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July 3, 2020 By Andrea Fumagalli

How SOAR improves the performance of а SOC team

Building an effective and fully functioning SOC team is essential for every organization, big or small. With today’s cybersecurity threats leaving no trace of familiar patterns due to their evolving sophistication, making sure that your SOC uses its full potential is of the utmost importance.

However, merely building a SOC team and investing in cybersecurity is not enough. You must know how to optimally utilize every resource and make sure your SOC is running in full steam. In this blog post, we will reveal how technologies such as SOAR allow you to tap into the full potential of your SOC team and vastly strengthen your cybersecurity posture.

What is a SOC?

The acronym SOC stands for Security Operations Center, and in short, it resembles a structure that consists of every entity that is required to monitor, analyze, and engage security protocols with the goal of maintaining optimal security against breaches and cyber attacks.

Basically, every individual that works in the SOC is a part of the SOC team, and the goal of the SOC is to detect, identify, analyze, and respond to every alert that has the potential to disrupt the integrity of the organization. And, in order to do that, SOCs use different types of resources and technology solutions.

In the process of evaluating the events in the organization, the SOC team analyze activities on:

  • Servers

  • Endpoints

  • Databases

  • Applications

  • Networks

  • Websites

Basically, every device that is related to the organization is being monitored and analyzed. The end goal is to assess every cyber alert, provide critical analysis of every irregular activity that could suggest a security incident, and ultimately neutralize potential threats.

SOC team roles and responsibilities

As we already mentioned, the main goal of every SOC team is to identify, investigate, and react to potential threats. In order to make this possible, the SOC team is branched out in different segments with different security professionals adopting different roles in complex security operations:

  • SOC analyst: The SOC analyst is the first to assess potential threats. The analyst responds to the threats by detecting, analyzing, and then responding to them. Security analysts work closely with the IT department to communicate all security protocols.

  • SOC engineer: The SOC engineer monitors and analyzes various tools, creates security architecture suitable to the environment of the organization, works closely with developers, and is involved in creating the software when designing information systems. The SOC engineer is responsible for creating solutions that create a stronger cybersecurity barrier.

  • SOC manager: The SOC manager is the one responsible for running security operations and making sure that every security alert is taken care of. The SOC manager provides technical guidance, supervises the SOC team, analyzes security incidents, and measures the performance of the entire SOC.

  • CISO: The CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) is responsible for the definition of the organization’s security operations. The CISO closely communicates with upper management and has a central role in defining strategies regarding the security welfare of the organization.

Additionally, a SOC team may also have a threat hunter, incident handler, forensic specialist, and threat intel researcher. Even though most SOC teams consist of the security professionals we named above, not every SOC team uses the same technologies. This means that the performance of a SOC team is not linear, and it fluctuates depending on how optimized the security operations are.

Naturally, organizations that aren’t frequently targeted by cyber attacks adopt a looser policy and don’t need the most contemporary technologies in order to have a well-functioning SOC team. However, for organizations that control delicate, sought-after information, and are prime targets for cyber attackers, equipping the SOC team with proper cybersecurity technologies is just as important as hiring the best security professionals.

But before you purchase the most popular, most expensive cybersecurity tool on the market with hopes that it will instantly bring success to your SOC, you must first learn the idiosyncrasies of your SOC team and find out what technology will improve them the most.

How to improve the performance of your SOC team?

A SOC must always make optimal use of its resources. That includes both employees and technologies. And while human expertise is essential, the technologies used must also be up to par in order to successfully evade cyber attacks. And even though technologies such as IPS and Firewall may be enough to intercept basic attacks, they are most certainly not up to the challenge when it comes to dealing with today’s sophisticated cyber threats.

This is why SOC teams are reinforced with different types of contemporary tools that significantly empower their potential and increase their chances of effectively repelling cyber threats. Such technologies include:

  • SIEM: Security Information and Event Management is a technology that largely improves the SOC’s ability at collecting data regarding multiple types of events and activities within the organization.

  • SOAR: SOAR implies automation and orchestration to automate certain cybersecurity operations, improve the SOC’s threat hunting ability, and vastly enhance the collaboration between every SOC team member.

Think of these tools as the arsenal soldiers would need when they go to war. Without such tools, SOC teams wouldn’t be able to tap into the full potential of their resources. It would be like sending your troops to war barehanded.

However, it should be noted that using SIEM alone will only make life more difficult for your employees. SIEM is great at detecting every irregular activity, anomaly, and potential alert that may hinder the security of the organization, but the rest of the job falls onto the shoulders of security professionals.

And, considering that some organizations pick up thousands of alerts on a daily basis with SIEM, that means that analysts will have the tedious task of going through each and every alert. What’s even more frustrating is the fact that much of those alerts end up being false positives (mislabelled threats), which makes the employees even more miserable.

This is where SOAR steps in as a vital force multiplier that basically improves the functionality of every SOC process and makes life easier for everyone on the SOC team.

How SOAR helps a SOC team work better

It is very clear that the effectiveness of a SOC team is directly dependent on its technology solutions. One particular technology solution that improves almost every area of a SOC team is SOAR.

Security Orchestration, Automation and Response is the name of the technology that has just only recently been making its strides in the cybersecurity industry. However, even though SOAR is a relatively new technology, that hasn’t stopped it from becoming a key ingredient in every modern SOC environment.

SOAR extends the limits of what SOC teams previously thought was possible of achieving in the following ways:

  • Skill shortage: SOAR addresses the lack of skilled security professionals directly by reducing the need for security professionals to deal with tedious and repetitive tasks and allowing employees to find more satisfaction at delving into more complex tasks.

  • Automation: SOAR automates mundane and repetitive security operations, thus allowing security professionals to focus on operations that require deeper expertise. SOAR allows SOC teams to adjust the level of automation implied in security operations.

  • Faster response time: SOAR uses its machine learning engine to identify false positives and single-handedly carry out low-risk tasks without the need for human intervention. This allows the SOC team to be more effective at eliminating false positives and have more time to focus on real threats, thus ultimately increasing their response time.

  • Centralized reporting and customizable KPI dashboards: SOAR allows SOC teams to have a better understanding of the level of their performance by providing fully customizable KPI dashboards and reports.

  • Easy tool integration: The implementation of SOAR doesn’t disrupt the natural workflow processes of the SOC team. On the contrary, with solutions like Cloud SOAR, that have adopted an Open Integration Framework, SOCs will be able to swiftly integrate with hundreds of tools quickly.

  • Enhance threat hunting: SOAR’s machine learning engine allows it to learn from past incidents and use that knowledge when an incident with similar characteristics arrives. SOAR evolves at the same pace as cyber threats and allows SOC teams to handle threats in a more efficient manner.

It is obvious that SOAR adds a major boost in very delicate areas in every SOC. This is why it is said that SOAR was born out of the problems that previous solutions weren’t able to resolve, and significantly boosts every security environment it interacts with.

How can your SOC team make the best out of SOAR

It should be noted that simply adding SOAR to your cybersecurity repertoire of tools doesn’t do the trick. SOAR is still only technology and it will require the monitoring and occasional tweaking by security professionals. However, if used in the right manner, SOAR can be a major force multiplier and offer a much-needed helping hand to SOCs.

Another thing to understand about SOAR is that it doesn’t contradict other security tools. This means that the addition of SOAR won’t contradict the work of other security tools like SIEM. On the contrary, combining SOAR with other tools is actually the best way to strengthen your cybersecurity posture.

In conclusion, for your SOC team to make the best out of SOAR you need to:

  • Underline the tasks that cause alert fatigue

  • Automate time-consuming, repetitive tasks

  • Set up meaningful KPI dashboards to measure the success of your operations

  • Adjust the degree of automation to allow your SOC team to be included in tasks that are considered complex and require a certain level of expertise

  • Utilize SOAR’s orchestration feature to create a better workflow of the entire cybersecurity operations

Nevertheless, the good thing about SOAR is that it’s highly intuitive and doesn’t have a steep learning curve. This is great for organizations that can’t afford any workflow disruption or sudden downtimes in their operations. And, with the right know-how, the addition of SOAR in your SOC team can be the single missing piece of your puzzle to create a rock-solid cybersecurity environment.

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Andrea Fumagalli

Senior Director, Customer Engineering

More posts by Andrea Fumagalli.

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