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June 18, 2020 By Davor Karafiloski

SOAR takes over where detection starts: Understanding the role of SOAR in Standard Operating Procedures

Cyber threats are becoming more sophisticated with each passing day, but nowadays, the question is not “If” a cyber attack will happen but “When.” This means that breaches are more or less bound to be at least attempted, and the important thing is to reduce the breach time as much as possible in order to minimize the damage caused by cyber attacks. To put it in perspective, if in the past it was acceptable to dwell on a cyber alert for days and weeks, now every cyber alert has to be perceived and assessed within minutes. This is why the phrase “Time is of the essence” holds true, particularly in cybersecurity.

In this regard, SOCs are in dire need of additional technologies that will vastly improve their response time. This is where SOAR steps in as a force multiplier to optimize the productivity of the entire SOC. But how does SOAR work exactly? That topic is exactly what we’ll uncover in the remainder of this blog post.

How SOAR helps SOCs in improving security operating procedures

If there’s one thing that is not advised in incident management is improvisation. SOCs must follow a certain set of rules to optimally deal with cyber threats, and in order for SOCs to run successful and effective security operations, they must comply with SOPs. SOP or Standard Operating Procedure is a set of written instructions that establish a routine activity followed closely by every security professional. The utilization of SOPs is an integral part of every SOC team as security operating procedures provide consistently outlined protocols that aim to optimally enhance the processes conducted within a SOC.

The reason why SOPs are a relevant part of a successful SOC is that SOPs detail the recurring workflow processes and document the manner in which the activities were conducted. This is done with the goal of providing a clear set of guidelines that seek to ensure that the processes maintain high quality and comply with government regulations.

For example, SOPs aim to help CSIRTs in following a concise workflow when dealing with cyber threats. SOPs outline the necessary protocols which the security professional must follow in the event of a cyber attack. For instance, the SOP might underline the exact role of a CSIRT in case of an incident and signify at what point of the incident the CSIRT is responsible for reporting data breaches.

The most important thing about SOPs is that in order for them to be effective, they must be closely followed and strictly adhered to by the entire organization. Only then will the SOC reap the full benefits of security operating procedures. However, given that some of the actions recommended by a SOP may be time-consuming and disrupt the workflow of a security team, implementing SOAR as a tool that can automate such tasks with maximum proficiency is of the utmost importance.

SOAR can single-handedly automate manual tasks, such as generating and sending reports, thus saving a lot of time security professionals would otherwise spend on completing these tasks. But, the benefits of implementing SOAR don’t stop there.

SOAR improves the overall functionality of SOC teams

The power of SOAR lies in its swift customization. SOAR, as a technology, is crafted in such a way that it improves the functionality of every cybersecurity tool it interacts with. And some of the most notable ways SOAR enhances SOC operations is by offering the following values:

  • Improved response to cyber attacks: SOAR vastly improves the response time to cyber attacks by utilizing its machine learning engine and automation capabilities to detect cyber threats as they arrive in real-time and apply remediation techniques based on historical pattern behavior.

  • Minimized damage: SOAR is capable of addressing low-risk alerts on its own (if given the authority) and only requires human intervention in cases where the knowledge gained from previous pattern behaviors isn’t enough to tackle the alert in its entirety.

  • Detection of false positives: SOAR uses automation and machine learning to constantly learn the idiosyncrasies of incoming alerts and uses that knowledge to detect alerts that have characteristics similar to those that were previously qualified as false positives.

  • Significant time saving due to automation: SOAR is perfectly capable of thoroughly automating a security operation from detection to conclusion by using its machine learning algorithm. And, the great thing about SOAR the degree of automation can be adjusted, giving you the power to apply automation to those pesky alerts that would otherwise consume a big chunk of your time.

  • Swift integration with third-party tools: Cloud SOAR, in particular, has adopted a great integration philosophy. Its Open Integration Framework allows clients to easily integrate with over 200 of the most popular cybersecurity tools and also add new integrations with little coding experience without our assistance.

It is clear that SOAR is a multipurpose technology aiming to significantly boost the efficiency of the entire SOC with the goal of preventing cyber threats and improving the manner in which security operations are conducted.

SOAR takes over where detection starts

The addition to every cyber technology is never taken lightly, and rightly so. Adding a new technology can disrupt the workflow process, it can take quite some time for the tool to adapt to the environment, plus the employees would need time to overcome the learning curve of the technology. So, it is natural to assume that the addition of new cybersecurity technologies is taken with a grain of salt.

However, when it comes to SOAR, the situation is a little different. The very existence of SOAR is based on the premise that the addition of new technologies should be as smooth as possible without causing any disruption in the workflow processes. In fact, this is one of the best features of SOAR. Its highly customizable nature allows environments to adapt the technology almost instantaneously and bear the benefits of its capabilities with an instant impact.

To answer the question “how does SOAR work with other technologies,” like SIEM, for instance, we need to refer to the title of this blog post. SOAR starts where detection ends. This means that what SOAR does is it enhances the way other cybersecurity technologies work. Let’s elaborate on the fact of how SOAR and SIEM work together:

  • SIEM: SIEM can be comprehended as a highly efficient data-collecting tool that collects, aggregates, identifies and categorizes data regarding cyber alerts and incidents. However, SIEM requires constant tuning and adjusting to new patterns in order to differentiate anomalous and normal activity, which is quite important for SOCs. And the burden of constantly tuning SIEM falls on the shoulders of engineers and analysts.

  • SOAR: SOAR and SIEM work toward a similar objective - help security teams properly assess the endless amount of alerts. However, unlike SIEM, SOAR goes a few steps further to use machine learning, automation, and orchestration to combine the collected data and effectively detect, tackle, and remediate alerts with minimal human intervention.

SOAR and SIEM both have their own benefits and drawbacks. For instance, SIEM is better at collecting data as it arrives in real-time, but it’s not very good at properly assessing the severity of the alerts and recognizing real threats. In this regard, SOAR has the upper hand. Even if SOAR was to detect an unprecedented alert with no visible pattern whatsoever, SOAR would use its machine-learning algorithm to provide engineers and analysts with proper precautionary measures and suggestions that will help them follow up with the alert.

Plus, SOAR uses its intelligence to merge alerts with similar characteristics into the same incident so as to save much of the analyst’s time it would naturally take to tackle those alerts individually. It is clear that SOAR is built with an advanced mindset that is set to answer the problems that previous cybersecurity solutions couldn’t resolve.

How to optimally utilize SOAR in your SOC

One thing that’s important to understand about SOAR is that SOAR alone can’t cope with the flood of sophisticated alerts. SOAR works best when it is combined with other technologies. So, the question is not whether to choose SOAR over SIEM but to consider merging these two technologies and make the most out of both their strengths:

  • Improved employee retention: Skilled engineers and analysts are not challenged by checking low-level, repetitive, and tedious alerts. Instead, they want to tackle higher-end problems that would require some out-of-the-box thinking, and SOAR allows them to do just that. SOAR frees up much of their time by automating repetitive tasks, allowing analysts to focus on more important tasks.

  • Improved threat hunting intelligence: While SIEM detects potential cyber threats, SOAR takes these alerts to the next level by responding to them and triaging the data whilst taking proper remedial measures. In this case, SOAR adds significant value to a SIEM with its machine learning engine, making the cyber defenses more resilient to attacks.

  • Improved SOC efficiency: SIEM possesses a wide array of capabilities, but they were not created to improve team collaboration, unify people, and increase the overall productivity of the SOC. In this regard, SOAR creates a centralized platform that allows the security team to communicate better and ultimately increase the effectiveness of the entire SOC.

We mentioned earlier that in order for a SOP to be effective it needs to be strictly adhered to by every security professional. We also mentioned that SOAR helps the implementation of SOP by automating those SOP-related tasks that can be automated, therefore replacing security professionals by enforcing the SOP instead of them.

That is why, by closely analyzing which security operating procedures can be automated by SOAR, analysts and engineers can perfectly adjust SOAR to automate those SOPs that don’t require human intervention, thus saving a lot of time by allowing security professionals to redirect their time in a more productive manner.

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Davor Karafiloski

Davor Karafiloski

SEO and Content Marketing Specialist

More posts by Davor Karafiloski.

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