Welcome to our new blog series. Silver Linings is an educational resource for our readers on cybersecurity topics written by our staff of experts. Thanks for joining us!
In this first post, we start right at the beginning and break down the basics of security operations center (SOC)-as-a-Service, including what it is, how it helps, and how to find the right SOC-as-a-Service provider.
What is a SOC?
You may have heard the term SOC used before in reference to a company’s cybersecurity defenses. A SOC is a group of cybersecurity experts who work together to monitor the networks, devices, applications, and users within an organization, looking for potential security problems, malicious behavior, or evidence of vulnerabilities.
Any of these could result in a security breach, leading to loss or theft of critical data, successful ransomware attacks, or major systems outages. Thankfully, with its regular activity monitoring and discovery of security issues across a digital environment, a SOC helps to detect and respond to these threats, as well as prevent future attacks by identifying areas where security can be improved.
A SOC can be established and run internally by a specific business or organization. It also can be outsourced to an external provider that delivers SOC-as-a-Service to customers who don’t have the time, budget, space, equipment, or staffing resources to build and manage their own in-house SOC.
What is SOC-as-a-Service and why would you need it?
SOC-as-a-Service provides a business or organization with a viable alternative to setting up and managing its own SOC. Run by an external security vendor, SOC-as-a-Service delivers the infrastructure, the integrated technology and tools, the cybersecurity expertise, the 24x7x365 coverage, and the hands-on service necessary to protect a customer’s organization without requiring more people internally. For the customer, the result of this managed model is access to powerful cybersecurity – without the heavy lift of an in-house solution.
As an example, for many businesses, it is financially impossible to hire enough cybersecurity professionals that are specifically paid to establish and manage an in-house SOC. It takes at least six experienced cybersecurity analysts to establish effective 24x7x365 monitoring coverage alone, not to mention the specialized skills needed for upfront and ongoing technology integrations, and maintenance.
While an organization’s resources may be limited, the need for strong, cutting-edge, 24x7x365 security protection never goes away and requires constant management. The answer is to turn to a SOC vendor for help. SOC-as-a-Service acts as an extension of an internal IT or security team, helping companies and organizations with limited resources more effectively detect potential incidents and combat any cybersecurity threats effectively around-the-clock.
In addition to providing an organization with the security and staff resources it needs but doesn’t have, there is another key benefit that a SOC-as-a-Service arrangement offers: It’s the vendor’s responsibility to remain updated and knowledgeable on all the recent security technology advances and compliance changes, such as software patches, new technologies, zero-day exploits, certification training, and changes in the attacker landscape. By taking this burden off the organization’s internal team and ensuring that strong cybersecurity and 24x7x365 active monitoring are in place, SOC-as-a-Service allows the organization to focus its time (and its team’s time) on IT and security projects that align to the long-term strategy and help move the business forward.
How do you find the right SOC-as-a-Service provider?
There are a few things to look for in a SOC-as-a-Service provider, beginning with choosing one with multiple (and preferably global) SOC locations so that no matter where your organization is located, you know that you’ll have the 24x7x365 expert support you need. Coverage should include access to the provider’s SOC-as-a-Service team that will monitor your systems and network activity for threats, protect your endpoints, manage your firewalls, and allow you to scan for vulnerabilities.
The provider should offer a customized playbook that defines how it will work with your internal team – including specific details on how identified issues are addressed and how, when, and which types of threats will be escalated to you.
Ideally, the provider should offer additional security services outside of the SOC-as-a-Service offering to help you address specific issues that arise, such as professional services and penetration testing – or proactive efforts such as pre-certification compliance check-ups.
Not all SOC-as-a-Service providers offer full remediation capabilities. Be sure to understand what levels of remediation are provided, as well as how the SOC analysts will identify, investigate, and triage issues to determine the threat level. Analysts should provide quick observations, identify any suspicious activity, and provide you with detailed reports about security events, highlight policy violations, suggest improvements, and guide remediations.
In short, a SOC-as-a-Service should serve as the security team you don’t have.
What types of companies can SOC-as-a-Service help?
SOC-as-a-Service is a great option for companies that need a SOC but lack the resources needed to create, manage, and staff their own in-house security operations. Customers across a variety of industries can benefit from this managed services SOC model, including credit unions, financial services, education, technology, and many others. The ability for any organization to access strong SOC capabilities on-demand enables them to focus on the business – letting the provider take on the burden of responsibility for delivering effective cybersecurity protection across the organization’s expanding environment.