What is a SOC?
For many organizations, the Security Operations Center (SOC) is their first line of defense.
The SOC is a centralized team within an organization that monitors the information technology environment for incidents. This team then provides direct support of the cybersecurity incident response process.
A good SOC can significantly improve an organization’s security posture by providing increased visibility into their network and operations.
When establishing a SOC, it is important to keep these seven considerations in mind:
- use cases,
- the SOC model,
- metrics, and
These elements, which I will be covering in more detail in this blog post, ensure the SOC is running efficiently, providing the most value, and fulfilling the organization’s goals.
Here are the seven best practices to help you set up your security operations center for success
1. Understand the feasibility of your project.
A feasibility assessment should be done early on when establishing a SOC. Include common considerations–such as budget or staffing constraints–as well as a variety of other aspects that need to be taken into account.
For instance, a significant part of what drives successful SOC operations is having proper support. Appropriate staffing levels are necessary depending on the desired capabilities. If a SOC is expected to have 24/7 monitoring, then it should be staffed 24/7. If that’s something that isn’t possible for the organization, then it may lead to inadequate results.
2. Determine what services are desired.
The main functionality of a SOC is to provide monitoring and incident response. However, a SOC may provide additional services depending on the organizational needs. These services may include malware analysis, vulnerability management, digital forensics, and more.
It’s important to consider the desired services of a SOC so that expectations and responsibilities are clearly defined.
3. Develop your use cases and data sources.
Use cases–how users will interact with your site–should be developed for monitoring purposes. These use cases should be relevant to the organization and must be worth alerting. Knowing the organization’s environment can enhance this so that critical assets are prioritized.
You’ll want to:
- determine the data sources for your use cases,
- consider relevant threats and incidents to monitor for.
Depending on the organization’s goals, certain use cases may be developed for compliance purposes. If these compliance alerts do not need to be analyzed thoroughly, then automation may make them more efficient and reduce stress on the SOC.
4. Choose cohesive, flexible technologies.
A SOC may utilize many technologies for their services. These technologies must be chosen wisely to ensure the SOC fulfills their goals. SIEM and SOAR solutions are often paired together for monitoring and incident response. The chosen technologies should be tailored to the organization’s environment and needs.
5. Select your preferred SOC model.
There are three models of SOCs that should be considered based on an organization’s needs and desires: dedicated, outsourced, and hybrid solutions.
- A dedicated SOC provides the most control and visibility, but may have an increased cost.
- Outsourcing a SOC to a third-party like an MSSP may be cheaper than establishing a dedicated SOC, but it may have reduced visibility into the organization’s environment and ongoing operations.
- A hybrid solution would outsource some responsibilities of the SOC to a third-party.
6. Define organization-relevant metrics.
An organization can use metrics collected for the SOC to identify areas for improvement and make informed decisions. These metrics must be measurable and relevant to be helpful. The metrics may also be used to determine how successful the SOC is running currently, and where it should be in the future.
7. Integrate documentation methods into the process.
The process of documenting is essential to many information technology functions, and a SOC heavily utilizes documentation. Policies, procedures, problems, exceptions, and other information should be thoroughly documented to ensure that they are clearly defined and that the information is available for future use. SOC analysts in particular may use many documented playbooks for different use cases.
A SOC is the first line of defense for many organizations. It can provide an organization with great value and increased security, but it must be planned and implemented properly. Considering important factors early on in establishing a SOC can greatly increase its success.
If you’re looking for more about setting up a SOC, be sure to check out our two-part podcast about it!