What is a Security Operations Center (SoC)?

When it comes to security, your team wants the best. The best cyber security will depend on your organization, and your needs, so it’s important to learn about what options are available, so you can choose what works best for your team. One popular security strategy is to use an SOC or a security operations center. What is SOC? Read on to learn more about SOC, the functions, the benefits, the challenges, and how to overcome the challenges and use SOC strategies to your organization’s advantage.

What Is SOC?

A SOC is a security operations center is a team of experts that proactively monitors, detects, and analyzes an organization’s security. SOC (pronounced “sock”) addresses one of the common security challenges: a lack of in-house security expertise. Providing extensive security from inside your organization can be expensive because you need the team to be able to do it and the hardware necessary to analyze and monitor. An SOC provides you with a team of security and IT experts that use their company’s hardware and software to provide your organization with extensive security.

Some organizations will create their own security operations center within their organization that coordinates with multiple departments to keep the SOC running smoothly and fully staffed around the clock. This is another approach to an SOC that can work for many people. Before setting up an SOC, you should establish a clear security plan.

What does an SOC do? In general, however an SOC looks, the main job is to analyze feeds, establish rules, identify exceptions, enhance and orchestrate responses, and look out for new vulnerabilities. Essentially, an SOC performs your security needs all in one central location and makes sure it’s monitored 24/7. Security can never slow down, so an SOC is always running.

What Are the Functions of SOC?

There are three main functions of an SOC, and then there are a few additional functions that could be beneficial to include in an SOC configuration as well. SOC is a centralized function within an organization that employs people, processes and technology to accomplish these functions.

The Three Functions of SOC

  • Prevention and detection. The best way to perform cybersecurity is to prevent threats whenever possible. Responding to threats will never be as effective and fool proof as preventing the problem in the first place. So a good SOC will focus energy and equipment on preventing any kinds of threats. Prevention includes staying up-to-date on security innovations, trends in cybercrime, and arising new threats. It also includes 24/7 proactive monitoring of the network and systems to make sure that almost nothing can slip through. Unfortunately, prevention isn’t the only solution. Even the best prevention can’t catch everything. That’s why detection matters so much with an SOC. The expert team needs to be able to detect any potential threats quickly, so they can orchestrate a response before damage is done. 24/7 monitoring is part of the detection process. Detection can also include alerts to a potential problem, so action can be taken.
  • Investigation. Not every potential threat will actually end up being a threat. Not every threat will look the same either. That’s why investigation is so important in the SOC process. Analysts will use whatever information available to think like an attacker to determine where the attack might be going. They will also perform triage on threats to make sure the ones that appear to be the most urgent are responded to first. All in all, the investigation process is also about determining what if something is an attack, what the threat looks like, how urgent it is, where it’s likely to grow, what it’s targeting, and anything else that will help with the response.
  • Response. Once the analysts know as much as they can about the threat, they can respond. The response from an SOC will happen quickly, and the analysts will take rapid evasive action. Response might include isolating endpoints, terminating harmful processes, preventing attackers from executing, deleting files, and anything else that can contain a threat.

Additional SOC Functions

  • Preparation and resources. A great SOC function is preparing and fully understanding all the resources the SOC is responsible for protecting. The team of analysts should also take stock of all the resources at their disposal to fully prepare to operate as an SOC and prevent and respond to threats.
  • Alert ranking. Triage during the investigation stage is crucial, but a valuable SOC function is ranking the alerts as they occur, so analysts can already have a good indication of what threats to start with. Alert ranking can eliminate false positives and get the team working on the most urgent alerts as quickly as possible.
  • Recovery. After an attack, the SOC will work to restore any lost or compromised data. They might restart systems, wipe endpoints, or deploy backups—depending on the type of attack the SOC is recovering from.
  • Log management. An SOC can collect, maintain, and review a log of all activity for an organization. The logs help an SOC determine what the “baseline” or “normal day” for an organization looks like, so they can better determine when something is unusual or suspicious. A SIEM is a common way SOCs are able to gather all the necessary information to manage the logs.
  • Root cause investigation. Understanding where an attack came from is key to improving prevention in the future. Using logs and other information, analysts can trace an attack back to its source and determine what might have led to the attack. Analysts can use this information to prevent similar attacks.
  • Security refinement. Attackers are constantly refining their skills and their methods for infiltrating networks. SOC analysts should also be refining their security tools and skills to be prepared for advancements in attacks.
  • Compliance management. Security compliance is an important part of the industry, and an SOC can manage compliance with any regulations like the GDPR, HIPAA, and PCI DSS. Compliance management helps maintain the company’s reputation.

SOC Staffing and Structure

At Ontinue, we deeply value the human element behind our cutting-edge technology. Central to a robust SOC is its staffing and structure, meticulously designed to address the multifaceted challenges of cybersecurity. Leading the charge is the SOC manager, the strategic visionary ensuring seamless operations and alignment with organizational goals. Our security engineers, the backbone of our SOC, architect and maintain the tools and systems, ensuring they operate at peak performance. Meanwhile, our vigilant security analysts continuously monitor the digital realm, identifying and assessing potential threats. Complementing their efforts are our dedicated threat hunters, proactive experts who delve deep into the cyber landscape, seeking out lurking adversaries before they strike. And when incidents arise, our incident response managers step in, orchestrating swift and effective countermeasures to neutralize threats and safeguard assets. At Ontinue, each role within our SOC is a testament to our commitment to excellence, collaboration, and unwavering cybersecurity vigilance.

What Are the Benefits of SOC?

Improving security in any way comes with immense benefits. Utilizing an SOC can bring powerful benefits to your organization. Some of the key benefits include:

  • Continuous monitoring. Having 24/7 monitoring for a network is invaluable when it comes to security. It leads to better prevention, detection, and response.
  • Improves response. As the SOC responds, the team will learn and refine responses to create a higher level and much more improved response strategy for future attacks.
  • Protects consumer trust. Consumers trust organizations to protect their data. An SOC can increase protection for data, which allows organizations to build and maintain trust with their customers.
  • Minimizes costs. Protecting data saves organizations money. An outsourced SOC is also a great way to minimize security costs because your organization doesn’t need to create an in-house team and provide the infrastructure to make it possible. SOC in general helps minimize security costs all around. SOC reduces both direct and indirect costs with cyber security management.
  • Increases control over security. An SOC helps bring an organization control over security and transparency with security strategies and practices that are in place.
  • Increases centralization. An SOC brings all of your security together into one centralized strategy.
  • Reduced downtime. Keep systems running and security operating smoothly at all times by reducing downtime with SOC.

In today’s dynamic cybersecurity landscape, Ontinue recognizes the paramount importance of a cohesive approach. By unifying and coordinating an organization’s array of security tools, best practices, and incident response strategies, we pave the way for a fortified defense. This holistic integration not only streamlines operations but also amplifies the efficacy of preventative measures. With everything working in harmony, threats are detected with heightened speed and precision. At Ontinue, we believe that when every security facet collaborates seamlessly, organizations are better equipped to anticipate, confront, and mitigate cyber challenges, ensuring a safer digital frontier for all stakeholders.

What Are the Challenges of SOC?

Staying ahead of cyber attacks has become increasingly difficult, so SOC teams constantly have to refine their responses and continue to grow to stay ahead of the attackers. As with most things, there are still challenges with an SOC that organizations face. These challenges can be overcome with the right SOC solution in place, but they are worth understanding. These are some of the major challenges with SOC.

  • Shortage of skills. Since SOCs are completely reliant on the teams staffing them, high levels of security talent are key. But that’s one of the challenges with an SOC. It can be difficult to staff an in-house SOC because your organization needs top-tier cybersecurity talent. The entire security workforce needs to grow to meet the challenges of the industry.
  • Oversaturation of alerts. With attacks increasing, there will continue to be an increasing amount of security alerts. While it’s important to have alerts, an oversaturation of alerts can lead to fatigue and drain SOC teams. To combat this challenge, again, there needs to be an increase of security professionals who can staff SOCs.
  • Inefficient operations. Many organizations use disconnected security tools that can lead to more inefficient security operations. Having to translate from one tool to another slows operations down. This challenge can be overcome by using integrated tools.

Overcoming SOC Challenges

Some of the challenges with an SOC are industry-wide. But at your organization, you can overcome these challenges by relying on SOC services that are staffed with top industry experts like the ION Cyber Defense Center. Much more that a SOC, Ontinue’s ION Cyber Defense Center provides:

  • 24 x 7 x 365 continuous cybersecurity monitoring by globally-connected experts, analysts, and engineers.
  • Leading-edge cybersecurity technologies, including AI and machine learning.
  • Complete 360° visibility and simple co-management by customers.
  • Security planning and future proofing with support for regulatory compliance.

To learn more about what the ION Cyber Defense Center can do for your organization, contact us.