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Synopsis: A SOC is emerging as a key line of defense to prevent major cyber incidents. But is it a silver bullet for security?

In today’s business environment of everything digital and rapid cloud adoption, enterprise security has become incredibly complicated. Threats are becoming more and more sophisticated; attacks can come from any direction and the nature of attacks are ever-changing. Organizations are realizing that applying a few tools and policies is no longer enough for preventing cyber attacks. They need to proactively and constantly monitor to identify any vulnerabilities and flaws in the IT network and take necessary actions to avoid any potential attack. Because of this, a Security Operations Center (SOC) is emerging as a key line of defense.

Built on the pillars of people, process and technology, a SOC can identify and resolve threats before they can cause any damage and, in many cases, it can help respond faster to existing threats. A SOC includes a highly skilled team that operates round-the-clock and serves as a centralized platform to monitor, prevent, detect, analyze and respond to cyber security incidents. It collects information from within the organization and correlates this with external data (news feeds, incident reports, vulnerabilities alerts) to identify suspicious activity in the network and take rapid action to stop it. Improving an organization’s IT security posture by identifying infrastructure and application susceptibilities and weaknesses, and then addressing them, is at the core of SOC.

Is SOC a security panacea?

With its effective monitoring and rapid response capabilities, a SOC is definitely the most important tool in an organization’s arsenal to prevent major cyber incidents. So, is it infallible? Does a SOC guarantee that your organization can’t be attacked? Well, unfortunately, there is no such thing as a silver bullet in security. While a SOC is the backbone of an effective cyber strategy and forms the heart of effective detection, it needs to be well-designed to deliver on its promise.

One of the classic mistakes that organizations make is to consider SOC as the end of their security journey, instead of the start of it. Even if an organization has been able to deploy the best of people and technologies, it needs to focus on continuous improvement to ensure the effectiveness of a SOC in terms of staying ahead of the cyber adversaries. However, it’s easier said than done as it involves considerable costs and dedicated effort. In this context, outsourcing SOC to a managed security service provider (MSSP) is emerging as a viable option.

Why outsourcing makes sense?

In an MSSP model, an organization has the advantage of a ready infrastructure, advanced tools and intelligence, as well as a highly experienced and skilled team, which due to their engagement with multiple clients, evolves continuously to manage current and future threats.

Much depends on the selection of the right provider. A combination of strong processes, people, governance and technologies lays the foundation of a successful SOC. Look for an MSSP that has strengths in all these departments. Closely analyze the technologies, tools and approaches to data protection adopted by the provider and experience of the analysts managing the SOC. Look if the MSSP has analysts with industry standard certifications such as CISSP or CHFI. It’s also essential to check for specific skill-based expertise, including database security, perimeter firewalls, forensics, SIEM expertise, DLP, IPS and end point security, etc.

Check if the provider is using threat intelligence to discriminate between real threats and non-threats. Also, the use of automation for routine tasks, such as identifying low-level incidents and vulnerabilities, as well as filtering out false positives, is a key point to look for. Leading MSSPs are using artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies to help security analysts focus on relevant alerts and eliminate false alarms from the huge amount of incoming threat and security information. service level agreements (SLAs) and nondisclosure agreements are also important pointers to consider in the evaluation process. SLAs must be well-defined and measurable, and clearly state mutual benefits, deliverables and resolution mechanisms in case of disputes.

It’s always a good idea to do a comprehensive background check and speak to reference customers, so you can understand the provider’s strengths and weakness. Global MSSPs like Netmagic have a strong client portfolio and partnerships with leading security vendors.

A provider offering SOC services in a remote shared model—as an on-site dedicated team, or as a hybrid approach combining a dedicated team with the additional scalability and expertise of the remote SOC, gives you access to an efficient SOC at a much lower price point.