What is a Security Operations Center (SOC)?
In this article, you’ll discover what a SOC does, how a SOC works, the various elements of SOC security, who needs to contribute to the SOC, and how CyberProof approaches modern-day SOCs.
What is a SOC?
What SOC stands for is “Security Operations Center” – a physical or virtual space that correlates all security events, validates them, and takes action to eliminate threats. The SOC monitors an enterprise’s networks, accounts, devices, appliances, information stores, and other assets for suspicious activity that may indicate a breach or an attack.
How a Security Operations Center works
A SOC is a on-prem., hybrid, or cloud-based strategic hub that executes and monitors security strategies in line with an organization’s people, processes, and technologies, as follows:
- People – The current cybersecurity skills gap means that SOCs across all industries are having trouble attracting and retaining top talent. To provide effective security, many enterprises outsource some or all of their SOC services to Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP).
What’s key in this situation is maintaining visibility, even where services are outsourced. With an advanced MSSP, you can use a hybrid engagement model that supports full collaboration between the in-house team and the external service provider.
- SOC processes – This includes adopting processes that are aligned to industry frameworks such as NIST or ISO/IEC 27001, as well as customizing incident management processes in the form of playbooks aligned to key use cases that meet an enterprise’s specific threat landscape.
The MITRE ATT&CK matrix is a framework that helps identify attacker tactics and techniques when building new use cases. Packaging detection rules and digital playbooks into kits and ensuring a continuous improvement process of development, testing, deployment, and optimization is an effective way to improve your threat coverage continuously.
- Technologies – When building or augmenting your SOC Network, you should consider incorporating key technologies to improve enrichment of your Detection & Response capabilities. Evaluating the right technologies can take a considerable amount of time, and you may want to work with a partner who is familiar with the available technologies and can help you select the best products and services for your organization.Key technologies that are essential to effective Detection & Response include a cloud-native SIEM with automation and orchestration, threat intelligence, vulnerability scanning, and Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR) capabilities.
Key functions and responsibilities of the SOC
When defining the key functions and responsibilities of the SOC, many people ask what is SOC security exactly? The answer is that SOC security not only responds to incidents in a defensive or reactive process but should also serve as the driver of your company-wide cybersecurity program.
SOC leaders looking to optimize their SOC generally follow the following process of development:
- Definition of log collection – Identifying the assets, tools, technologies, and applications that should be integrated.
- Collection, management, and storage of data – Finding the best ways to simplify the data collection, management, and storage process. For example, at CyberProof, we leverage Azure Log Analytics and CyberProof Log Collection (CLC) to pull logs from multiple sources.
Collection, Management, and Storage of Data with Azure Log Analytics
- Leveraging SIEM capabilities for security analysis – Conducting analytics using the SIEM which can identify anomalies using detection rules.
Using Microsoft Sentinel for Security Analysis
- Orchestration, automation, and collaboration – Adopting processes and technologies that maximize efficiency to provide faster incident resolution with greater efficiency.
SOC analysis, processes, monitoring, and software tools
Protecting enterprises from cyber threats involves the following steps:
- Anticipating – Preparing for potential attacks by developing a thorough understanding of internal and external threats and exposures, including going through a deep vulnerability discovery & prioritization process (internal) – and leveraging targeted threat intelligence (external).
- Detecting – Implementing log collection, onboarding security, and event logs that align to prioritized threat scenarios and business risks. This also includes conducting threat hunting, proactively detecting and isolating advanced threats and extending visibility using Endpoint Detection & Response (EDR).
- Reacting – Managing alerts to efficiently assess, contain, and eradicate critical incidents to recover quickly and minimize the business impact. In this step, digital forensics are used to establish the root cause of each incident and trace its attack path to understand its full impact by reconstructing events and analyzing the evidence.
- Improving – Leveraging the MITRE ATT&CK framework to develop and maintain updated detection rules and playbooks aligned with relevant use cases. This includes orchestration and automation to increase the speed of response and enrich alerts.
For example, at CyberProof, our CyberProof Defense Center (CDC) platform automates routine tasks including SOC analysis, alert triage, event enrichment, investigation, issue containment, and execution of response playbooks, to increase efficiency and effectiveness for SOC analysts.
Optimizing Orchestration, Automation & Collaboration with CyberProof’s Platform
Who needs a SOC?
As our technology landscape is rapidly changing, companies are experiencing an ever-increasing number of aggressive and sophisticated cyber-attacks.
To better handle the increasing number of attacks, companies are currently aggregating and consolidating their security people, processes, and technology in a single place – a centralized SOC. Having a SOC not only modernizes security operations but enables companies to more easily optimize their cybersecurity efforts to reduce the risk of cyber threats and attacks to reduce their ongoing operational costs.
Security operations staffing and organizational structure
As security analysts are constantly acting on the front line of cyber security defense, they often suffer from alert fatigue and burnout. Ensuring the continuous development and retention of a strong SOC team requires investing time and effort in ensuring that each person on the team continues to be motivated and fulfilled.
Here are some of the strategies that are important to building a strong organizational structure, and successfully staffing and maintaining a strong SOC team:
- Training – Encourage SOC analysts to study new skills, to gain greater knowledge of technical and professional disciplines, and to obtain industry certifications.
- Remote Work – Assist employees as they work from home, providing them with appropriate equipment to use, helping them create ergonomically healthy workspaces and offering them take-out meal options. In addition, train the managers in your organization to recognize mental health issues.
- Open Communication Channels – Make time and create opportunities for informal discussions, be it in the hallway or coffee counter, or over virtual conferencing software such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. SOC analysts should feel that the managers are fully aware of the challenges and are invested in supporting each analyst.
- Buddy Program – Assign buddies to the more junior members of staff. The senior members of the SOC team can reach out and make sure that newcomers have an address for their questions.
- Onboarding – If possible, do the onboarding in person, in the office. If it needs to be done remotely, adopt a more in-depth onboarding program. The onboarding is an opportunity to share not just technical information but also to present the company’s values and integrity.
- Professional Growth – SOC managers can help each member of the team figure out a career path, a roadmap for the future. Help people develop goals that are SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. Doing this effectively requires putting aside time for 1-on-1 meetings on a regular basis, so that you can get to know your team better and understand what motivates them.
SOC best practices
For enterprise companies, measuring performance is key to ensuring the success of your SOC. Some of the essential metrics that should be checked can be categorized in the following areas to ensure your SOC is performing in line with best industry practices:
- Effectiveness and Accuracy – These measure how effective your SOC is in correctly identifying validated incidents and false positives. Example metrics include Number of Events, Alerts and Incidents, Percent of Alerts Resulting in an Incident, and Percent of Alerts Identified as False Positive.
- Speed and Efficiency – Triaging alerts and managing incidents in a timely manner. Example metrics include Average Time to Triage, Average Time to Identify an Incident, and Average Time to Respond/Close an Incident.
- Continuous Improvement – Improving the rate by which you’re able to reduce false positives and response times. Example metrics include Reduction in False Positives, Percent of Incidents Closed by Level 1, Time to Close Over Time, and Percent of Incident Managed Automatically.
Impact of Cyber Attack Over Time as a Number of Assets Lost
Today, SOC leaders are facing a wide variety of challenges. These include:
- The cost of legacy SOC software and on-prem. security tools, which can be very expensive to maintain and operate.
- The sharp increase in data collection and storage requirements during a cybersecurity incident may be beyond the capabilities of an on-prem. SOC environment.
- Legacy security information and event management platforms are some of the more common SOC tools that are used, but these may be unable to cope with the explosion of data resulting from widespread migration to the cloud.
- Regarding the use of SIEM, SOC teams tend to view the SIEM as the core data source of their threat detection & response capabilities and as an essential component of all security operations.
- Convergence of Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) is a trend that has many advantages but that also creates new vulnerabilities.
From a budget perspective, there are additional challenges to SOC cybersecurity practices. Some of the SOC definitions and questions that SOC leadership is required to provide to the board – and to which there aren’t always clear answers – include:
- How did our investment in technology reduce our business risk?
- How much were we able to successfully reduce risk?
- Did we focus on the areas that matter the most?
- Did we invest the right amount, not enough, or too much?
- How do we measure the success of our security operations?
- Are there indications that as an organization, our security capabilities are improving?
Migrating to the cloud – SOC modernization
Many organizations are currently undergoing digital transformation – migrating their on-premise business services, infrastructure, and applications to cloud-based environments. But doing so creates larger, and more complex attack surfaces to monitor, with multiple potential entry points for attackers.
To keep their enterprise safe, security teams must modernize the SOC too – by adapting security operations center roles and responsibilities and implementing processes that allow Detection & Response of threats within the cloud environment. Solutions such as Microsoft Sentinel and their Azure Security stack are designed to reduce the risk of cyber-attacks in cloud-native environments.
Security Operations Have Moved to the Cloud
Optimizing a security operational model
There are many advantages to working with an advanced Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP). Some companies decide to outsource all their security needs by using subscription-based SOC-as-a-service solutions, while others maintain an in-house SOC that operates during business hours, outsourcing the work at night and over the weekends.
Increasingly, organizations are opting to use a hybrid resourcing model that is partly in-house but also relies on the services of a third-party security services provider. An advanced MSSP provides you with on-call high-level SOC experts, instantly giving your organization access to top people in the field with extensive experience, while leaving you with the ability to pick and choose SOC services on demand. Services are delivered via a SaaS-based platform that is used both by the provider’s team and client’s team for full collaboration, communication, and reporting in real time to internal stakeholders.
For organizations that are part of a larger umbrella organization, you can reduce costs further with a third-party service provider by aggregating your security and IT operations into a single SOC and network operations center (NOC). This is much more cost effective than having each subsidiary or branch maintain its own teams.
Another advantage of the hybrid resourcing approach is that it makes it easier to maintain 24/7 support. By working with an MSSP, you do not need to retain a full SOC team where people are required to work through the night or on weekends.
Benefits of a Security Operations Center
Many aspects of SOC operations can be done better by computers than humans. However, the ability to think creatively and find innovative solutions remains a uniquely human capability.
Automated capabilities allow a SOC team to respond faster. For example, CyberProof’s research shows that 95-98% of alert triage can be automated. This reduces the human effort required to identify which alerts do need human support.
SOCs can automate tasks including enrichment of event data, external source querying, obtaining actionable information in response to specific requests, opening incidents based on context, and executing digitized playbook steps that are not intrusive.
Utilizing these SOC benefits and automated capabilities, such as CyberProof’s virtual analyst SeeMo, gives greater visibility into the threats that are most significant and provides faster response to emerging threats.
At CyberProof, we leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) – working with our virtual bot SeeMo to increase threat visibility and enrichment. Our CDC platform streamlines SOC operations, automating the more tedious, repetitive aspects of alert and incident handling so that SOC analysts can focus on mitigating the risk to the business.
To learn more about SOC operations, download our eBook: A buyer’s guide to
Frequently asked questions
What does SOC mean in security?
A Security Operations Center (SOC) is a command center that monitors, detects and responds to cybersecurity incidents. A SOC may have 24/7 monitoring capabilities, or it may work in tandem with a third-party security services provider who supplements the organization’s cybersecurity monitoring outside of standard business hours.
What is SIEM and SOC?
Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) refers to a solution for aggregating data from multiple sources across the IT ecosystem – collecting and analyzing the data coming in from network devices, servers, etc. Security Operations Center (SOC) is the centralized function that ingests all SIEM data and monitors, detects, and responds to cyber security incidents.
What are SOC services?
Security Operations Center (SOC) services monitor all information systems used by the IT infrastructure across an enterprise. The SOC works as a team to monitor, detect, and respond to cybersecurity incidents. However, many SOCs lack the full range of cybersecurity expertise needed for them to be effective, so many organizations have adopted a hybrid resourcing model that combines an in-house SOC team augmented by a third-party provider.
What is a SOC room?
The Security Operations Center (SOC) room is a physical area in an organization where security analysts work to detect and respond to threats using a wide range of tools for prevention, investigation, and orchestration of response. With everyone in the same place, the SOC room facilitates greater collaboration and helps streamline cybersecurity processes.
How does a SOC work?
A SOC works by developing maintaining the following aspects of cybersecurity: defining log collection (collecting, managing, and storing data), leveraging Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) capabilities for security analysis, adopting processes and technologies for orchestration, automation and collaboration, and investing in continuous improvement of security processes.
What is the SOC and its benefits?
The SOC is an organization’s Security Operations Center, which continuously monitors all data sources across all IT ecosystems and is responsible for handling responses to security incidents. The benefits of a SOC are that it enables security teams to pick up on threats, breaches, incidents, and vulnerabilities quickly so they can be taken care of as efficiently as possible – thereby reducing the impact on the business.
Why is SOC needed?
A SOC is needed because the number, sophistication, and aggressiveness of cyber-attacks is rapidly increasing. The SOC then, is essential in protecting an organization against potential cyber-attacks as it monitors, detects, and responds to threats – both internal and external – and therefore mitigates the risk to the business.