Best Practices of a Security Operations Center (SOC)

Best Practices of a Security Operations Center (SOC)

SOC best practices serve as an invaluable roadmap for security professionals as they navigate a challenging landscape and achieve success. These include choosing an effective SOC model, hiring cybersecurity specialists to staff it and choosing appropriate tools.

SOCs must strive to reduce tool fatigue through regular vulnerability assessments and penetration testing, saving both time and money in the process. This approach will save both time and money.

1. Start with strategy

Like an aircraft pilot’s checklist, an SOC requires processes that ensure its security controls and procedures are functioning effectively, enabling its team to identify and act upon high priority threats quickly to limit damage or downtime.

Establish a visual process map that clearly and precisely outlines your most essential security processes, helping new employees integrate quickly while also simplifying escalation protocols and communication. Document the tools, stakeholders, and subtasks associated with each process as well as automating any processes or sharing information across tools that could boost performance.

Continuously collect security and event data from devices on-premises (on-prem), the cloud, ICS/OT systems, mobile devices and remote systems. Analyse this data for abnormal trends, discrepancies and indicators of compromise before evaluating their impact. When threats are identified, SOCs take immediate steps to address them such as closing off endpoints or isolating endpoints, terminating harmful processes or deleting files; additionally they perform post-attack forensic analysis to understand who, what, when and how attacks occurred while helping prevent similar attacks from happening again in future.

2. Align Strategy with Business Goals

SOCs serve to safeguard an organization’s network, systems and data against cyber attacks by aligning themselves with its goals and objectives.

As part of this process, it’s crucial that organizations identify both their most crucial assets and the effects of any breaches on these assets. Conducting a risk analysis is an effective way of meeting this need and aligning the SOC with organizational security goals.

SOCs must also have the capability of quickly detecting and responding to cyber threats quickly, otherwise attackers will have more time to steal sensitive data or plant malware. They can do this through employing threat intelligence platforms and machine learning algorithms that can scan large volumes of data quickly.

SOCs must establish clear procedures for responding to alarms, triaging them and acting upon them. This involves outlining different forms of communication needed and assigning team members as responsible parties; furthermore, using only one tool for real-time and chat communications will enhance effectiveness in this area.

3. Use Comprehensive Threat Intelligence & ML

Similar to an airline pilot, a Security Operations Center must be equipped with tools and processes that guarantee both its own and the organization’s safety and security. While an airline pilot’s main goal may be reaching their destination safely, while for SOC’s purpose is protecting assets and data against threats.

SOCs must rely on both automation and human oversight in order to be effective, employing various threat intelligence and vulnerability management tools in order to identify risks and prioritize them effectively. Furthermore, SOCs need visibility across their entire network including newly emerging environments like public clouds and Kubernetes.

SOC teams should also have the capability of monitoring and securing endpoints, performing 24/7 vulnerability assessments, implementing incident response planning processes and measuring and adjusting protection capabilities based on compliance requirements such as NIST CSF, HIPAA or PCI compliance. AlienVault USM offers organizations a complete coverage across their networks while giving a single view of vulnerabilities across environments – perfect for this goal.

4. Ensure Visibility Across the Network

Visibility into your network is critical in order to detect and respond to threats, or else risk losing data, services and business operations due to network performance problems, cybersecurity incidents and cyberattacks. Without it, these may all come crashing down upon you!

Your security operations center (SOC) should have full visibility of all aspects of your organization’s IT infrastructure, from on-premises devices and cloud/OT systems to remote and mobile devices. Such broad visibility enables your SOC to detect anomalous trends, discrepancies and indicators of compromise (IOCs) quickly in real-time and identify potential threats posed by potential breaches as quickly as possible – before categorizing and assessing whether they represent real threats that need attention from management.

Not only should your SOC maintain visibility, but also stay informed with the latest threat intelligence. This enables it to recognize and prioritize significant threats as well as remediate vulnerabilities and risks more efficiently. In order to do this, it’s critical that it can distribute threat intelligence instantly to SIEM or SOAR tools for faster root-cause analysis and triage processes – increasing efficiency overall.

5. Enable End-to-End Visibility

Security operations centers use various tools to protect their organization’s data and systems, similar to pilot’s checklists. But unlike pilots, SOCs must identify all digital assets needing protection across their entire network – endpoints to cloud environments – as threats can come from anywhere.

Due to this reason, SOCs must integrate their tools and security analytics platforms in order to provide full visibility and an effective threat detection framework. Furthermore, this enables all events to be timestamped and documented; thus enabling post-mortem assessments to take place more easily as well as improvement initiatives to be undertaken by SOC teams.

SOCs must use security orchestration, automation and response (SOAR) capabilities to automate routine tasks and enhance overall security operations. This enables SOC teams to focus on analyzing incidents instead of handling repetitive tasks manually; quickly detecting, prioritizing and responding to cyber threats with reduced human error or being poached away by other companies that offer better cybersecurity jobs.

6. Continuously Monitor the Network

Continuous monitoring is key to protecting assets and warding off cyberattacks in an ever-more-complex cyberworld, yet SOC teams can find themselves struggling due to resource limitations. They must find ways to balance business operations while monitoring a wide variety of systems, device endpoints, encrypted data sources and more – something which often proves challenging given current resource shortages.

An effective continuous monitoring program requires adhering to existing standards and guidelines from an established cybersecurity organization, government best practices or industry standards such as PCI or ISO 27001. This enables consistent processes and workflows within an organisation so resources can be properly allocated.

SOCs must implement continuous monitoring tools that automate responses and reduce human intervention. For instance, using solutions that detect potential issues, like low free space on servers, will allow continuous monitoring without needing human input.

7. Proactively Mitigate and Address Threats

Establishing an efficient process for analyzing and prioritizing security alerts will allow you to focus on the most significant threats, reducing time to detect (MTTD) and Mean time to respond (MTTR) when an attack or breach does occur.

Penetration testing will help your SOC identify potential cyberattacks and gaps in its defenses, while regular vulnerability assessments can keep up with evolving threats, keeping systems and data safe.

A Security Operations Center must contain the right people, an environment focused on security awareness and continuous improvement, the ability to collaborate with internal and external teams, leverage threat intelligence for automated alert investigation, cover all attack surfaces 24/7 and be operational at all times. One effective method for accomplishing this goal is using a solution with end-to-end visibility with integrated threat intelligence including top vulnerabilities used by sophisticated attackers – so SOCs can quickly identify risks impacting on organizations as well as stakeholders quickly.


SOC personnel need clear processes in place in order to respond rapidly and effectively to security threats, including being able to prioritize alarms and take swift action on those considered most significant. In addition, the SOC must be capable of detecting and mitigating advanced threats using continuous network monitoring.

The SOC should have the capability of collecting, analyzing and storing forensic artifacts associated with an incident. This may involve handling media while documenting chain of custody and storing verifiable, bit-for-bit copies of evidence. Furthermore, they should be capable of extracting malware such as viruses, Trojans, implants or droppers from network traffic or media images to analyze their nature – known as reverse engineering which will inform their response plan.

SOCs must assist with insider threat analysis and investigation by identifying tip-offs that signal potential issues such as misuse of IT resources, industrial espionage or theft and providing them to appropriate investigative bodies. SOCs should also conduct regular penetration tests and red team exercises in order to test their defenses against intrusion attempts.

Sam is an experienced information security specialist who works with enterprises to mature and improve their enterprise security programs. Previously, he worked as a security news reporter.