Many organizations rely on Security Operations centres (SOC) as a valuable resource for security incident detection.
A Security Operations Centre is a command facility for a team of Information Technology (IT) professionals specialising in monitoring, analyzing and protecting an organization from cyber attacks.
The goal of the SOC team is to detect, analyze, and respond to cybersecurity incidents using a combination of technology solutions and a set of powerful processes. The SOC team comprises mainly engineers, analysts and managers who oversee security operations.
The team works with the organizational incidence response teams to ensure security issues are addressed properly and quickly when discovered.
The Security Operations centre in an organization monitors and analyzes the different activities on networks, servers, endpoints, databases, applications, websites and other systems in search of anomalous activities that could show security or compromise. They work together to ensure that they properly identified different potential security incidents.
How does a Security Operations Centre Work?
The Security Operations centre handles the ongoing operational component of enterprise information security.
The SOC team mainly comprises security analysts who analyze, respond to, report and prevent security crises in an organization. They can also be in charge of advanced forensics analysis and malware reverse engineering to analyze incidents.
A clearly defined strategy aligned with the business goals of several departments in an organization is the first step in establishing a SOC.
With a strategy clearly defined, the next step is to implement the required infrastructure, including firewalls, IPS/IDS, breach detection solutions, probes and a Security Information Management System (SIEM).
Different technologies are setup to collect data via data flows, telemetry, packet capture and other methods to make it possible for the SOC to correlate and analyze data.
The SOC also monitors networks and endpoints for vulnerabilities to protect sensitive data and comply with industry or government standards.
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What is the Importance of a Security Operations centre in an Organization?
Cyber attacks are very damaging to organizations. In recent years, many people have been affected by data breach cyber-attacks, and consumers continue to lose their confidence in organizations to protect their privacy and personal information. The majority of consumers also stop doing business with any organization they consider vulnerable to hacking and cyber-attacks.
Security Operations centre teams in organizations work to ensure that threats will be detected and prevented in real-time. Generally, SOC teams can:
Respond faster: They can provide a real-time, complete and centralized view of how an organisation’s entire infrastructure is performing from a security standpoint. This makes it easier and faster to detect, identify, prevent and resolve issues before they cause too much trouble for the business.
Protect consumer and customer trust: SOC teams help prevent breaches that tamper with consumers’ personal information and privacy. This helps to build consumers’ trust in the operations of an organization.
Minimize costs: Many companies may think it is costly to establish a SOC. However, the costs of fixing breaches together with the corruption or loss of data and consumer trust are much higher. Also, an SOC team will make sure the organization uses the right tools for their business to ensure maximum productivity in the company and avoid wasting money on unnecessary or ineffective tools.
What Does a Security Operations centre Do?
The Security Operations centre in an organization comprises professionals who use a complex combination of the right tools to lead real-time incident response and drive ongoing security improvements to protect the organization from security crises. A functional SOC provides:
- Proactive surveillance of hardware, software and networks for incident response and to detect threats and breaches
- Expertise in the tools used by the organization, including third-party vendors, to ensure they can resolve security issues with ease.
- Installation, troubleshooting and updating of application software
- Managing intrusion prevention systems and monitoring firewall
- Patch management and whitelisting
- Deep analysis of security log data from different resources
- Investigation of security breaches to understand the root cause of attacks and prevent future breaches
- Backup, storage and recovery of data
- Scanning of antivirus, malware and ransomware solutions
The SOC does more than handle problems that pop up. They may be tasked with finding weaknesses in existing systems outside and within the organization through ongoing software and hardware vulnerability analysis.
They also gather threat intelligence on known risks, even in rare cases when there are no active threats.
The SOC uses a couple of tools to collect data from various networks and devices to monitor anomalies and alert the staff for potential threats.
The Security Operations centre is always searching for ways to improve security, which involves hacking their own systems to find weaknesses, also known as penetration testing.
A core role of the SOC personnel is to ensure that the organization is using the correct security tools and assessing what works and what doesn’t work.
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Who Works in the Security Operations centre?
The Security Operations centre comprises highly skilled security analysts, engineers, and supervisors who make sure everything in the organization runs smoothly.
These professionals have undergone specific training on monitoring and managing security threats.
They are skilled in using different security tools, and they know specific processes to follow when infrastructure is broken.
Most Security Operations centres hierarchically categorize their analysts and engineers based on their skillset and experience. For example, a typical SOC team might have a structure like:
Level 1: This level comprises the professionals who respond to incidents first. They watch for alerts, determine the urgency of each alert, and send the case to the next level if needed. They may also be in charge of managing security tools and running regular reports.
Level 2: They have better expertise, which makes them easily get to the root of problems and assess which part of the infrastructure is under attack. They are tasked with following due procedures to remediate problems, repair any fallout, and flag issues for more investigation.
Level 3: This level comprises high-level experts who actively search for vulnerabilities within the network. They often use advanced threat detection tools to diagnose weaknesses and make recommendations for improving the organisation’s overall security. Some specialists in this level include compliance auditors, forensic investigators, cybersecurity analysts etc.
Level 4: This level comprises high-level managers and chief officers with several years of experience. They oversee all the activities of the SOC team and hire, train and evaluate individual and overall performance. In addition, they act as the liaison between the SOC team and the organization in times of crisis.
Depending on the size of an organization, an individual may perform multiple roles or overlap the various levels mentioned above. Sometimes, it comes down to one or two people for the entire team.
What are the Best Practices for Building a Security Operations centre?
A lot of things go into consideration when building a Security Operations centre. Things get tough when it’s the first time setting it up in an organization, as they need to make sure they get things right to avoid unnecessary setbacks in the future.
Some of the best practices to be followed when building a Security Operations centre in an organization include:
1. Develop a strategy: Create a strategy that covers the required security needs and aligns with the organisation’s goals. For example, understand what needs to be secured, how many endpoints are needed, the type of data that needs to be secured, whether there is a need for 24/7/365 availability from the SOC team, etc.
2. Ensure that you have visibility across the organization: The SOC should have access to everything in an organization, no matter how small it is. In a larger infrastructure, they should cover every endpoint system.
3. Invest in the right tools services: Handling security without the right automated tools to help deal with significant threats. Therefore, building successful SOCs depends heavily on investing in the right tools.
4. Hire the best and train them well: Hiring talented staff and continually improving their skills is crucial to building successful SOCs. In addition, it is important to continually invest in training to improve their skills to enhance security and improve engagement and retention because the market for security talent is competitive.
Every organization, no matter the size, needs to be well secured. A functional SOC in an organization comes with many benefits because they literally keep the business running. Organizations that have suffered a security breach or store sensitive data like customer information definitely need a Security Operations centre.
To build a Security Operations centre, it is important to understand the organisation’s security needs and then plan how to effectively and efficiently meet them.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The primary mission of SOCs is to monitor, alert and fix security issues.
They are important because they keep an organization secure from internal and external security crises.
It is a centralized unit of professionals that deals with security issues in an organization.
Professionals in the Security Operations centre include security analysts, managers, investigators, auditors, penetration testers, etc
The Security Operations centre identifies, deploys, configures, and manages an organisation’s security infrastructure.