What is a Security Operations Center (SOC)?

Security Operations Center (SOC)

Security Operations Center (SOC) teams use asset discovery tools to create an inventory of IT systems and the security tools that protect them, as well as vulnerability assessment tools to quickly detect issues and determine which require immediate attention.

SIEM solutions collect alerts and telemetry from hardware and software on networks, endpoints and cloud services. Learn how Cortex XDR optimizes SIEM as well as other key tools for improved MTTR, MTTI and alert prioritization.

What is a Security Operations Center SOC?

A Security Operations Center (SOC) is a centralized function comprised of people, processes and technology designed to proactively and continuously assess an organization’s security posture while detecting, analyzing and responding to cybersecurity incidents. Acting like a central command post for monitoring purposes, this entity collects telemetry from networks, devices, appliances and information stores across their organization no matter where they may reside.

SOC teams are charged with continuously monitoring cyberthreats to detect and address them as soon as they arise. Their duties may include risk assessments, tracking threat intelligence gathering and communication, communicating and collaborating with business stakeholders as well as creating reports. SOC teams may work within an IT department or collaborate with third party IT security providers.

Establishing an effective SOC requires both technical expertise and strong organizational abilities, with optimal performance dependent upon having the appropriate infrastructure, tools, and support in place. SOC teams should be able to quickly detect and respond to threats with the help of unified threat detection; Check Point Horizon goes further by adding AI-powered incident analysis powered by threat intelligence for even faster attack identification, investigation, and suppression.

Benefits of a Security Operations Center

An SOC will ensure that your business can recover quickly after any cyber attack, reducing the chance of loss of data or revenue due to such attacks.

SOC teams prioritize alerts based on severity, to address only those threats with the highest priority first and minimize alert fatigue caused by having to filter low-importance alerts repeatedly while also improving team efficiency by cutting time wasted on manual remediation processes.

Once a threat is identified, a SOC team will move swiftly to eliminate it and restore any systems which have been affected (for instance by wiping endpoints, deploying backup systems and restoring applications). They also utilize any intelligence gained during an incident to better address vulnerabilities, improve existing security tools or update processes and policies accordingly.

SOCs also ensure your business complies with data privacy regulations such as GDPR, CCPA and PCI DSS – providing customers, employees and third-party stakeholders the confidence that your company takes security seriously and will protect their personal data.

What Does a SOC Do?

SOC is an information security monitoring team responsible for continuously overseeing on-premise and remote systems to ensure they’re functioning as intended and are free from hacker intrusion. Furthermore, they proactively investigate security threats while working closely with IT teams on site to devise responses.

SOCs utilize centralized monitoring tools to quickly identify and prioritize alerts so they can address the most urgent ones first. Furthermore, SOCs frequently conduct vulnerability assessments of organizations they manage, altering software policies or best practices as necessary.

SOC teams assist companies in meeting cybersecurity standards set forth by government agencies and industry organizations, while staying abreast of new solutions and technologies which can enhance business security, as well as threat intelligence gathered via social media or industry sources.

SOC teams also collaborate closely with end users to inform them of the risks they are exposed to as hackers often target end users as a primary target. Employees are advised to exercise extreme caution when downloading third-party applications or using personal email accounts for company communications, and when accessing sensitive information.

1. Prevention and detection

SOC analysts constantly monitor networks to detect malicious activities and prevent attacks from gaining footholds in companies’ systems, helping companies avoid costly cyberattacks that cost both revenue and reputation.

SOC teams gather threat intelligence from various sources, such as Cyber Threat Intelligence feeds (CTI) and log files from systems across a network. Their role is to interpret this data carefully before turning it into actionable alerts for the firm’s security tools.

SOC professionals may not be able to stop every attack, but they do their best to minimize damage by using data analysis to detect infected systems and block their communications with other networks that might spread threats further afield.

Remediation activities performed by SOC teams also include addressing vulnerabilities, updating policies, selecting new cybersecurity tools and developing system backups; all this helps firms remain compliant with industry and government cybersecurity standards. A SOC team conducts postmortem analyses following incidents to understand why something went wrong and how best to prevent future incidents from recurring.

2. Investigation

SOC team members use incident intelligence to investigate the source and scope of attacks, assess their damage, and work toward recovery. For instance, they might wipe impacted disks, restore and reconnect end user devices, disable harmful processes or shut down servers and services as necessary to restore services or recover devices that have been affected by cyberattacks. Furthermore, they assess what worked or didn’t in order to prevent future cyberattacks – by creating new policies, updating existing ones, or selecting different cybersecurity tools if applicable.

SOC teams operating with limited security budgets often rely on alert management instead of advanced threat detection solutions to deal with monitoring tool alerts, discarding false positives and prioritizing threats according to severity.

Preventative measures such as patching vulnerabilities, installing antivirus software updates and training employees can significantly lower the risk of an attack. A Security Operations Center must stay abreast of new cybersecurity innovations as well as any news about hackers’ tactics – this data should then be used to create and update a comprehensive security roadmap that helps thwart future incidents.

3. Response

SOC teams work to reduce cyber threats with preventative measures like system maintenance, patch management and backup systems. They also perform incident response and recovery functions such as following their security incident response plan to isolate incidents quickly and triage them swiftly while also creating backup plans in case of ransomware attacks or data breaches.

SOC teams utilize both manual and automated methods for monitoring IT infrastructure around the clock for irregularities. These include threat intelligence, log management and behavioral monitoring. SOC teams may also deploy tools that detect anomalies automatically and report them back to them for investigation.

To increase their ability to respond rapidly, SOCs should utilize tools that automate routine tasks and enable playbooks that make responding to certain threats much simpler. Prioritization tools also aid quickly responding organizations as it reduces dwell time for incidents while mitigating damage done to organizations – IBM’s QRadar XDR offers industry-first integrated endpoint detection and response (EDR), network detection and response (NDR), SIEM solutions can make this task simpler than ever.

SOC Challenges

SOC teams must go beyond simply monitoring networks and endpoints when it comes to security – they should work hard to close any holes where threats could emerge, often by installing firewalls or other preventive tools to reduce vulnerabilities and stop attacks before they happen.

SOCs must also be ready for incident response when the worst happens, including creating clear SecOps processes to follow and ensuring enough team members are available to quickly respond when something goes awry. They should also consider creating disaster recovery plans in the case of data breaches and other forms of downtime.

SOCs must also consider regulatory compliance issues when operating SOCs. For instance, they may need to adhere to stringent government or industry regulations like GDPR, HIPAA or PCI DSS which dictate certain standards.

Reducing cybersecurity talent shortages is also a challenge, with millions of cybersecurity jobs unfilled worldwide and SOCs having difficulty finding enough qualified candidates to fill them all. To address this, SOC managers must ensure there are enough qualified security professionals on staff in order to avoid burnout or attrition among existing team members, which may involve using security automation solutions like QRadar XDR Connect to streamline SOC tools, automate workflows, and adapt to each team member’s abilities and adapt accordingly.

Addressing SOC Challenges

SOC teams must regularly enhance their ability to detect, respond to and mitigate cyberattacks. They must create an efficient SecOps process and security automation solutions which minimize errors that lead to data breaches, ransomware incidents or other cybersecurity concerns.

Staffing and training issues must also be resolved. Hiring security analysts with advanced skills like user and entity behavioral analytics (UEBA), threat intelligence platforms and security orchestration, automation and response systems is crucial to effectively combat threats and vulnerabilities.

To avoid cyberattacks, SOC teams must regularly test and assess all IT assets. They should assess how exposed a resource is to cyberattacks before conducting penetration tests that simulate specific attacks in order to remediate applications, security policies, best practices and incident response plans accordingly.

SOC teams must remain abreast of all the latest security technologies and cyberattack trends. Existing tools must also be maintained, with regular system backup and disaster recovery policies established to ensure business continuity in case of breaches or other cybersecurity problems.

8 Key Functions of a Security Operations Center

SOCs perform many important duties for their organizations, from routine maintenance to helping recover from ransomware attacks or data breaches. Every SOC must fulfill a core set of key functions.

These include assessing vulnerabilities, updating systems and security policies, testing cybersecurity solutions and staying abreast of emerging threats.

1. Preparation and Preventative Maintenance

A Security Operations Center (SOC) keeps an eye on the broad cybersecurity landscape, helping identify vulnerabilities and keep processes current. Cyberattackers and defenses evolve rapidly; having a team dedicated to continuously improving security can limit damage from attacks that succeed.

Reducing an organization’s attack surface through updates in software and hardware as well as identifying misconfigurations is central to cyber security, as is adhering to industry and government regulations to ensure compliance.

If an incident arises, SOC personnel take swift action to mitigate business disruption by shutting down or isolating affected endpoints, terminating harmful processes, deleting files infected with malware and conducting thorough investigations of what took place and why.

SOCs can be invaluable assets for any company, be they large enterprises or startups. A SOC will prove especially invaluable if your organization must adhere to industry or government regulations, experience frequent data breaches or handle consumer information – it will help mitigate their effects. Businesses who lack the resources for staffing an internal SOC often opt for MSSP services as a service (SOCaaS). MSSP providers specialize in monitoring, alert triage, response management and recovery solutions that offer monitoring, alert triage response management capabilities as well as recovery solutions.

2. Continuous Proactive Monitoring

SOC teams employ data sourced from a range of resources to closely monitor all network assets – from servers in your data centers to end points like PCs and smartphones. Their use helps them understand normal network activity so that when anomalies or incidents occur, SOC teams can respond more swiftly than before.

SOC teams are responsible for mitigating cyberattacks’ potential harm on a company by following incident response (IR) processes and procedures, including isolating and triaging threats, recovering systems damaged by ransomware attacks, or recovering data after major cyber incidents such as ransomware attacks.

SOC teams also conduct analysis of threats and emerging trends so they can create a cybersecurity plan aligning with business priorities and help organizations create roadmaps to strengthen security posture through updating processes or deploying new tools.

3. Threat Response

Due to an ever-evolving threat landscape, SOCs must continuously enhance their security posture by updating processes and policies, addressing vulnerabilities, using intelligence to choose new cybersecurity tools, as well as complying with any industry standards or regulations applicable to their organization.

SOCs collect and correlate telemetry from all systems, networks, devices and appliances that produce their own logs – this allows them to understand what a “normal” network looks like and identify anomalies as well as pinpoint sources of cyberattacks.

SOC teams must also conduct forensic analyses and investigations of incidents to understand how and what was stolen, then use this intelligence to prevent future attacks from recurring.

Incident response processes and procedures must be used to contain and eradicate attacks, including isolating endpoints, following triage processes and documenting cases as necessary. They are also accountable for incident recovery and remediation activities such as restoring systems compromised by malware/ransomware infections as well as recovering data that has been lost or corrupted during an attack.

4. Prevention and detection

A SOC serves to proactively detect and neutralize threats before they have an impactful effect on your organization. To do this effectively requires constant monitoring and analysis of data to develop a thorough understanding of normal network activity in order to quickly spot anomalies that arise quickly – thus decreasing attacker “breakout times”.

The SOC team must also analyze alerts and prioritize them according to severity and priority, which is an intricate task requiring knowledge of all hardware, software and cybersecurity tools used throughout an enterprise. They may use threat intelligence tools to assess how aggressive specific threats are as well as which vulnerabilities they target and which business processes or data they seek.

Additionally, the SOC must ensure compliance, which includes making sure all applications, systems and security tools adhere to data privacy regulations such as GDPR, CCPA and PCI DSS. In addition, periodic penetration tests may be performed to test an organization’s defenses and identify areas requiring improvement or updating.

5. Alert Ranking and Management

A SOC must identify, manage and priorities security alerts based on their severity. This helps avoid false positives while simultaneously ensuring that any serious threats are investigated quickly.

This includes deploying and testing patches for vulnerable systems and ensuring that enterprises have implemented appropriate security solutions. Furthermore, SOC must regularly analyze and assess an organization’s attack surface in order to develop strategies to decrease it.

Monitoring tools generate a steady stream of alerts that require SOC analysts to carefully examine each alert in order to filter out noise from signals and prioritize alerts accordingly. Establishing effective prioritization systems helps limit the amount of alerts which must be reviewed manually by humans, which reduces analyst fatigue.

SOCs must create and implement incident response playbooks to streamline and accelerate the handling of an incident, speeding and standardizing response procedures when responding to threats or attacks, while decreasing time required to take necessary actions against threats that pose risks and limit damages caused.

6. Recovery and Remediation

Utilizing security analytics solutions such as Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) or Security Orchestration, Automation and Response (SOAR), Security Operations Center (SOC) teams examine log data from on-premises endpoints, cloud servers, network devices and more every day to establish a baseline of normal activity and identify anomalies or any cyber threats such as malware, ransomware and other forms of cyber-attack that might be present that might threaten an organization. This allows SOC teams to detect anomalies quickly before the threat becomes an issue

When monitoring tools generate alerts, it is up to the SOC to carefully review each one to identify and filter false positives while triaging emerging threats based on severity. They also leverage external feeds and product threat reports for intelligence that provides insight into attacker behavior, infrastructure and motives.

If a threat strikes, the SOC team acts quickly to address it and recover any lost data. These steps may include isolating and shutting down affected endpoints; terminating harmful processes (or stopping them from running); deleting files; then working to restore systems when needed and deploy backups as appropriate; they may even use data collected to enhance their own security processes such as reducing vulnerabilities or improving how an organization patches systems.

7. Log Management

Logging of all communications and activity on a network is of critical importance as this allows SOC teams to distinguish cyberthreat signals and hacker exploits from false positives, and backtrack or pinpoint suspicious actions which might have contributed to breaches. Many SOCs use an XDR solution which aggregates log data from firewalls, OS, endpoints and applications into one single security repository for analysis.

Certain processes in the SOC are subject to compliance requirements (e.g. HIPPA, PCI DSS and GDPR). Adherence to these regulations can help an organization avoid reputational damage or fines associated with a data breach.

When threats are identified, SOC teams must respond swiftly by shutting down or isolating endpoints, terminating harmful processes and deleting files to mitigate their effect on business operations and prevent it from recurring. They should also regularly rank alerts in terms of severity so that only pressing issues are prioritized for resolution.

8. Security Refinement and Improvement

The Security Operations Center is accountable for reducing an organization’s attack surface by applying security patches to software and firewalls, detecting misconfigurations, hardening IT systems and providing protections for Internet of Things devices (from kitchen microwaves to warehouse scanners). They also conduct regular research into emerging threats and threat intelligence.

With continuous monitoring tools, the SOC can detect potential threats that emerge and alert their team for immediate action. They triage these alerts based on how aggressive and disruptive these threats are; taking time to carefully examine any false positives and dismiss them if applicable.

An organized incident response plan can reduce the time required to contain an issue, thus mitigating damage caused by cybercriminals and their subsequent effect on employees, customers, revenue and brand reputation. A SOC uses intelligence gleaned during incidents to better address vulnerabilities, enhance processes and policies, select new cybersecurity tools and update its security roadmap; additionally it ensures applications, tools and processes comply with privacy regulations.

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.