Security Operations Center (SOC) – A New Level of Threat Protection

Security Operations Center with multiple monitors

Modern cyber threats require modern security and response solutions. Traditional security solutions are no longer enough. A Security Operations Center, or SOC, plays an integral role in top-tier cybersecurity protection, offering 24/7/365 security operations.

A SOC is designed to proactively detect and escalate potential threats across your business. It uses advanced technologies like enhanced behaviour analytics to provide proactive threat detection and rapid response. However, it takes trained professionals to analyse security alerts and remediate threats successfully.

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about SOCs and how your business would benefit:

  • What is a SOC?
  • Does my business need a SOC?
  • Are SOCs only suitable for large businesses?
  • Are all SOCs the same?
  • What are the advantages of a SOC?
  • Are there any disadvantages of a SOC?
  • How to get started

What is a SOC?

Although a SOC performs multiple functions, the main focus is on providing three essential functions:

1. Prevention and detection

Prevention

A SOC is run by a multi-skilled, highly qualified team of experts who monitor their clients’ security 24/7 using an MDR (Managed Detection and Response) software solution. An MDR monitors the client network and endpoint data, performing threat sweeps and looking for specific indicators of compromise.

The SOC focuses on data received about clients’ endpoints (the files and processes on connected devices). The SOC can also see trends and events happening worldwide at many different endpoints, not just those of a single client or all of their clients.

This combined intelligence is what makes a SOC so effective. A significant amount and range of threats can be seen, understood, and therefore anticipated and prevented.

Detection

Detection occurs when the SOC’s MDR service zones in on a potential threat, logs the event, and alerts the team responsible. The team must then take action against this threat, determining whether it is a serious concern or just a false positive before taking the necessary steps to assess the situation fully with a full investigation.

2. Investigation

The SOC receives alerts for potential threats continuously in a single day from multiple customer estates. So SOC analysts require the expertise to analyse and filter through alerts and event logs effectively. They must understand the nature of the threat before they respond, making this a specialist, niche, and highly skilled role.

The investigation will determine the origin of each attack and gather information, such as the processes running at the time of the attack. The team will then perform a threat analysis to determine the severity of the potential threat before taking action.

3. Response

As soon as an incident is confirmed, the SOC acts as a first responder, performing actions like:

  • Isolating or shutting down endpoints
  • Terminating harmful processes or preventing them from executing
  • Deleting files
  • Isolating devices to remove them from the network
  • Additional virus scanning

A threat may be genuine or a false positive, so the SOC may ignore it or decide to roll out a strategic method of removing the threat from the company’s network.

The response will vary depending on the severity and potential damage that the attack could cause. The SOC must respond to and nullify the threat with minimal impact on business continuity.

Other functions of a SOC

Here are just some other functions of a SOC:

Recovery and remediation

After an attack, the SOC will focus on restoring systems and data. This might involve wiping and restarting devices, reconfiguring systems, or, in the case of ransomware, deploying good backups to bypass the encryption. A successful recovery gets the network back to its pre-attack state.

Security improvements

Cybercriminals constantly adapt their methods. To stay ahead, the SOC continuously implements security improvements. This might involve following plans outlined in an Incident Response Plan.

What is an Incident Response Plan?

An Incident Response Plan (IRP) is designed to help your business respond to, recover from, and learn from incidents that affect business operations and data security.

It’s the first step when dealing with a security event before invoking more costly and complex Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity plans. The IRP aims to handle the incident quickly, so they aren’t necessary.

Read more about using Incident Response Plans to minimise damage and maximise recovery

Compliance management

Many SOC processes follow best practices, but some are governed by compliance requirements set by your organisation, industry, or government bodies. Examples of such regulations include GDPR (data privacy), HIPAA (healthcare data), and PCI DSS (payment card data). Compliance helps safeguard sensitive data, protects your reputation, and reduces the risk of legal issues following a breach.

Does my business need a SOC?

Any business leveraging the internet or cloud services is vulnerable to cybersecurity threats. Protecting your business from today’s frequent, sophisticated, and costly threats requires a dedicated resource focused solely on safeguarding sensitive data and critical business systems.

"46% of all cyber breaches impact businesses with fewer than 1,000 employees."
Verizon

Your business needs the right cybersecurity guidance and expertise. That’s why a SOC is essential because there are three valuable deliverables within a SOC that combine to give your business the best possible protection:

Primary functions of a SOC

Are SOCs only suitable for large businesses?

Due to high technology and staffing costs, large enterprises were once the only businesses that could build or access a SOC. However, in recent years, access to SOCs began filtering down to SMEs and then SMBs.

Today, we believe every customer should have top-tier cybersecurity protection. For this reason, we have replaced the basic antivirus and monitoring services typically offered by Managed Service Providers (MSPs) with our 24/7/365 Security Operations Center as the default layer of protection we implement for our clients.

Are all SOCs the same?

No, SOCs will differ based on variables like the capabilities, skills, and experience of the SOC team, the effectiveness of the technology they use, and the level of monitoring in place. But they will all share the same ‘Detection, Investigation, and Response’ structure and aim to provide 24/7 protection.

The tools used to feed information into a SOC will vary too, depending on the scope, detail, and type of information required. Most commonly, a SOC will rely on information from an MDR tool. Some SOCs will require broader information so will utilise feeds from both an MDR and SIEM:

MDR (Managed Detection and Response)

An MDR monitors and responds to what’s happening on the individual endpoints (processes, files, devices). It’s the standard and most common tool used within a SOC.

SIEM (Security Information and Event Management)

Designed primarily to protect large companies, a SIEM monitors and protects everything on the client’s digital estate, not just individual endpoints. SIEM gives the SOC a holistic view of everything that should be monitored and protected:

  • Firewalls 
  • Cloud environments and applications
  • On-premise applications 
  • Operating systems
  • Devices
  • Servers and network devices
  • Other endpoints that generate their own logs

All that information is logged and input into one platform to give a complete overview of potential threats.

What are the advantages of a SOC?

A SOC offers many advantages, including:

  • A new level of security: Businesses protected by a SOC receive enhanced cybersecurity protection
  • Effective, wide-ranging protection: A SOC doesn’t just protect devices and files; it also protects intellectual property, personnel data, business systems, and brand integrity
  • Proactive threat detection: Stay ahead of cyber criminals by identifying and responding to threats before they can cause significant damage
  • Combined intelligence: SOC teams can understand threat trends and events happening across the world and put protection in place before those threats reach their clients
  • Rapid threat response: Minimise the impact of a security breach and get back to normal operations as quickly as possible with a team of experts ready to respond
  • Security for all: Businesses of all sizes can rest easy knowing they’re protected by the same level of security that major corporations trust
  • Reduce cybersecurity protection costs: Save time and money by reducing the need for in-house security staff and providing economies of scale when it comes to security technologies
  • Comprehensive: A SOC provides a well-rounded defence against many different threats
  • Scalable: The capabilities and resources within a SOC are flexible and so can flex with changing business needs
  • Affordable: SOC as a Service, or SOCaaS, allows businesses of all sizes to experience a level of cybersecurity protection they never could before, thanks to its subscription-based model – contact us to learn more about SOCaaS

Are there any disadvantages of a SOC?

Even though SOCs offer significant benefits, there are some drawbacks to consider:

Cost (if managed in-house)

Setting up and maintaining a SOC can be expensive. This includes the technology, hiring qualified staff (security analysts, incident responders), and keeping up with the ever-evolving threat landscape (new security tools, training). Small businesses may find this cost-prohibitive.

But that’s when SOC as a Service becomes the ideal security solution for any business that doesn’t wish to set up a SOC internally. They can instead rely on an outsourced managed security service like the one we offer at Nimbus Blue. Clients get the same 24/7/365 protection but avoid any of the up-front and ongoing costs of setting up and maintaining a SOC within their own business.

Lack of expertise (if managed in-house)

Finding and retaining cybersecurity professionals is a global challenge. Smaller businesses in the UK may struggle to build an in-house SOC team with the necessary expertise. Another advantage of SOC as a Service is that Managed Service Providers like Nimbus Blue already have experienced cybersecurity professionals in place.

Alert fatigue

SOCs generate a lot of security alerts and potentially a high volume of false positives. If the appropriate steps aren’t taken to prevent this problem, security analysts can become overwhelmed by the constant stream of information and potentially miss critical threats.

Potential false alerts

If not managed correctly, false positives (or false alarms) are another potential drawback of SOCs. Investigating false positives diverts SOC analysts’ attention away from genuine threats. False alerts can delay response times to actual security incidents and reduce overall efficiency.

We mitigate this in several ways, such as by automating the investigation and resolution of low-risk alerts, continuously refining the rules used to trigger alerts, and providing ongoing training to analysts.

How to get started

As threats evolve, your business requires round-the-clock protection of your crucial data. Sign up to one of our security plans, and you’ll receive a SOC by default. 

Free up your resources and focus on scaling your business. Let us handle your cybersecurity needs while you rest easy knowing you’re protected by the same level of security that major corporations trust. Get in touch to learn more about our SOC and for expert support and advice about protecting your business.

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