What is a Security Operations Center (SOC)?
Analysts in a dark room that is only illuminated by the glow of monitors–that’s often the image that comes to mind when hearing the words “security operations center,” also referred to as SOC. In reality, it is just a centralized headquarters for monitoring, detecting, and responding to security issues and incidents. Furthermore, a SOC doesn’t have to be a physical place, it is often a virtual team that is responsible for detecting and validating threats within an organization’s environment.
As part of a larger incident detection and response program, models of a SOC can include in-house, co-managed, fully managed, or outsourced, depending on the skills and resources available within an organization. While once believed to only be part of larger organizations, smaller organizations now also benefit from lightweight SOCs that tend to use a hybrid of internal and external resources.
Regardless of the SOC model, having a dedicated team to constantly surveil for threats and respond to incidents is valuable for all organizations in the current threat climate. They are a proven way to:
- Keep a closer eye on network activity and anomalies to improve threat detection.
- Act quickly when abnormal activity occurs to decrease likelihood of breaches
- Ensure appropriate responses from the development and IT teams happens when incidents do occur
Security Operations Center Team Responsibilities
A SOC team is comprised of several roles, including: security analyst, security engineer, SOC manager, Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), and Director of Incident Response. And to keep data and systems safe, a SOC team has a wide range of responsibilities. They can serve as the tactical springboard to empower team members performing day-to-day security responsibilities, as well as act as the strategic center to ensure that the team also keeps in view the broader, longer-term security trends.
In general, there are two overarching responsibilities of the team:
- Maintain and Update Security Monitoring Tools: To properly secure systems and networks, the tools used to do so must be sharp and ready. That is why one major component of SOC responsibilities is maintaining and updating security monitoring tools that the organization relies on for the security process. This can include SIEM systems, which collect network logs and events from hundreds of other tools to generate actionable security alerts for potential security threats.
- Perform Investigations of Potentially Malicious Activity: When potentially suspicious activity crops up on the network and systems (which it always does), part of the SOC team’s responsibilities include threat investigation. While SIEM solutions and other analytics software issue security alerts, it is the team’s responsibility to analyze and examine the alerts, triage, and uncover the extent of the threat.
What’s Needed to Defend: The Security Operations Center Tools List
If maintaining and updating security tools is a major component of the responsibilities, what is on the SOC tools list? The team will typically use:
- SIEM solutions
- Governance, Risk, and Compliance (GRC) systems
- Vulnerability scanners and penetration testing tools
- Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS), Intrusion Prevention Systems (IPS), and wireless intrusion prevention
- Firewalls/Next-Generation Firewalls (NGFW)
- Log Management Systems (if not part of existing SIEM tool)
- Cyber Threat Intelligence Feeds
Brought together, these tools ease the burden of threat detection, threat hunting, and incident response and remediation. However, if not all are used, and the alerts are not streamlined through a single-pane-of-glass as done in SIEMs, it can work against the teams trying to investigate the growing volume of security alerts.
Threat Hunting in the SOC
For organizations working to stay ahead of threats, relying on alerts isn’t enough. Advanced, sophisticated malicious attackers have ways of evading detection, which means that modern SOCs must move towards threat hunting to reduce cyber risk.
Threat hunting in the SOC often relies on many of the same tools, including:
- Security monitoring tools,
- SIEM solutions, and
- Analytics tools
Where traditional threat detection tools and techniques are reactive, threat hunting in the SOC is a proactive process that assumes a breach or breaches exist. Just because the list of SOC tools outlined above hasn’t issued an alert or it has gone missing in the sea of alerts, that doesn’t mean that an attack hasn’t occurred. The problem is that many teams either do not have the resources or expertise to conduct meaningful threat hunts–forcing many to turn towards automation of threat hunting. Unfortunately, in many SOC use cases, automated threat hunting isn’t effective because it lacks the human element, which means that only the most obvious threats are returned.
Even if automation isn’t used and threat hunting is outsourced, it is never as effective as when it is in house. This stems from a couple of reasons:
- No one knows your organization’s systems better than an internal team
- Incident response has to be coordinated internally, and internal analysts are the ones to maintain personal connections with crucial company stakeholders
Cyborg Security Empowers Analysts
Cyborg Security and the HUNTER Platform work to empower SOC analysts by providing advanced and highly targeted hunt packages that are capable of proactively detecting even the most advanced adversaries and their activities. Analysts not only have the threat intelligence and content, but the context that makes threat hunts accurate and accessible so that every level of the organization from analyst to CISO can feel confident in the organization’s security.
Cyborg’s HUNTER Platform is also compatible with today’s leading vendors that many SOC teams use to streamline alerting and simplify cybersecurity operations. Partners include: Splunk, Elastic, Micro Focus ArcSight, Sumo Logic, VMware Carbon Black, Swimlane, and more.