What is SOC? Security Operations Center
A Security Operations Center (SOC) is a centralized unit within an organization responsible for monitoring, detecting, analyzing, and responding to security incidents or events. Its primary function is to ensure the security of an organization’s information systems, network infrastructure, and digital assets. The SOC team uses various security tools, techniques, and procedures to identify and prevent cyber threats, vulnerabilities, and attacks. The SOC operates 24/7 and plays a critical role in the organization’s overall security posture. The team comprises security analysts, incident responders, forensic experts, and other cybersecurity professionals who work together to protect the organization from potential security breaches.
“A framework for Designing a Security Operations Center (SOC)” paper defines and delineates the four major pillars of SOC: Intelligence, Secure Service Development, Business Damage Control, and Continuous Monitoring.
Now that we have a clearer picture of what a security operations center is, let’s look at job roles in a SOC team, tools, and other goodies.
SOC Team Structure
The job roles in a SOC team may vary depending on the organization’s size, structure, and security needs. Each role has its particularity, driving ever further the (collective) effort to identify, monitor, respond, mitigate, and hound down cyber threats. Here’s what a fully staffed SOC team looks like:
- Security analyst.
- Incident Responder.
- Threat Hunter.
- Security Engineer.
- SOC Manager
- Compliance Specialist
Let’s chat more about each role.
Security analysts are responsible for monitoring the organization’s systems and networks, detecting and analysing security incidents, and providing recommendations to mitigate potential risks. A security analyst is, without downplaying its importance, the backbone of any self-respecting SOC team. The person assuming this role will be the first responder. Basically, the security analyst has the power to do what it takes in order to stop a cyberattack or mitigate its effects.
A security analyst may also take the steps he/she sees fit to protect the company from future or impending attacks. They ‘re also in charge of incident documentation and reporting. A security analyst seldomly works alone. In a fully staffed SOC team, there are at least four alert/security analysts, each possessing a unique set of skills. This multi-tiered system leverages everything from A to Z and then some.
For instance, a so-called Tier 1 Security Analyst can take up the sub-role of Alert Investigator. His duties consist of monitoring the business’ digital ecosystem using specialized tools like SIEM, filter alerts, and, most importantly, figuring out if the alerts themselves are legit or fake. Think of it as an entry-level job. Still, this is no newbie task; an Alert Investigator must possess top-class programming skills, one or more security-related certifications, and, of course, in-depth knowledge about the inner workings of a cyberattack.
Now, an alert investigator is usually backed up by another analyst called an incident responder. What sets them apart though? An incident responder should possess higher malware analysis-oriented skills as well as skills in the digital forensics area. Forensic experts are responsible for investigating security incidents and conducting digital forensics analysis to identify the root cause of the incident and collect evidence for potential legal proceedings. Most incident responders have a background in ethical hacking and threat intelligence.
This brings us to tier number 3 – threat hunting.
Also called a specialist, this person is literally the Swiss army knife of security/malware analysis. His main job is to gather data from across the business environment, apply models and ascertain the company’s cybersecurity posture.
But that’s not the end of the job description; a specialist can also reverse-engineer malicious code for learning or mitigation purposes, analyse malware patterns in order to define new defense strategies, and conduct regular pen-testing. Of course, the team wouldn’t be complete without a lead, a person in charge of supervising all the above-described ops and ensuring that the recommendations go through and get approved by the execs.
Now that we’ve covered security analysis, let’s move on to the second role – security engineer.
The job may appear to be lackluster when compared to the duty roster of a security analyst, but it’s in no way insignificant. A security engineer must ensure that all the tools and software and hardware are up to par and that the documentation is end-to-end consistent.
So, we have documentation, maintenance, updating & patching, and, of course, working side-by-side with the security analysts on implementing the system changes or security recommendations. Nor a Rockstar, nor an underdog be.
Next on the list, we have the SOC team lead or the SOC manager. Apart from the obvious HR-related duties (i.e., hiring new people, onboarding, assessing performance), the SOC manager must also ensure that there’s a perfect communication accord between the security analysts and engineers. Without this bond, the team would fall apart in an instant.
Compliance specialists ensure that the organization’s security policies and procedures comply with relevant industry standards, regulations, and laws.
So now you know all there is to know about SOC teams. Up next, we’re going to look at the various tools the team uses in order to carry out job-specific tasks.
Example of Tools used by SOC Teams
We’ll go tier by tier.
For Security Analysts
- Data mining and analysis tools. Since analysts need to pull lots of data in order to make educated guesses about malware, it’s obvious that they’ll need a data mining tool capable of gathering, sorting, filtering, and displaying various types of info. To name just a few, we have apps capable of finding specific text strings with special operators, graph-rendering apps, tools capable of uncovering info buried deep inside documents, databases that contain the names of compromised hosts and/or companies, search engines that allow you to search for devices connected to the Internet, DNS recon tools, website engine ID solutions, QA verifiers for source code and overall security, harvesting tools that allow the user to quickly gather stuff like names, open machine ports, banners, hosts, emails, and even PGP key servers, malware trackers, and SIEMs (Security Information and Event Management solutions).
- Pen-testing tools and vulnerability scanners. Here we have browser-specific pen tools, open-source vulnerability scanners, SQL flaw mapping tools, auditing apps, vulnerability managers, proxy debugging tools, Joolma scanners, Ruby frameworks, and more.
- Advanced logging tools capable of retrieving hidden information. For instance, we have WordPress file analyzers capable of sniffing out missing or modified file, merging tools, and various web-based apps that allows you to compare files.
For Security Engineers
- Encryption apps.
- Packet Sniffers.
- Pen-testing tools.
- Defense tools for wireless networks.
- Vulnerability scanners and vulnerability managers for web applications.
- PKI Tools.
- Antivirus and antimalware software.
- Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS).
- Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS).
So, what are the advantages of having a Security Operations Center?
- Around-the-clock monitoring. No need to worry about what happens after working hours, because you have a security team at the ready, monitoring every bit of information entering and leaving your company.
- Less pressure on the IT team. Hiring a team of security specialists means taking some heat off your IT admins.
- Minimize the risk associated with malicious activities. Since every corner of your business is carefully watched, the odds of a data breach or ransomware attack are close to zero. Let’s bring up some numbers. A survey by Statista, running from 2020 to 2021, stated that more than 70% of large-sized companies have experienced at least one data breach.The survey in question was focused on North American companies. Still not convinced? Here’s another number – 80. A 2021 survey pointed out that 80% of large-sized companies expect a data breach within the next 12 months.
- Increased visibility. It’s easier for a team focused on security (and nothing) else to discover and fix hidden vulnerabilities.
- Faster Incident Response. SOC teams are trained to respond quickly and effectively to security incidents, minimizing the time between detection and resolution. This can help organizations reduce the potential damage caused by security incidents and prevent further attacks.
- Cost-Effective Cybersecurity: By centralizing security operations and automating routine tasks, SOC teams can help organizations reduce the cost of security operations and improve the return on their security investments.
Running a SOC can be challenging, as it requires a high level of expertise, resources, and coordination to effectively detect and respond to security incidents. Some of the main challenges of a SOC include:
- Alert Overload. SOC teams can receive an overwhelming number of alerts from various security tools, which can make it challenging to prioritize and respond to critical security incidents promptly.
- Staffing and Talent Shortages. There is a shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals, which can make it difficult for organizations to hire and retain qualified SOC analysts and incident responders.
- Technology Complexity. Security tools and technologies can be complex and require specialized knowledge to manage and configure effectively, which can make it challenging to maintain and update the SOC’s infrastructure.
- Data Overload. SOC teams need to analyze large amounts of data from various sources, which can make it challenging to identify potential threats and vulnerabilities accurately.
- Adversarial Tactics. Cybercriminals are constantly evolving their tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to evade detection and compromise organizations’ systems and networks, which can make it challenging for SOC teams to keep up with the latest threats.
- Budget Constraints. Building and maintaining an effective SOC can be expensive, and many organizations face budget constraints, which can limit their ability to invest in advanced security tools, technologies, and personnel.According to an article by Kelly Sheridan of DarkReading, the average annual cost of a in-house SOC team is around $1.5 million. And this is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The costs can run even higher if you want an on-prem, 24/7, fully staffed team, meaning at least one tier-one security analyst, an investigator, a responder, an auditor, and a manager.
How can Heimdal Help?
With the Heimdal XDR, you can eliminate the complexity of managing multiple security solutions and having a comprehensive, integrated approach to cybersecurity. Simply said, the Heimdal XDR reduces complexity and costs by consolidating multiple security technologies. The result is lower costs and better utilization of your SecOps and IT resources. The platform comes equipped with a Threat-Hunting and Action Center, which allows for seamless and efficient one-click automated and assisted actioning across your digital enterprise. This feature enables you to respond quickly and effectively to any potential threats, keeping your business and data safe and secure.
Can’t hire a team right now? No worries. Our managed XDR service includes a Security Operations Center (SOC) that provides event monitoring, threat investigations, extended threat hunting, and forensics, as well as a fully action-oriented incident response team to proactively contain and neutralize attacks.
- End-to-end consolidated cybersecurity;
- Powered by the Heimdal XDR, Unified Security Platform
- Comprehensive enterprise security without any additional integrations
- 24x7 monitoring & prompt response delivered by our security experts
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