SOC Processes & Best Practices Explained

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SOC Processes & Best Practices Explained

As cyber threats continue to increase in both number and sophistication, a security operations center (SOC) is becoming an essential component of many organization’s cybersecurity efforts. And just like any other function in your organization, it’s the processes and practices that will determine how successful it will be in reaching your security goals.

What is a SOC?

A SOC is the centralized function that monitors, analyzes, detects and responds to cyber threats. It monitors events and alerts across all possible entry points for a cyber threat actor, which can include endpoints, servers, cloud applications and more. The SOC decides if any action needs to be taken on these events and alerts, and escalates them appropriately. It also analyzes threats and vulnerabilities in an effort to improve the overall cybersecurity posture of the organization.

SOC Processes

The SOC process framework generally contains the following categories:

Triaging Alerts and Events – A SOC is responsible for collecting and monitoring all log data and identifying potential threats. It must have an efficient way to separate and categorize potential real threats from the noise of regular activity in order to properly handle the large number of alerts and events an organization can generate.

Prioritize and Analyze – Once a potential threat is detected, the SOC investigation process kicks in to determine how big of a danger that threat poses and prioritize what efforts need to take place to protect the most critical assets of the organization. The most important goal in prioritization is to protect business continuity, so threats with the greatest potential impact to operations should get the highest priority.

Remediation and Recovery – When a real threat is identified, it’s vital that the SOC respond as quickly as possible to minimize any potential damage. The SOC incident management process must be efficient to contain and resolve the threat and then take the appropriate remediation steps for affected systems. This could include actions such as re-imaging systems, restoring from backups or applying needed patches.

Assessment and Audit – SOCs should assess their incident response and proactively work to find and fix any vulnerabilities before an attacker can exploit them and gain access to systems. Performing regular penetration testing and adversary exercises will help a SOC find and address gaps in security.

SOC Best Practices

SOCs can follow these best practices to create an effective framework for defending against today’s threats.

  • Cover your entire attack surface, 24/7. As organizations have expanded into the cloud, so have threat actors. SOCs need to ensure they are looking beyond their endpoints to detect today’s threats, and that the monitoring never stops.
  • Automate alert investigation. The volume of alerts that come into a SOC can be overwhelming. Automating portions of detection and response can help alleviate this burden.
  • Use the best threat intelligence. SOCs can stay ahead of potential threats by utilizing threat intelligence data from experts who study threat actors and their current playbooks.
  • Test your defenses regularly. The best way to ensure a SOC knows how to a handle a real-world situation is to test its defenses through activities such as penetration testing, adversary exercises and tabletop exercises.

SOC Challenges

The increasing number of cyberattacks has also increased the challenges that many SOCs face. Here are some of the common ones.

  • Skill shortage. There is a global shortage of the cybersecurity professionals needed to run a SOC effectively. Many SOCs are struggling to retain and recruit staff.
  • Alert fatigue. SOC professionals must weed through a vast amount of alerts every day, many of which will not end up being threats. This can lead to burnout for SOC professionals.
  • Lack of automation. With the increasing volume of alerts and attack surfaces growing, SOCs without some automation are finding it hard to respond quickly and effectively to threats.
  • Siloed tools. Cybersecurity tools are evolving all the time to keep up with threats. Having the best tools in place is key, but it can also lead to siloed systems that require SOC analysts to jump around from one system to the next.

The Makeup of a SOC: Roles and Tools

Every SOC is a combination of skilled professionals and tools that work together to defend an organization against cyberattacks.

A SOC team structure will generally include the following:

  • SOC Manager. This is the person in charge of running the SOC and overseeing the staff. They are responsible for ensuring the SOC is following the organization’s policies and procedures.
  • Security Analysts. These are the people monitoring, reviewing and investigating alerts as they come in and determining if further action is needed. They also help maintain and configure security systems.
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