What is security operations center (SOC)?

A security operations center (SOC) monitors, detects, responds to, and remediates cyberthreats. It consists of a team of cybersecurity professionals that oversee a company's applications, databases, devices, networks, servers, and websites. This team ensures security issues are identified and addressed 24/7/365.

How Does an SOC Work?

A security team manages an SOC. The team can be any size. It is responsible for the people, processes, and technologies required to monitor and secure a company's IT systems.

SOC teams provide support in the following areas:

1. Threat Detection

SOC team members use threat hunting technologies to search for and address cyberthreats.

2. Security Event Investigation

Once an SOC team identifies a potential cyberattack, it performs an investigation. At this point, SOC team members see if a threat is present. If so, they evaluate the threat's severity and context and figure out how to address the threat.

3. Incident Response

Following a cybersecurity investigation, SOC team members remediate the security incident. To do so, they may isolate endpoints, stop dangerous processes that compromise a company's IT systems, and/or deploy backups.

SOC Team Roles and Responsibilities

Security Analyst

An SOC security analyst is usually the first person to respond to a cyberattack. The analyst verifies that SOC processes and procedures are implemented properly and keeps business stakeholders up to date on the SOC team's incident response and remediation efforts.

Security Engineer

SOC security engineers work with developers to make sure that cybersecurity is integrated into a company's IT systems, monitor the business' security posture, and respond to cyberattacks.

SOC Manager

An SOC manager provides SOC team members with cybersecurity skills training. Also, the manager creates SOC processes and procedures, evaluates incident reports, develops and executes crisis communications plans, writes compliance reports, and performs security audits.

Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)

A CISO has the final say on a company's cybersecurity policies and strategies and works with other SOC team members to address security issues.

Why Do You Need an SOC?

1. Incident Response

Your SOC team looks for signs of a cyberattack, investigates malicious activities, and stops attacks.

2. Security Visibility

Your SOC monitors your IT infrastructure and addresses security incidents in near real time.

3. Risk Management

Your SOC personnel track cyberthreats and communicate and collaborate with business stakeholders about them. They also produce security reports and can help you develop and execute a risk management strategy.

Which Is Better: An SOC or a Network Operations Center (NOC)?

Both an SOC and NOC play important roles in how a company manages its cybersecurity posture.

An SOC focuses on security. Meanwhile, a NOC tracks the performance of a company's network. The NOC also protects against network failures and interruptions that can otherwise disrupt a company, its employees, and its customers.

SOC and NOC teams can work together to resolve incidents. For example, consider what happens if your business experiences a network outage. Your NOC can restore your network and make sure it is working in accordance with your SLAs. On the other hand, if a cyberattack causes your network to shut down, your SOC can work with your NOC to figure out what's causing the issue. Your SOC and NOC teams can then remediate the issue and get your network up and running once again.

SOC Challenges You Need to Know About

1. Staffing

SOC teams are often understaffed or lack adequate skills and training. These issues make it difficult for SOC teams to keep pace with security alerts and incidents. They also prevent SOCs from running at peak levels.

2. Alert Fatigue

SOCs can use dozens of cybersecurity tools — but these tools don't necessarily allow SOC team members to distinguish critical alerts from non-critical ones. SOC team members can also receive dozens of security alerts at once. In either of these scenarios, SOC team members risk missing critical security alerts.

3. Overhead Costs

An SOC requires cybersecurity professionals on hand to identify and remediate security issues around the clock and keep  up-to-date security tools in place. However, meeting both of these requirements can be expensive.

SOC Best Practices

Conduct a Risk Assessment

Assess risk across your IT infrastructure so you can understand the security dangers your business faces and invest in your SOC accordingly.

Collect and Aggregate Security Data

Deploy tools for security data collection and aggregation. These tools let you gather security data from multiple sources, generate insights from it, and use these insights to find ways to upgrade your security.

Prioritize and Triage Security Alerts

Establish alert prioritization processes so your SOC team members will have no trouble determining which security alerts require immediate attention.

Create SOC Playbooks

Use playbooks to give your SOC team members steps to follow so they can quickly respond to ransomware, social engineering, and other types of cyberattacks.

Automate Your Security Operations

Automate security data collection and analysis and other security operations center tasks to make your SOC faster and more efficient than ever before.

Hunt for Cyberthreats 24/7/365

Give your SOC team the tools it needs to proactively hunt for and respond to cyberthreats.

Track and Report on Your SOC's Performance

Create key performance indicators (KPIs) to track your SOC's performance. Use these KPIs to produce SOC performance reports so you can continuously look for ways to improve your security operations center.

5 SOC Tools Your SOC Team Needs

1. Asset Discovery

An asset discovery tool shows your SOC team what IT systems are in use and what's running on them. Some asset discovery tools can automatically discover new assets as well.

2. Vulnerability Assessment

Vulnerability assessment tools look for security issues across your IT infrastructure and alert your SOC team any time these problems are discovered. They also show you if your IT operations are running in compliance with PCI DSS, SOX, and other data security requirements.

3. Behavior Monitoring

A behavior monitoring tool lets you establish a baseline for IT system behaviors and watch for security policy violations, spikes in outbound network activity, and other anomalies.

4. Intrusion Detection

An intrusion detection tool stops cybercriminals at their point of entry. It works with correlation rules built from your threat intelligence and notifies you about current and emerging threats.

5. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)

An SIEM tool looks for patterns in security events, captures log data, and produces security insights.

Get an SOC Delivered as a Fully Managed Service

Sophos Managed Detection and Response (MDR) provides a fully managed security operations center-as-a-service (SOCaaS). It gives you all of the SOC tools and resources you need in an all-in-one service.

With Sophos MDR, you can:

  • Automatically detect and respond to cyberthreats across your IT infrastructure
  • Get cyberthreat investigation and remediation help from Sophos threat hunters, engineers, and ethical hackers
  • Combine your threat intelligence with indicators of compromise to hunt for and guard against cyberattacks

To find out more about Sophos MDR or to start using it, please contact us today.

Get in touch with us today

Related security topic: What is security information and event management (SIEM)?