Hacking is finding a way to accomplish a goal, never accepting no for an answer, and being more persistent and patient than anyone else. – Paul Asadoorian, founder and CTO, Security Weekly.

Hackers arm themselves with the latest technologies, employ different techniques, and try to exploit all possible vulnerabilities in the security of an organization. With these tools under their belt, hackers will persist until they get what they want.

To stay one step ahead of hackers and remain up to date on cutting-edge technologies, your organization needs a dedicated team whose main objective is to detect and stop cyberattacks that threaten it. This is where security operations centers (SOCs) come into play.

In the first part of this blog series on SOCs, we’ll cover what they are and how they work, and later, we’ll dive deeper into SOCs and take a look at the life of a SOC analyst.

What is a security operations center? 

A SOC is a central facility for a team of security experts who work around the clock to monitor and shut down security threats to an organization. The SOC team’s objective is to detect, investigate, and mitigate cyberattacks using a combination of technology solutions and workflows.

As opposed to a regular IT department, SOCs are generally staffed with specialized security engineers. Depending on the enterprise, SOCs may also include security experts with specific skills in cybersecurity fields like intrusion detection, malware reverse engineering, risk analysis, forensic analysis, cryptanalysis, and more.

SOCs have two important responsibilities among others: thwarting cyberattacks, and monitoring compliance to mandates.

Thwarting cyberattacks 

SOCs monitor and analyze activity on an organization’s networks, servers, databases, applications, websites, and other systems, looking for malicious activity that could indicate a security incident or compromise. To mitigate attacks successfully, SOC team members should be knowledgeable about the latest trends in cybercrime, new security developments, and recommended best practices.

Other activities like regularly conducting maintenance checks, updating existing systems, patching vulnerabilities, and updating firewall rules should also be carried out by the team. Many times, security alarms can be set off by a justifiable action, so SOCs also aim to eliminate false positives. A major part of this process involves adding new rules and modifying existing rules which trigger false positives.

Monitoring compliance to mandates 

Meeting compliance requirements is not a one-time job; whether it’s for an internal security audit or to comply with regulatory mandates, it’s necessary to continuously monitor the network for any violations. SOCs conduct these regular user and change monitoring activities to ensure that compliance standards are always met. Preparing audit reports for regulatory mandates such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, SOX, GDPR, FISMA, and more is one of the major responsibilities for SOCs.

How do SOCs work? 

SOCs primarily use security information and event management (SIEM) solutions to thwart attacks and meet compliance requirements. These SIEM systems use various techniques to establish and maintain security, and correlate all security events to detect any signs of attacks. Threats of lesser significance are monitored for signs of any future stealth attacks.

Some critical capabilities that a SIEM solution offers include:

  • Log management

  • Incident management

  • Privileged user activity monitoring

  • Threat intelligence

  • User entity and behavior analytics (UEBA)

  • Forensic analysis and reporting

  • File integrity monitoring

  • Database and application auditing

  • Network device auditing

  • Active Directory change auditing

Each of these features ensures that the organization’s network is safeguarded from different types of cyberattacks. Since cyberattacks can escalate rapidly, the tools and systems used by the SOC should be automated to take remedial actions immediately.

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  1. Akpa Samuel Okai

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