What is a security operations center (SOC)?

Cybersecurity can be centered in a SOC, which is a team of people who monitor for threats, vulnerabilities, or unusual activities.

A SOC is an entire business unit that is entirely dedicated to cybersecurity. The group monitors traffic flow and watches for threats and attacks, and are an essential team for companies of all sizes—all companies are susceptible to data breaches and cyberattacks.

Minimizing downtime

A SOC focuses entirely on a company’s security, helping to ensure less downtime and faster incident responses. There are also monitoring tools and SOC solutions that build redundancies into their models to prevent any downtime.

Building customer trust

One data breach can be enough to turn customers away from an organization. Customers want to work with an organization that takes security seriously. Avoiding breaches and putting a strong emphasis on security can help customers keep a peace of mind as they do business with a company.

The most recent SOC models offer software as a service (SaaS) programs that are subscription based. The SOC’s team of experts build a cybersecurity strategy, ideally operation 24/7, while consistently monitoring networks and endpoints. In the event that a threat or vulnerability is discovered, the SOC will work with onsite IT teams to create a response and investigate the source.

Graphic showing the different parts of security operations.

Dedicated or internal SOC

A company hosts their own cybersecurity team.

Virtual SOC

A security team that works remotely.

Global or command SOC

Larger, more high-level groups that oversee smaller SOCs.

Co-managed SOC

A company’s IT department teams up with an external SOC vendor to manage security together.

SOC manager or director

SOC managers lead their respective organization at the top-level, which includes workforce management, budgeting, and setting priorities. They usually work one step below a chief information security officer (CISO).

Incident responder

They react to and analyze security alerts the moment they occur. They typically use a range of monitoring tools to analyze the severity of alerts, and they engage once an alert has been labeled an actionable incident.

Threat hunter

Threat hunters proactively search for threats and weaknesses across a network. Ideally, they identify threats and vulnerabilities before they can impact the business.

Forensic investigator

The analyst who investigates and gathers information after an attack, then preserves the digital evidence for future preventative measures.

SOC analyst/cybersecurity analyst

They are responsible for escalating potential threats after analyzing all threats and determining the levels of severity.

Take stock of available resources

SOC is responsible for devices, applications, and processes, as well as defensive tools to ensure continued protection.

What the SOC protects

It is the SOC’s function to have a complete view of a business’s critical data, including software, servers, endpoints, and third-party services, along with all of the traffic being exchanged between the assets.

How the SOC protects

A SOC uses agility to protect a company. They develop a strong level of expertise of all possible tools in cybersecurity and workflows that the SOC uses.

Preparation and preventative maintenance

Responses can be quickly executed, but a well-equipped team still needs to prepare and take preventative measures to ensure cyber resilience.

Preparation

SOC professionals stay informed on the latest in cybersecurity innovations and the latest threats. Staying constantly updated can help with the continuous evolution of their security roadmap, which can act as a guide for the company’s security efforts moving forward.

Preventative maintenance

Prevention means taking all necessary steps to make attacks more difficult to succeed, like regularly updating software systems, securing applications, updating policies, applying patches, whitelisting, and blacklisting.

Continuous proactive monitoring

Monitoring should run 24/7, as abnormalities or suspicious activity can occur any time of the day. A SOC monitoring around the clock can be immediately notified, which gives them the opportunity to respond immediately to incidents. Some organizations deploy monitoring tools such as an EDR and most include a SIEM, both of which have the capabilities to help analyze the difference between normal operations and threat-like behavior.

Alert ranking and management

The SOC is responsible for looking closely at each alert that comes from the monitoring tools. This gives them the opportunity to properly triage threats.

Reduces network downtime and ensures business continuity

A company needs the least amount of network downtime to maintain operations. The SOC notifies the company of any security breach that could affect the network.

Threat response

The SOC acts as a first-responder when there has been a security incident. They can perform actions like isolating endpoints, terminate harmful processes, preventing processes from executing, and deleting files. Ideally, the SOC ensures that the security incident causes the least amount of downtime possible.

Recovery and remediation

The SOC will work to restore systems and recover anything that has been lost. Part of this process may include restarting endpoints, wiping endpoints, deploying backups, or reconfiguring systems.

Log management

The SOC collects and reviews logs of all network activity for the entirety of an organization. The logs contain data that can indicate a baseline for normal network activity, and what could be indicative of a threat and such data also assists in forensics during the aftermath of an incident.

Root cause investigation

Post-incident, it is the responsibility of the SOC to research the root cause of a security incident. They can use log data to find a possible source or identify an anomaly, at which point preventative measures can be applied.

Security refinement and improvement

Proper security measures require constant vigilance, which includes refinement and improvement of security measures. Plans that are outlined in a security road map are applied, and refinements are constantly added to the road map to improve measures against cyber criminals, who are also always refining their methods.

SOCs are necessary for fighting against cyber attacks, which can significantly damage a company.

Centralized approach to threat detection and response

A SOC team leverages a centralized system for monitoring a company’s security, which means that all software and processes are stored in one place for smoother operations.

Maintain client and employee confidence

Customers expect organizations to take security seriously and protect their data. One incident can be enough to lose a customer, which is why a SOC team helps monitor and prevent attacks before they can infiltrate an organization.

Ensure minimum impact to business from cyber attacks

Security breaches may lead to significant losses in business reputation and revenue, which can dramatically alter an ROI and company’s bottom line. Firms save money that they would otherwise lose in recoveries and lost revenue from network downtime.

Graphic showing the time to detect and contain a data breach.

SOC’s presence for several years has yielded a series of best practices.

Accelerated incident response

A SOC monitors network activity 24/7, which allows for rapid incident response. The moment a threat is detected, the SOC team should respond at an accelerated rate to ensure that the threat is neutralized before it can contribute to any downtime or result in the loss of data or privacy.

Implementing automation

Machine Learning systems have the capabilities to monitor logs and watch traffic flows—they function on a trained algorithm that is meant to detect anomalies and immediately report suspicious activity. This can save time and allow security practitioners to focus on patterns and anomalies and work more efficiently.

Cloud approach

The cloud has made cybersecurity more tricky, as a series of interconnected devices have created a wider surface area for cyberattackers to penetrate a firewall. All connections of the cloud infrastructure should be analyzed to identify where threats and vulnerabilities could be located.

Staying ahead of cyber criminals

Cybercriminals are becoming more and more innovative in their attack methods. Cybersecurity teams need to also take an innovative and creative approach to preventative plans in anticipation of ever-evolving threats.

There are many tools available to SOC practitioners. There are basic tools like firewalls and intrusion detection systems and foundational tools such as SIEMs. But more advanced tools are beginning to emerge, which will increase efficiency and accuracy. For example, tools that can analyze activity over the entire perimeter and reveals multiple points of entry that a hacker can target.

Security Operations Efficiency Dashboard.

Why do you need a security operation center?

It is essential for an organization to safeguard its data and assets. A SOC can protect a network and ensure that an organization is less vulnerable to attacks, which provides a peace of mind for customers and employees.

What should a SOC monitor?

All network traffic from both internal and external sources, including servers, databases, and routers.

What is the difference between NOC and SOC?

A network operations center (NOC) focuses on monitoring the uptime of a network rather than cybersecurity threats.

What is the difference between SOC and SIEM?

Security information and event management (SIEM) is a network monitoring solution, providing alerts and network usage benchmarks for SOC teams to leverage.

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