Understanding the role of the Security Operations Center is critical to an organization’s overall cybersecurity strategy. SOCs are not stereotypical war rooms; they are formally organized teams of cybersecurity professionals who lead in detecting, protecting, and remediating threats within an organization’s network. A SOC’s responsibilities include compliance management to ensure that applications, systems, and security tools comply with data privacy regulations like GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA, and PCI DSS.
A SOC team—on-premises or outsourced—monitors identities, endpoints, servers, cloud services, network applications, and databases for real-time threats. They also do proactive security work, such as reducing the organization’s attack surface by applying security patches and identifying misconfigurations. As a result, they can identify and triage alerts with speed. This reduces an attacker’s window of opportunity, which makes it more difficult for them to gain a foothold in the system and steal valuable data or launch a devastating cyberattack. Of course, attacks will still happen no matter how much preparation and preventative maintenance a company does. And when they do, it’s one of the functions of the SOC to stop them. This is accomplished through well-documented incident response processes and unified threat intelligence solutions. Many SOCs operate on a 24×7 basis, which is best practice given that hackers don’t stick to a 9 AM to 5 PM schedule and that 35% of all attacks occur between 8 PM and 8 AM. With continuous monitoring and detection, SOC teams can immediately stop an attack before it can spread. This enables companies to minimize their “breakout time” and minimize the impact of a threat on their infrastructure, customers, and partners. It also gives them the visibility they need to reduce blind spots and gaps in coverage.
With the right people, technology, and intelligence, SOC teams can prevent threats from taking hold. They also take proactive security measures like updating firewalls, software patches, and anti-virus definitions and monitoring identities, endpoints, servers, databases, network applications, websites, etc., to uncover cyberattacks in real-time. If a cyberattack is detected, the SOC responds quickly to mitigate damage and restore systems. This includes following IR processes and procedures, isolating affected endpoints, triaging threats, and adequately documenting cases. It also includes deploying system backups during a data breach or ransomware attack. A SOC’s response capabilities are based on its unified threat intelligence, which reduces alert fatigue by consolidating and contextualizing machine data to make it easier for analysts to identify, prioritize, and address threats. This is where an SIEM and an integrated detection and response (IDR) solution come into play. The SOC also ensures that the organization’s technology, processes, and practices comply with GDPR, CCPA, or PCI DSS regulations. It also identifies any vulnerabilities or poor security processes contributing to an incident so the organization can improve its defenses against future attacks. Finally, a SOC creates and maintains a disaster recovery plan. This is necessary to avoid downtime and lost revenue after a cyberattack hits. It may involve wiping and reconnecting disks, resetting devices, restarting applications, or restoring data from backup systems.
Keeping all threats at bay is impossible, so SOC teams must be ready to respond quickly and effectively to attacks. To do so, they must be able to analyze threat data from every angle. This involves ensuring they have visibility into an organization’s network architecture, including hardware, cloud services, applications, and endpoints. They also must account for all security solutions used to defend the organization’s assets, including SIEM and EDR systems and vulnerability assessment solutions. SOC analysts are also responsible for analyzing log data to determine how a threat penetrated the system, what they did once they got inside, and where they came from. This information helps the SOC team determine what to look for in future attacks. They can also use it to improve cybersecurity measures, such as network segmentation or upgrading software and firewalls. Lastly, SOCs must continually monitor their systems to detect any signs of a breach or potential compromise and then take the appropriate steps to protect the organization. This includes assessing and updating threat intelligence resources and implementing any updates they can glean from external sources. SOC teams also must educate end users and managers on how to avoid falling prey to social engineering tactics. This is particularly important because hackers often target individuals, hoping to manipulate them into granting unwarranted access to sensitive or confidential information.
A good SOC team aims to reduce the risk of attacks happening in the first place. This includes monitoring technology infrastructure around the clock and using behavioral analytics to catch suspicious activity. In addition, SOCs must be able to prioritize alerts and triage them according to their severity level. This makes a difference in how quickly cyberattacks are discovered and shut down before they cause any damage. SOC teams must also continually update their prevention systems to keep up with emerging threats. This may include adding new threat categories, updating the list of detected vulnerabilities, and adjusting their tools to ensure they get the most out of them. Finally, SOCs must have complete visibility into their business’s assets, including endpoints, software and servers, and third-party services. This ensures that there are no blind spots that attackers can exploit. While SOCs are often considered a luxury, they’re necessary for most businesses that want to stay safe from cyberattacks. Without one, a successful breach can cost organizations millions in recovery costs and lost customers. And the best way to minimize costs is to prevent breaches in the first place by detecting and thwarting them quickly. A SOC is a hub that takes in telemetry from all over an organization’s network, devices, and appliances and then uses that information to help prevent, detect, and respond to security incidents.