Last updated at Thu, 25 Jan 2024 15:00:04 GMT

So your security team is ready to scale up its security operations center, or SOC, to better meet the security needs of your organization. That’s great news. But there are some very important strategic questions that need to be answered if you want to build the most effective SOC you can and avoid some of the most common pitfalls teams of any size can encounter.

The Gartner® report SOC Model Guide, is an excellent resource for understanding how to ask the right questions regarding your security needs and what to do once those questions are answered.

Question 1: Which Model is Right for You?

There are several different ways to build an effective SOC. And while some are more complicated (perhaps even prohibitively so) than others, knowing what your needs and resources are at the outset will help you make this crucial initial decision.

Gartner puts it this way:

“A SOC model defines a strategy for variation in the use of internal teams and external service providers when running a SOC. It ensures all roles required to operate a SOC are allocated to those best suited to discharge the associated responsibilities. An effective SOC model lets SRM leaders allocate resources based on business priorities, available skill sets and budget…”

There are effectively three ways to build a SOC: internal, external, and hybrid. The report has this to say:

"Opting for a hybrid SOC is one way to help grow capabilities, while managing scale and cost. A hybrid SOC is one in which more than one team, both insourced and outsourced, plays a role in the activities required for proper SOC operation. The question of which teams, roles, jobs and activities are best kept in-house or outsourced is complex. Building a SOC model helps you answer it and ensure a hybrid SOC is well-balanced."

Question 2: Who Does What?

Let’s assume your organization is opting for a hybrid approach. The next question you will need to ask yourself is what roles am I outsourcing and what roles am I keeping in-house? Understanding your business needs and whether internal or external partners are the best course of action can take some serious soul-searching on your part.

Luckily, Gartner has some recommendations. From the report:

Gartner says "Some SOC tasks are strategic, such as those performed by the roles of senior investigator, incident response manager and red team tester. They are often best performed by in-house staff who understand the business’s needs and the security issues.

"Other SOC tasks are tactical, such as building detection content for common
attacks. They are generally best performed by a larger external team, which can do
them more efficiently, on a bigger scale, and for longer periods."

Question 3: How Do We Keep Everything Humming Along?

Once you’ve chosen your SOC model and built your team, it is important to be monitoring and reacting to the ways in which the internal and external partners work together. Let’s assume you’ve followed Gartner recommendations and outsourced your tactical needs and some highly specific skill sets and kept your strategic thinkers in-house, then you need to have a way for the teams to work together that is as dynamic as the environment they are seeking to protect.

Gartner offers this advice:

“Have clear demarcations between objective handlers, but ensure there is shared awareness. A challenge with hybrid models that use different providers or teams to handle objectives is that it can be hard to instill a results-oriented mindset. An external provider or internal team often gets “tunnel vision” — focusing only on its own individual objective — and loses sight of the big picture of SOC performance. You must ensure each provider or team is aware of its impact on adjacent objectives, not just its own.”

Just because different teams are going to have relatively different goals does not mean they should operate in silos. Ensuring that internal and external team members are able to see the big picture and understand the capabilities and limitations of others on the team is a critical component of building a SOC that works well today and grows well together.

Building a SOC from scratch is no easy feat and it is made harder without some serious strategic thinking and soul searching before building the team. Understand your unique needs, the general needs of a SOC team, what your resources are, and the expectations of your organization before building your own A-team of crack security professionals.

To read more about SOC Models check out Gartner SOC Model Guide here.

Gartner, SOC Model Guide, Eric Ahlm, Mitchell Schneider, Pete Shoard, 18 October 2023

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