and applications because they understand the value of information. You and your employees might go home at 5 pm each day, but cyber attacks aren’t bounded by working hours. Constant cybersecurity defense is critical for avoiding the worst outcomes of an attack, such as a data breach.  

In a world where it takes over 266 days to detect a breach and the average global cost of a data breach is $3.86 million, companies ranging in size from SMBs to enterprises need the ongoing monitoring and analysis that a SOC provides. While an in-house SOC deployment is beyond the reach of many SMBs, there are feasible alternatives. 

The DruvStar Difference

Establishing and retaining a dedicated team of experts to continuously monitor your network for suspicious activities and respond to threats is an enormous undertaking. Equipping your team of experts with the right tools to succeed in their roles adds to the expense and complexity of an in-house SOC implementation.

The DruvStar difference is that our MDR (managed detection and response) solution provides your business with SOC-as-a-service. You don’t need to think about hiring the right people or procuring the necessary tools. We take care of your cybersecurity defenses and give your business the space to focus the bulk of your attention where you can add value with your core business activities.

Contact us today and learn exactly how we can help your business improve its information security posture without needing to build your own SOC.  

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