What Is a SOC?
Posted on: February 22, 2023
According to a recent global survey, cyber incidents and business interruption take the top spot (34%) as the most concerning to businesses worldwide in 2023. In today's digital age, the threat of cyberattacks is ever-present, and companies — no matter their size — need to be prepared to detect, respond to, and mitigate these threats. While larger businesses might have the resources in place, many small businesses don’t. They can limit and mitigate the impact of a cyberattack by outsourcing their security needs. A vital component of any effective cybersecurity strategy includes a Security Operations Center (SOC).
A SOC is a dedicated team and facility responsible for monitoring, identifying, and responding to cybersecurity incidents. It serves as the central hub for all cybersecurity activities, and its role is critical in protecting a company's sensitive data and maintaining its reputation.
So, what should you do to minimize threats to your company’s network? How will you know you're being attacked? Companies often ask their IT staff to check daily for alerts from firewalls or other tools. However, that may not be enough. To be proactive, you do need a SOC that is appropriately sized and budgeted to fit your business needs.
To get it right, you may want to outsource SOC As a Service (SOCaaS) to managed IT services partner with the added expertise in SOC services. Most important, a SOC needs to be staffed with people trained to analyze, understand, and act on the information presented by your security tools. Often that can include the help of a professional vCISO to determine what you need.
What does a SOC do?
A SOC is responsible for more than just monitoring alarms. Instead, a good SOC is responsible for the entire lifecycle of a cybersecurity plan.
Conducts Inventory. To begin with, the SOC needs to understand what's being protected. That means conducting a thorough inventory of your IT infrastructure and maintaining it.
Securing Systems. Once that is complete, the SOC analysts will begin securing the existing systems. This means tightening admin login procedures and passwords, reducing the number of accounts, patching systems, and generally configuring your systems to be as resistant to attack as possible.
They will also add additional instrumentation of systems, including logging and threshold alerts. Finally, system hardening will include testing to ensure these efforts have been effective. Testing may even include white box and black box penetration testing services.
Monitors Systems. The next responsibility of the SOC is to monitor those systems for evidence of an attack by looking for an Indicator of Compromise (IoC). To do this, they must collect information from logs and often correlate data from different systems to discover an attack. The SOC will also subscribe to various threat intelligence subscription services to stay up to date on the latest types of attacks. Finally, the team will use behavioral analysis of both systems and people to detect unusual behavior which might indicate a compromised account.
If the SOC team is doing its job well, the analysis above will result in hundreds of questionable events that need further examination. Every server and device in your infrastructure generates thousands of events daily as people routinely do their jobs. For example, a single user logging in, downloading a file, and logging out can create hundreds of log entries across multiple systems.
Advanced expertise is critical at this stage because it takes special skills and tools to differentiate routine activity from a possible attack. SOC analysts typically use Security Information Event Management (SEIM) tools to help them correlate disparate events across dozens of separate systems to build a comprehensive picture of a security event.
While SOC analysts will respond to alerts from SIEM tools of suspicious events, many SOC analysts will take a more proactive approach and do "Threat hunting" by logging into various systems and watching live traffic and interactions as they occur in real-time. If a suspicious event is detected, action must be taken.
Such a security event may be benign, or it may be an active attack in progress. That is where the experience and knowledge of the analysts come into play. The SOC analyst will need to dig into an event through the system to determine if it is an active threat. Often, multiple events happen, requiring the SOC analyst to prioritize the most serious threats first.
Mitigates Attacks. If an actual attack is detected, the SOC analyst will need to stake swift action. This phase is often called Incident Response (IR) and consists of several general phases. The first is the identification and verification of an actual threat. The next is to isolate and contain the threat, followed by a mitigation phase to delete the threat. The final phase is to restore and recover from the threat or attack. These phases are further described below.
Phase 1: Prevent Further Attack. First, the attack must be blocked and affected systems removed from the network to prevent further spread. By containing the "blast radius" of an attack and reducing the number of systems affected, you reduce the amount of data at risk. Typically, computers, servers, or other systems are physically disconnected from the network to prevent further spread. Note that it's not always a good idea only to power them down because doing so may cause valuable evidence to be lost.
Phase 2: Inspect Systems. Next, the SOC analyst will need to thoroughly inspect any servers or systems suspected to be compromised by an attacker. Typically, the SOC analyst will collect an image of the current hard drive and current memory for analysis. In addition to preservation for analysis, these images can be used in court as evidence if the attacker is ever found and charged.
Once the analysis of the affected system is complete, the SOC analyst will "clean" it by running additional malware scans. It may even be necessary to reload the operating system to ensure the infection has been eradicated. Like detection, these mitigation steps require special tools and skills that most general IT teams don't possess.
Phase 3: Restore Systems. Once the server or other system has been cleaned, it’s usually necessary to recover lost information by restoring backups and resetting configurations.
Phase 4: Analyze Root Causes. Once the security event has been contained, mitigated, and the systems restored, the work of the SOC is not over. At this point, it’s critical to do a root cause analysis and create a documented storyline of the attack, from first probes to final detection. This enables the analyst to go back and harden the systems even more by fine-tuning configurations, detection, and restoration processes to prevent the same attack from happening again.
These root cause reports will form the basis for large-scale security improvements. The findings discovered can be included in the cybersecurity plan to enhance the security posture of the entire organization.
Supports Compliance Management. Finally, the SOC will also participate in supporting compliance management. Because the SOC has a complete inventory of protected systems as well as configurations and patches, the SOC typically manages the controls required for various compliance regulations. That makes it a simple matter for the SOC to provide documentation to meet those compliance requirements.
Why Partner With Calance for Your SOC Needs
A SOC is a complex organization requiring deep skill sets and advanced tools. As with a vCISO, partnering with a third-party vendor that offers expert cybersecurity services such as a SOC can help small businesses who can’t afford to maintain a full-time IT department, much less expert cybersecurity personnel, to fill in the gaps in securing their network from and responding to attacks.
The experts at Calance can provide SOC services that are scaled and customized to meet your business requirements, saving your business time and money. To learn more about your options for cybersecurity and IT services, contact us today at www.calanceus.com.
Related Blog Posts
Procore + PeopleSoft Integration by Calance
At-Home Strategies To Combat Coronavirus Cyber Scams