In the first part of this blog series, we saw a brief overview of what a security operations center (SOC) is and how it operates. In this part, we’ll take a look at the typical activities that SOC analysts carry out every day to protect their organization from constantly evolving cyber threats and the skill sets that come in handy in effectively carrying out their duties.

Who are SOC analysts? 

A SOC analyst is a trained professional whose main objective is to detect and mitigate cyber threats to an organization’s network. When an organization falls victim to a cyberattack, SOC analysts are the first to respond, usually with pre-planned security strategies that sometimes require improvising to mitigate the threat and to minimize the damage caused.

They are also the security advisors of the organization, coordinating with other departments and identifying threats in existing processes, programs, and systems while taking necessary measures to improve the security of the network overall.

Job responsibilities of a SOC analyst 

SOC analysts need to have an eye for detail and extensive knowledge in cybersecurity concepts like malware analysis, network security, incident response, reverse engineering, and cybersecurity best practices. SOC analysts are expected to analyze the events happening in a network and subsequently identify, understand, and rectify cybersecurity threats. Besides real-time threats, SOC analysts should be equipped with the knowledge to effectively analyze undisclosed hardware and software vulnerabilities.

Some other critical responsibilities include:

  • Monitoring and analyzing intrusion detection systems (IDSs) and intrusion prevention systems (IPSs)

  • Analyzing network traffic and logs

  • Detecting insider threats and advanced persistent threats (APTs)

  • Analyzing malware and carrying out forensics

  • Differentiating between intrusion attempts and false alarms

  • Tracking investigations and resolving threats

  • Composing security alert notifications

  • Advising incident responders and other teams on threats

5 everyday tasks of a SOC analyst

Generally, SOC teams operate in different shifts around the clock. When an analyst starts their shift, the first thing they get is a briefing of security activity and information from the analysts on the previous shift. Any suspicious incident is reported to the incoming analyst so it can be tracked further.

After that, a typical workday for a SOC analyst involves the following five tasks:

  1. Monitoring and analyzing network traffic in real time for suspicious activity.

  1. Proactively hunting for threats based on threat intelligence, business context, and behavioral cues.

  1. Working with different cybersecurity frameworks such as security information and event management (SIEM) and the IT infrastructure library (ITIL) to monitor insider threats and detect APTs.

  1. Coordinating with other teams to ensure overall network security.

  1. Responding to reported security incidents.

Tools used by SOC analysts

To secure and monitor a network effectively, there are many tools that the SOC team must use, maintain, and update on a regular basis. Some tools used by SOC teams are intrusion detection systems (IDSs), intrusion prevention systems (IPSs), next-generation firewalls (NGFWs), and log analytics tools.

Apart from these, one of the most important tools SOC teams use is a SIEM solution. To help SOC teams operate efficiently, a SIEM solution should:

  • Collect data from IT operations management and user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) tools for quick incident detection.

  • Display information on real-time analytical dashboards for immediate incident detection.

  • Manage workflows automatically with predefined workflow actions.

  • Offer built-in ticketing systems and communicate with the ITIL.

  • Ensure accountability in incident resolution.

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