What Is Security Operations Center?A Security Operations Center is a team of cybersecurity personnel dedicated to monitoring and analyzing an organization’s security while responding to potential or current breaches. The team is responsible for scanning all the security systems in real time. This first line of defense works around the clock to protect an organization’s security infrastructure from potential cyber threats.
The World Needs SOC Staff
(Source: LinkedIn Jobs)
The following graph represents how organizations from different parts of the world are keen on deploying cybersecurity operations centers. They are constantly hiring SOC specialists, such as SOC engineers and SOC analysts to keep their infrastructure secure.
Industries That Must Have a Security Operation Center (SOC)
Many industries are dependent on Security Operations Management, including:
Why Must Organizations Have Log
Management and a SOC Team?
Log management is an organized approach to deal with large volumes of computer-generated log data. It allows multiple operations on data like generation, collection, centralization, parsing, transmission, storage, archival, and disposal.
- Comply with applicable regulatory standards such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, RMiT, ISO 27001, and others.
- Protect servers storing sensitive data from internal and external threats.
- Secure proprietary information and intellectual property.
Besides log management, SOC analysts can also integrate Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools in their process. These software tools aggregate security data from multiple sources, such as network devices, servers, and other locations. SIEM tools then connect the dots to discover the trends and detect cyber threats so that organizations can act on the alerts.
siem soc for threat intelligence
- Healthcare industry: Deals with health data on consumers – enough said.
- Manufacturing industry: Owns a lot of intellectual properties and technologies
- Financial services: Deals with data on monetary transactions, real-time monitoring of activities is vital.
- Government Agencies: They may store personal information along with criminal records, religious and political inclinations.
- Education Industries: Change in personal records in schools, universities, and training institutes can misrepresent individuals and their skills.
Apart from these industries, companies belonging to food and beverage, oil and gas (O&G), fashion, and many other industries also need constant security monitoring and log management services.
How Does a Security Operations Center Help?
Positive Technologies revealed that data theft attacks were responsible for 64% of all attacks on individuals in Q3 2019, of which 23% were aimed at obtaining credit card numbers.
For the Payment Card Industry (PCI), it is mandatory to maintain a Security Operations Center. According to the PCI Compliance Security Standard Council, any merchant processing and storing credit card data should be PCI compliant. PCI compliance helps to ensure secure online transactions and protection against identity theft.
In such a scenario, a SOC team helps to:
- Monitor firewalls, their logs, and any configuration change to identify an irregularity.
- Increase the speed of incident remediation.
- Check firewall and router configuration standards by comparing them with documented services, ports, and protocols.
As per the findings by Keeper Security’s 2019 Global State of Cybersecurity in Small and Medium-Sized Businesses report, globally 75% of healthcare organizations have experienced a cyberattack once in their lifetime.
As the healthcare industry contains crucial health data, such as holistic reports of patients including personalized diagnoses and treatments, it is an alluring target to cybercriminals. Threat actors monetize patient data by selling it to the highest bidder or blackmailing the victim.
For keeping protected health information (PHI) secure, healthcare organizations require a SOC 2 audit. SOC 2 compliance ensures:
- Customer trust
- Brand reputation
- Business continuity
- Competitive advantage
As per the 2019 Deloitte and MAPI Smart Factory Study, 4 in 10 manufacturers faced a cyber incident that impacted their operations in 2019.
The manufacturing sector has always been a vulnerable industry as it possesses intellectual property and advanced technologies. Consider a Department of Defense (DoD) contractor for example: It is a must to meet the NIST cybersecurity standards to maintain DFARS (Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement) compliance. The NIST SP 800-171 outlines guidelines for Audit and Accountability, Configuration Management, Identification, and Authentication, with several other criteria.
SOC analysts are needed in the manufacturing industry to:
- Set up alerts to monitor potential threats.
- Promptly remediate ongoing and possible security threats.
According to a 2019 report by Boston Consulting Group (BCG), financial services firms are 300 times more likely to be targeted by a cyberattack than other enterprises.
Cybercriminals are eyeing financial services for their bulk transactions and real-time monitoring of activities. Apart from external attacks, institutions are also vulnerable to lost employee devices (like phones) and insider threats.
Banking and Financial services should perform SOC Type 1 and SOC Type 2 audits along with annual SOC 1 SSAE 18 reports. Being in clear nexus with the Internal Control Over Financial Reporting (ICFR) concept, these audits effectively report on internal controls. They reveal:
- Weaknesses in security controls like improperly provisioned information systems, weak authentication parameters, lack of multiple layers of security, and others.
- Shortcomings in operational controls.
- Flaws in documentation.
The IT security firm Barracuda Networks revealed in its 2019 report that nearly two-thirds of all ransomware attacks targeted government agencies.
As government agencies store personal information along with criminal records and religious and political inclinations, they are a prized target for cyber attackers.
Government institutions need SOC teams for:
- Network monitoring in real time.
- Analyzing activities on servers, endpoints, and databases.
- Looking for an incident or signs of a breach.
Verizon’s Mobile Security Index 2020 Report found that 44% of educational organizations suffered a security compromise involving a mobile device.
Education establishments are easy targets for cybercriminals. They not only carry personal data but also valuable research data and allow access to larger networks.
A Security Operations Center can help an educational institution’s IT staff respond to growing security threats by:
- Identifying and monitoring institutional assets and data.
- Neutralizing threats.
- Providing cybersecurity metrics to the IT staff.
What Are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Security Operations Center?
A SOC team uses strategic methodologies and processes for active surveillance and real-time analysis of an organization’s security infrastructure. The team carries out the following tasks:
|Identify assets||A SOC team’s operations start with gaining a holistic understanding of the tools and technologies at their disposal. The team learns about the hardware and software running on the systems. Their in-depth understanding helps in the early detection of potential cyber threats and existing vulnerabilities.|
|Proactive monitoring||A Security Operations Center primarily focuses on detecting malicious activities on the network before they can lead to substantial harm.|
|Manage logs, configuration change, and response||Thorough management of activity logs help a cyber forensic investigator trace back to the point where something may have gone wrong.|
|Rank alerts as per their severity||Whenever a SOC analyst detects a threat or irregularity, they are responsible for ranking the severity of the incident. This data helps in prioritizing the response to the event.|
|Adjust defenses||A SOC team adjusts its defenses by vulnerability management and increasing its awareness about threats. It helps the team stay vigilant for breaches.|
|Check compliance||SOC teams can check if the organization complies with applicable regulations and standards.|
|Notify on security breach||Organizations aim for minimal or no network downtime when hit by unexpected security incidents. A SOC team alerts the stakeholders as quickly as possible to ensure business continuity.|
7 Steps to Build a Great Security Operations Center
Develop your strategyStep 2:
Design a solutionStep 3:
Create processes, procedures, and trainingStep 4:
Prepare your environmentStep 5:
Implement your solutionStep 6:
Deploy end-to-end use casesStep 7:
Maintain and evolve your solution
Step 1: Develop your strategy
Start by assessing the existing SOC team’s capabilities in terms of people, processes, and technologies. Stick to the 4 major operations of a Security Operations Center: monitoring, detection, response, and recovery. To effectively discharge their duties, the team should create a strategy that considers business objectives. For instance, identifying which systems and data are vital for sustaining operations to keep the business afloat will help determine the priorities of the SOC team as well.
Phase 2 – Design a solution
Instead of relying on a broad-function SOC solution, limiting the scope to the situation of the organization is a best practice. A focused solution reduces the amount of time invested in implementation and achieves quick results. The design should include:
- Functional requirements like monitored log and event sources, utilized threat intelligence sources, and performance requirements (such as response times).
- Define the model of your SOC team.
- Technical architecture. Plan the composition and configuration of the components of the solution, identify business and information systems, define event workflows to align with processes, automate the required solution, and determine whether tabletop exercises are needed.
Step 3: Create processes, procedures, and training
The SOC solution must follow the 6 phases of the Threat Lifecycle Management (TLM) framework — forensic data collection, discovery of potential threats, qualification of discovered threats to assess potential impact on the business, investigation, threat neutralization, and recovery. In the case of a hybrid or outsourced SOC team model, coordinate with the service provider.
Step 4: Prepare your environment
Check whether all the required elements are in place before deploying the solution. Key elements include remote access mechanisms, strong authentication for remote access, and protection of SOC staff equipment.
Step 5: Implement your solution
To execute the solution, you must:
- Establish a log management system.
- Organize a minimal number of critical data sources.
- Set up the security analytics capabilities.
- Structure the security automation and orchestration capabilities.
Once done, check the alignment of systems with the workflow.
Step 6: Deploy end-to-end use cases
Next, deploy use cases that focus on end-to-end threat detection and response realization. Implement it across the analytics tier, security automation, and orchestration tier. Test all forms of the automation solution rigorously. Furthermore, verify the readability and security of the remotely accessed solution.
Step 7: Maintain and evolve your solution
The solution will require continuous maintenance and updating at regular intervals. Updating based on how the SOC team functions in the organization’s environment will help increase the efficiency and threat detection rate of the SOC solution.
How Is a Security Operations Center Different from CSIRT?The below infographic shows how the primary responsibilities of a SOC analyst or a SOC manager are different from that of an incident leader or any other CSIRT member.
For those who want to make a career in a Security Operations Center, EC-Council offers its Certified SOC Analyst (CSA) certification. Our course will help you get the industry-demanded CSA training required for the position and establish yourself as a certified SOC analyst.