A Security Operations Center is a centralized security hub within an organization that is responsible for continually monitoring an organization's security environment such as security infrastructure, networking, apps, corporate devices, and any other technology or service that interacts with the organization.
In addition to the continuous monitoring, threat analysis, and remediation of security threats, the Security Operations Center is also tasked to improve existing security initiatives to ensure the organization’s security posture is as robust and fortified as possible.
To meet these initiatives, the Security Operations Center continually takes in and logs data from an array of data sources that span the entire organization, providing real-time security data that a security operations team can use for real-time security analysis. In doing so, the SOC team will observe, analyze, and remediate potential security threats around the clock and relay critical security threat information to C-suite leadership.
One of the key components of a successful Security Operations Center is the use of a security information and event management system, also known as a SIEM. A security information and event management system is designed to take in real-time data from services that poll critical security data from an array of devices within an organization’s network.
Data gathered from a SIEM can be used in several ways. For example, suspicious data gathered by the SIEM can be used to generate alerts for suspicious or anomalous events.
A SIEM is used to funnel security-related data into vulnerability assessment solutions such as an intrusion prevention system (IPS), intrusion detection system (IDS), security-specific databases, data warehouses, and threat intelligence platforms (TIP) used to perform further security operations on the data.
One of the primary benefits of having a SOC is the enhanced security posture an organization gains from this security initiative.
Organizations that invest in a security operations center benefit from continuous monitoring of their entire organization, gathering real-time data regarding their network, devices, and applications 24/7. This dramatically reduces an organization’s time from an incident to response, which substantially mitigates the potential damage of an attack.
An organization that employs a strong SOC model is far more likely to catch a malicious attack early and reduce the damage of a potential cybersecurity attack.
Security operations centers are challenged by two major impediments: staffing shortages and skill shortages.
In today’s dynamic job market, organizations are having difficulty hiring and retaining top talent. This is especially true in the security field. With nearly 500,000 security jobs opening early this year, and not enough qualified candidates to fill these roles, security teams continue to be understaffed and overutilized.
The security industry is also greatly impacted by a skills shortage. When the staffing pool is limited, organizations have access to less qualified candidates. This means that employers are tasked with skilling up their employees internally or relying on existing staff (sometimes from a peripheral department) to take on additional work responsibilities.
A security operations center acts as a threat identification and containment strategy for today’s modern technology-dependent organization. Threat containment relies on an array of security applications, services, and tools to mitigate the risk of a cyberattack.
Each security operations center is unique in the security tools they choose to employ to harden their security environment. However, there are a handful of security applications, services, and tools that are common across most security operations centers.
Behavior Monitoring System
Behavioral monitoring, a standard practice for any modern security operations center, is the process of monitoring a variety of organization properties with the intention to spot anomalies that could indicate a security threat.
Common properties that behavioral monitoring tools will analyze are:
- Network activity
- Suspicious Downloads
- Endpoint reboots
- Policy violations
- Assessing the geography of inbound/outbound traffic
- Error Messages
Endpoint Monitoring System
User endpoints are one of today’s most vulnerable targets when it comes to cybersecurity attacks. Unfortunately, users are prone to open malicious emails or fall victim to social engineering attacks. Active endpoint monitoring is high on the list of importance for today’s security operations centers.
SIEM (Security Information and Event Management)
A security information and event management system (SIEM) is tasked with collecting real-time security data from a variety of security applications, services, and tools and generating alerts for suspicious activity. A SIEM is one of the most important tools in a security operations center as it acts as the central data gathering hub on which nearly all security-related decisions are dependent.
Intrusion Detection System (IDS)
An Intrusion detection system or IDS for short is another critical component of a security operations center. The IDS is tasked with monitoring data that flows in and out of the network. Its role is to identify and flag potential security threats that are traveling within an organization’s network.
Intrusion Protection System (IPS)
An Intrusion protection system (or IPS for short) is similar to an IDS in the sense that its role is to mitigate threats that are conducted over an organization's network. However, unlike an IDS, where suspicious packets are identified and flagged for further action by a security operations team, the IPS will identify and remove suspicious packets from the network in real-time.
The structure of today’s security operations teams is critical to the success of any organization. Individuals within security operations teams not only need to be adequately trained for their role, but the team as a whole must operate in a harmonious manner to ensure the security and integrity of their organization.
Chief Information Security Officer (CISO):
The Chief Information Officer or CISO is a C-Suite position that is tasked with making high level decisions regarding security initiatives that impact the entire company.
These individuals will establish security-related strategies and operations that will trickle down to the security operations center leadership such as the Director of Incident Response and the SOC Manager to ensure uniformity in their approach to security operations and threat prevention operations.
Senior Security Manager:
The Senior Security Manager is tasked with overseeing all operations of their SOC team and providing high level directives on how the team should operate and respond in the event of a serious security threat. The Senior Security Manager is also tasked with communicating direction with the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) to relay information regarding serious security issues.
The Incident Responder is responsible for configuring and managing security monitoring tools as well as reporting on identified cyber threats. This role oversees hundreds of daily security threats and is tasked with making real-time decisions around how to handle potential security threats.
The SOC Analyst is tasked to monitor security events and triage alerts for L2/L3 security analysts. They will investigate all suspicious activities and respond to alerts.
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