Security ratings are becoming a crucial component of every security operations center (SOC). Security analysts must learn how to read, analyze and report security ratings to the CISO effectively in order to help build an enterprise-wide culture of security. Here we outline how analysts can develop a successful security operations center that leverages ratings to evaluate and mitigate cyber risk.
How Does a Security Operations Center (SOC) Work?
A security operations center is the central hub through which cyber threat monitoring, detection, response, and analysis occurs at an organization. The SOC continuously monitors everything from internet traffic to internal network traffic, desktop computers, servers, endpoint devices, IoT, databases, applications, and more.
SOC team members generally aren’t focused on developing the security strategy itself but are there instead to implement that strategy, including deploying protective measures as incidents arise and analyzing the aftermath. Teams make use of technology for data collection, monitor endpoints for vulnerabilities, and ensure compliance with regulations as they protect sensitive data.
The work of the SOC begins with a well-defined security strategy aligned with business goals. From there, the necessary infrastructure to deploy and support the strategy must be put in place and maintained using a myriad of tools, features, and functions.
Best Practices for a Successful Security Operations Center
Because the threat landscape is ever-evolving and expanding, the role of the SOC in an organization is vital. The SOC must be well-organized and effective if it is to achieve its mandate of protecting corporate assets from cyberattacks. Here we outline 7 best practices for setting up a successful SOC.
1. Set Up the Right Team
The right team should include individuals with varied skill sets in order to avoid a skills gap. A good SOC team should have the following skills on board:
- System and intelligence monitoring
- Alert management
- Incident analysis
- Incident response
- Threat hunting
- Intrusion detection
Not only do the team members need to be skilled and highly trained from the start, but staying up to date requires budgeting for ongoing employee training as well. The team should also have a strong leader, capable of seeing the big picture and keeping everyone on task–particularly when faced with an active threat.
2. Align Strategy with Business Goals
An organization’s cybersecurity posture and business goals should always be in alignment. This means that it must be clear to business stakeholders why investment into the SOC is important in terms of the value created by the SOC team.
Alignment of SOC strategy with business goals starts with a company-wide examination of the current state of each. This type of risk assessment provides an opportunity to inventory existing assets and identify gaps or potential vulnerabilities. From there, the organization can identify what metrics and KPIs SOC analysts should track in order to maintain a clear picture of its ongoing contribution to corporate goals.
It’s also a good idea to develop a clear set of processes and procedures to help guide the SOC team, though these processes should include room for continuous reflection and optimization to stay on top of emerging risks.
3. Leverage the Best Tools
There exists a vast sea of security tools and products which vary considerably in quality, price, and interoperability. Keep in mind that the best tools only provide the best protection if they don’t leave gaps and you are able to maintain visibility and control across all segments. Because of this, it is vital to thoroughly research which tools meet your team’s needs before purchasing.
Common tools include:
- Endpoint protection systems
- Firewalls and antivirus software
- Intelligent automated application security
- Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools
- Asset discovery and monitoring systems
- Data monitoring tools
- Threat intelligence tools
- Security ratings
- Compliance monitoring solutions
High interoperability among your chosen tools ensures better coverage and reduces the chance of missing a breach or being unable to respond quickly. SOC budgets are typically not without limits, so spending on the necessary tools should be done in a smart way that optimizes interoperability, functionality, and future-proofing.
4. Enable End-to-End Visibility
To provide the best possible protection, the SOC team needs full visibility into cyber risk management, systems, and real-time data across the enterprise. If silos prevent the SOC team from monitoring certain assets, or makes the monitoring more cumbersome by separating it from the rest of security operations, then it becomes easier to miss an active threat and more challenging to neutralize it in a timely manner.
The SOC team can only protect what they can see. In a threat landscape where a single device is all it takes to compromise network security, lack of visibility can have severe consequences. The team must be able to identify all digital assets in a centralized way and be able to incorporate all data and monitoring into its analysis.
Full end-to-end visibility also includes insight into third-party services. This is where cyber risk scores can come in handy–they enable you to keep an eye on any vendor’s security posture so that you can address issues quickly should they arise.
5. Continuously Monitor the Network
Security breaches can happen at any time and evolve constantly. In order to stay ahead of threats, organizations must monitor their networks continuously. Continuous monitoring enables rapid detection and response, provides real-time information on critical processes, and supports risk management.
Often this is done with automated tools that provide security alerts anytime there is suspicious activity. Early warning systems, for example, reduce the risk of attacks by enabling rapid response. Continuous monitoring software can also aggregate data for analysts, which they can use to study problems and improve future network protection. It also provides insights into user behavior, which can help teams determine the impact of changes and upgrades.
6. Secure and Patch Vulnerabilities
Vulnerabilities are par for the course when it comes to computer networks. To avoid exploits, the SOC team needs a strategy for deploying regular security updates and patches. If vulnerabilities are not patched as soon as possible after they are discovered, it leaves the network-wide open for data to be stolen, malware to be installed, and all sorts of other possible damage.
Patching helps repair bugs when they are discovered and is a critical part of proper SOC practices. Patches should be prioritized based on risk network-wide and deployed rapidly in a way that provides complete visibility into identified vulnerabilities and what each patch addresses.
7. Proactively Mitigate and Address Threats
Within the SOC should be an incident response team that is ready and prepared to activate at the earliest sign of a threat. This team should have an action plan in place for how to handle and triage any incidents that arise. Incident response teams may need to work with individuals across the organization and coordinate with legal and PR teams in the event of an attack. Incident response is a proactive endeavor critical to the success of any SOC.
How to Improve Security Operations Centers with SecurityScorecard
SecurityScorecard’s security ratings platform provides SOCs with visibility into cybersecurity risks across their entire ecosystem. Our A-F rating scale enables teams to get a picture of risk at a glance, allowing them to take proactive measures as needed. The platform continuously monitors across ten risk categories and prioritizes alerts, reducing the time it takes security analysts and teams to triage and qualify alerts, and streamlining operations and response.
The scores can also be easily integrated into reports to leadership or the board, making it easier for SOC teams to demonstrate their value to corporate stakeholders, and hence easier to get the funding and resources needed to stay one step ahead of bad actors in the threat landscape.