Building your own security operations center (SOC) is increasingly enticing for many organizations. This article will explain what an SOC is, why they are important and how businesses should go about acquiring one, either by building their own or outsourcing the project.
What Is SOC?
A security operations center, or SOC, is a centralized unit within an organization. An SOC has an expert team dedicated to detecting, analyzing, responding to, reporting on and preventing cybersecurity incidents. This team comprises security analysts and engineers, as well as managers who oversee security operations.
3 Questions to Ask Before Building an SOC
- Why does my business need a SOC?
- Who am I aiming to protect my organization from, and who might be interested in it?
- How do I envision developing the SOC over the next two to three years?
The SOC team uses a wide array of tools and technologies, including security information and event management (SIEM) systems, intrusion detection systems (IDS), firewalls and numerous other security tools. They also use threat intelligence and analytics to continuously monitor and safeguard an organization’s information assets.
The set of tools of an SOC primarily depends on its tasks. The three main goals for creating an SOC are ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements, working with vulnerabilities and working with incidents, such as security breaches. Each requires its own tools.
For instance, if managing incidents is your primary focus, you will need robust systems for logging and correlation. If you prioritize compliance, your go-to will likely be one of the available compliance management software solutions. If vulnerability management is your main concern, a specialized vulnerability scanner will be critical.
The size of your organization significantly influences your tool selection. For instance, a smaller SOC, perhaps with a team of fewer than ten people, might find a basic SIEM and a service desk for ticket processing sufficient. However, this toolkit would not cut it for larger corporations, where the demands and complexity are much greater.
SOCs typically operate around the clock, delivering real-time analyses of security alerts produced by applications and network hardware. Therefore, the chosen tools should align with the demands of a 24/7 operation and the organization’s specific needs.
Why Do You Need an SOC?
A security operations center is essential for a variety of reasons, among them:
Knowledge and Expertise
Cybersecurity requires specialized knowledge and expertise. A SOC team comprises trained security professionals who understand the evolving threat landscape and can implement the best defense strategies.
Incident Response and Management
When a cyber incident occurs, a swift and effective response is crucial. An SOC detects these incidents and also manages the response, including investigation, containment and recovery, helping minimize damage.
While setting up an in-house SOC involves an upfront investment, it can significantly reduce costs in the long run. Data breaches can be financially devastating, with costs including recovery, legal fees and damage to a business’s reputation. Preventing breaches from occurring can save an organization significant amounts of money over time. Outsourcing SOC services can provide even more savings for your organization.
Proactive Threat Hunting
Unlike traditional security systems that react to threats after they occur, a SOC actively hunts for potential threats and vulnerabilities in the system, including conducting penetration tests, which can prevent breaches before they happen.
Cyber threats do not follow a schedule. They can strike anytime, anywhere. An SOC provides 24/7 monitoring of your systems, ensuring constant protection and immediate response to any detected threats.
Compliance and Regulations
Many industries have legal and regulatory requirements related to data protection and privacy. An SOC helps organizations adhere to these rules, thereby avoiding hefty fines and maintaining a positive reputation.
Benefits of Outsourcing an SOC
Outsourcing a security operations center can offer numerous advantages for organizations. Here are some of the primary benefits:
Reduced Time to Value
An outsourced SOC can be up and running in a relatively short time frame, giving you immediate access to advanced security capabilities.
Focus on Core Business
Outsourcing the SOC allows your internal team to focus on your core business activities while the experts handle your cybersecurity.
As your organization grows, your cybersecurity needs will also evolve. Outsourced SOCs offer scalability to match your changing requirements.
A modern outsourced SOC can offer a broad spectrum of services. Usually, the service provider is structured into different departments, each taking responsibility for a specific set of services.
The growing demand for outsourcing SOC services is often linked to the shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals as well as the speed at which results can be obtained.
Currently, there is a high demand for comprehensive SOC services that cover all aspects of security operations. Companies are increasingly seeking end-to-end solutions that not only promise but also deliver high-quality results. They expect these solutions to handle everything from threat detection and analysis to incident response and recovery, ultimately enhancing the overall security posture of their organization.
Benefits of an In-House SOC
A company might reject outsourcing IT for many reasons, ranging from a desire for privacy, concern over the brand image, strategic development considerations, etc. This is understandable, considering the increasing cases of cyberattacks via third-party contractors.
Before you dive into building your SOC, evaluate the key aspects of this challenging endeavor. Here’s what to consider. These questions assume that a basic information security system is in place.
Establishing and maintaining a SOC is quite a costly endeavor. Expenses include design, tech means, salaries (minimum of 10 staff members), developing internal integrations, establishing incident identification protocols, response mechanisms and much more.
Even if an organization chooses to employ a contractor solely for the design and implementation of technical solutions, deciding to handle the rest in-house, it is still likely that issues with internal processes will emerge. This situation can be likened to apartment renovation: you may plan for a certain budget but end up spending twice as much.
While it may seem cliché, the statement that people are the most important part of an SOC rings true. This is not just about the importance of human capital but about the challenges and strategies involved in sourcing, hiring and training SOC professionals. The demand for cybersecurity professionals, including SOC analysts and architects, outstrips supply, meaning there is more competition for talent and higher salaries in the field.
Turning to local universities with specialized information security departments can be a wise strategy. This approach allows you to tap into a pool of educated individuals keen to start their careers and build relationships with educational institutions, which could lead to internship programs and a steady stream of potential hires.
Teams often underestimate the time it takes to build an SOC. Under the most favorable circumstances, constructing a fully operational and truly efficient SOC can take up to two years.
If you have accounted for all three factors and believe your circumstances to be favorable, you can indeed attempt to build an in-house SOC. However, it may be more prudent to consider outsourcing if there is uncertainty or deficiency in even one of these areas.
It is unlikely that in-house SOCs will become obsolete. This is because they have the advantage of being deeply integrated and familiar with the specific business processes and context of their organizations, a task that can be more challenging for an external contractor to fully grasp and implement.
Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, the effectiveness of SOC operations cannot be measured solely by numbers. Therefore, by clearly defining your needs and thoroughly examining the capabilities of service providers during the pilot project, you should be able to gauge the potential performance of an external SOC, predict its operational capabilities throughout the contract and assess the SOC’s capacity to counter the threats that are relevant to your organization.