Security Operations Center as a Service (SOCaaS)

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What is a SOC as a Service? 

SOC as a Service is an offering from a cybersecurity company that typically acts as a customer’s entire security operations center (SOC). Due to extenuating circumstances, like a talent shortage or the fact that a business may be in startup or mid-life mode without the resources to property secure its network, SOC as a Service (SOCaaS) can act as that organization’s tactical console from which it can track security alerts, defend against cyber attacks, and improve overall security posture.

According to IDC, organizations can outsource a set of security functionality to a SOC team, including those such as SIEM, vulnerability management, endpoint security, and other detection and response tools. A customer organization could also sign up for the entire menu of services. Delivered as cloud service though, operations will occur offsite and hosted in the cloud. A few real-world outcomes that SOCaaS providers look to provide on behalf of a customer are:

  • Remediating cyber threats on behalf of customers 
  • Enabling customers to determine what services are relevant to them 
  • Streamlining data ingestion and analysis from a customer's network 
  • Translate processes and outcomes into relatable language that can be leveraged and understood by almost any stakeholder

With this in mind, it’s also important for a business or security organization to conduct a thorough analysis of their current security program, identifying its strengths and weaknesses and practice areas they may not previously have addressed. This will help narrow the focus of a SOCaaS vendor search to criteria unique to the customer.

SOC as a Service (SOCaaS) Benefits 

Perhaps the biggest benefit of engaging a service provider to take on a particular area of security concern is that a customer no longer has to worry about that area. Since SOCaaS encompasses many areas, as mentioned above, let’s take a look at some of the specific benefits:

Faster detection and remediation 

If a team is slow to respond when an anomaly is detected, odds are there are priorities pulling personnel in multiple directions. A SOCaaS provider will dispatch analysts dedicated to responding to cyber threats and vulnerabilities and taking them down or remediating. For an in-house SOC, rapid context switching from situation to situation can be a real time suck, thus a team dedicated solely to detection, response, and remediation will be able to move much faster.

Access to specialized security expertise 

SOC analysts must cover the gamut of specialties, and respond quickly on behalf of customers. SOCaaS vendors should be able to provide access to analysts who can address endpoint containment, threat hunting, malware analysis and containment, distributed alerting and escalation pathways, and much more. Understanding a SOC’s people, technology, and pathways can aid in the search for a trusted vendor.

Enhanced maturity 

The benefit of an accelerated evolution of a customer security program can’t be understated. SOCs are faced with threats every day – or many of them. Having a budget to address immaturity in a security program is great, but if there is no strategic in-house talent acquisition plan, then it might be a more efficient solution to shift that focus to finding the right SOCaaS partner.

Lower cost than on-premise SOC

Speaking of talent acquisition, building a SOC from the ground up can come with many additional costs than engaging a managed services partner. There are the obvious start-up costs of sourcing the right technology and personnel and there’s also the specter of churn once you have those people and operational processes in place. Around 71% of SOC analysts say they feel burned out on the job, especially if those analysts only total around seven in number and have the weight of the company’s security world on their shoulders.

SOC as a Service Roles and Responsibilities

Even in the event a company or small security organization has decided to begin the search for a SOCaaS vendor, it’s still critical to know the roles and responsibilities of the analysts and staff in that SOC. After all, they’ll be the ones protecting your environment – and reputation.

SOC Manager 

This person/position oversees the SOC, and will be in charge of directly managing a security team of several people. The SOC manager role involves developing an overall security strategy for the company – creating a vision for hiring, building processes, and developing the technology stack. This person should be able to provide both technical guidance and managerial oversight.

Security Analyst Tier 1 - Triage

An analyst in the provider’s SOC will field and alert and triage it. During that investigation, they’ll determine where in the patch or remediation queue it should fall. Alerts can take up a significant amount of time for an in-house security organization, and with a team managing and automating the triage process, it can drastically reduce the daily burden on those in-house teams. 

Security Analyst Tier 2 - Incident Responder

This type of analyst will typically field alerts from their Tier 1 counterpart. If an alert ends up in this person’s queue, that means it has been determined to be real and should be prioritized for response. Deeper investigation into the alert, identifying systems affected, and crafting of a response and/or remediation plan are key responsibilities of this role.

Security Analyst Tier 3 - Threat Hunter 

At this stage of the process, the hunt is on. If the incident has been determined to be of a more severe nature, a threat hunter will look at how an attacker or threat was able to get past initial security checks. A threat hunt enables security analysts to actively look at a customer’s network, endpoints, and security technology to look for threats or attackers that may be lurking as-yet undetected.  

Security Architect 

An architect is typically responsible for building security architecture, engineering security systems, and implementing those systems. They should also be able to document the requirements, procedures, and protocols of the architecture and systems they create. Additionally, they’ll weigh in on key regulatory and compliance requirements on behalf of their SOCaaS clients.

Challenges of SOC as a Service

A SOC is the control center for a company’s cybersecurity operations, thus there are some complex operations taking place. Some aspects are automated, some are manual human operations. And a customer organization searching for the right partner is about to outsource some – or all of – those operations. Let’s take a look at some challenges of SOCaaS as a business decides to put their digital trust into the hands of an outside team.

Onboarding process

A vulnerable phase will follow any engagement of a SOCaaS provider. That is, the provider must configure its tech stack to work within a new client’s environment, and the client must ready its network for the deployment of monitoring protocols by the new provider. Testing and implementation of a template for gathering and acting upon insights will follow during the next phase of the ramp-up period.

Enterprise data security

Securing a customer’s network is one thing, but ensuring the data is safe on the SOCaaS provider’s side is another altogether. Therefore, it’s critical for a customer to do their research to find a provider whose own defenses are fortified to protect the enterprise data of all of its clients. This essentially becomes a supply chain issue, and should be handled with all the considerations that come with that approach.

Cost of log delivery

Full access and autonomy to a provider’s operations – as concerns a specific customer – can be expensive for that customer. While it is technically the information generated by that customer’s network, the operations and actions the SOCaaS provider is taking are their own. When taking this into consideration, it’s clear why gaining full access to log data can be pricey for a security organization.

Regulatory considerations

Perhaps one of the most critical considerations is regulatory standards and remaining in compliance when handing over the keys to any part of a security organization’s operations. A large part of staying in compliance is communication and reporting, inside the company and out. Company executives will need continuous reporting to communicate compliance in good standing to certain regulatory bodies. It’s key to know whether the SOCaaS provider handles compliance or if they outsource the practice to a third-party provider.

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