Even the most sophisticated Security Operations Centers can struggle to improve SOC efficiency
Any Security Operations Centre (SOC) is the nerve center of an organization’s cybersecurity efforts. A SOC is a busy and dynamic environment where preparation and prevention are key security team and CISO responsibilities. As such, here are ten immediate steps that our clients say can significantly improve SOC efficiency.
Streamline Alert Management
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defines “false positives” as alerts that mistakenly suggest the presence of a vulnerability or the occurrence of malicious activity or inaccurately label a harmless activity as suspicious. According to a report by the Ponemon Institute, organizations receive an average of 17,000 malware alerts weekly, with only 19% being considered to be reliable.
Alert fatigue is a common challenge in SOCs, and the key to managing this is to streamline alert management:
- Implement Advanced Analytics: Leverage the power of analytics tools to improve SOC efficiency by filtering out false positives and prioritize alerts based on severity and likelihood of being a legitimate threat. Having precise boundary controls will avoid false positives and widespread account disablements.
- Automate Responses: Where possible, automate responses to common types of alerts to free up analyst time for more complex tasks.
Enhance Threat Intelligence
As the saying goes, “Data without context is noise,” and good threat intelligence can drastically improve SOC efficiency and productivity:
- Subscribe to Quality Insights: Invest in high-quality threat intelligence to stay ahead of emerging threats. Leverage machine learning cybersecurity tools in preventing zero-day attacks, to detect sophisticated threats that traditional security measures might miss. This includes advanced persistent threats (APTs), which are crucial considerations for proactive threat intelligence.
- Customize Intelligence: Tailor the threat intelligence to the specific needs and context of your organization.
Invest in the Right Tools
The right tools can break, or greatly improve, SOC efficiency:
- Integrated Security Platforms: A single window of truth is a significant time and hassle saver. Use platforms that integrate various security tools for a unified view, and if possible. leverage existing EDR agents to enhance visibility and focus efforts, boost efficiency, and achieve cost savings by reducing clutter.
- Automation Tools: Implement cybersecurity automation tools for routine tasks, such as:
Threat Detection: Automatically identifies and flags potential security threats based on behavioral analytics and predefined rules.
Alert Management: Streamlines the process of managing security alerts, reducing false positives and prioritizing critical issues.
Incident Response: Initiates predefined response actions automatically when a threat or anomaly is detected, such as isolating affected systems or revoking access.
Policy Enforcement: Applies security policies across the network automatically, ensuring consistent enforcement without manual intervention.
Reporting and Compliance: Generates regular reports on security posture and compliance status, facilitating easier management and auditing.
Application Behavior Monitoring: Continuously monitors application behavior for deviations from normal patterns, automating the process of anomaly detection.
Risk Assessment: Automatically evaluates and ranks risks based on potential impact, helping prioritize remediation efforts.
Regular Training and Skills Development
A Cybersecurity Workforce Study by (ISC)² reported a global cybersecurity workforce gap of 4.07 million, underlining the growing need for fostering skilled professionals. Continual training is essential for keeping SOC teams efficient:
- Regular Training Programs: Conduct regular training sessions on the latest cybersecurity trends and technologies.
- Skills Development: Encourage skills development in areas like incident response, forensic analysis, and threat hunting, plus develop security team champions in the likes of training against the signs of phishing and company password policy for the wider organization.
Implement a Tiered Approach to Incident Response
As per the SANS Institute, a tiered approach allows for better allocation of resources and expertise in SOC operations and ensures that incidents are handled efficiently and optimal improvement of SOC efficiency:
- Tier 1: Initial analysis and handling of common threats.
- Tier 2: More in-depth investigation of complex threats.
- Tier 3: Advanced threat hunting and forensic analysis.
Focus on Proactive Threat Hunting
According to a recent Threat Hunting Report by Cybersecurity Insiders, 43% of organizations say threat hunting has significantly enhanced their defenses:
- Regular Threat Hunts: Schedule regular sessions to search for potential threats proactively. Activities like red team exercises build bonds, can be fun, and improve SOC efficiency and response.
- Invest in Threat Hunting Tools: Use advanced tools for more effective threat hunting. These tools analyze network and system data to detect anomalies, suspicious patterns, and indicators of compromise (IOCs), based on a baseline of approved activity, helping to preemptively address potential security incidents and preventing zero-day attacks before they escalate into major breaches.
Optimize Communication and Collaboration
A survey by McKinsey found that improved communication and collaboration could increase productivity in organizations by 20-25%, making efficient communication and collaboration crucial:
- Collaboration Tools: Implement tools that facilitate easy and quick communication among team members, even if it’s just Teams, Discord, or Slack.
- Cross-Departmental Collaboration: Foster collaboration with other departments like IT, HR, and legal. This is crucial for security teams to ensure comprehensive threat awareness, align security practices with organizational goals, and foster a unified approach to cybersecurity across the company.
Leverage SOC Performance Metrics
- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Develop KPIs to measure aspects like response time, resolution rate, and analyst workload. Speaking to the SOC teams we work with, this might include:
Mean Time to Detect (MTTD): Measures the average time taken to detect a security threat or incident.
Mean Time to Respond (MTTR): The average time required to respond and mitigate a detected security incident.
Incident Resolution Rate: Percentage of successfully resolved security incidents out of the total incidents reported. Alert Fidelity: The accuracy of security alerts in identifying true threats versus false positives.
Threat Hunting Success Rate: Measures the effectiveness of proactive threat hunting activities in identifying hidden threats.
Compliance Adherence Rate: Degree to which the SOC adheres to regulatory compliance standards and internal policies.
Security Awareness Level: Assessed through regular testing, this indicates the effectiveness of security training and awareness programs.
System Uptime/Downtime: Monitoring the uptime and downtime of critical systems to assess the impact of security incidents.
Customer Satisfaction Score: Feedback from internal or external clients on the SOC’s performance and responsiveness.
Number of Incidents Over Time: Trend analysis of the number and severity of incidents over a given period to identify patterns or areas of improvement.
- Continuous Improvement: Use these metrics to identify areas for improvement.
Establish Clear Processes and SOPs
The ISO 27001 certification standard emphasizes the importance of documented information security processes in enhancing operational efficiency, and well-defined processes and SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) are key:
- Documented Processes: Ensure all procedures are well documented and easily accessible. This might include:
Incident Response Protocol: Clear guidelines on detecting, assessing, and responding to cybersecurity incidents.
Alert Triage Process: Steps for evaluating and prioritizing security alerts to manage response effectively.
Escalation Procedures: Defined escalation paths for different types of incidents, including who to notify and when.
Role and Responsibility Definitions: Clear allocation of roles and responsibilities within the SOC team.
Communication Plan: Guidelines for internal and external communication during and after security incidents.
Regular Security Audits: Procedures for conducting periodic security audits and vulnerability assessments.
Data Handling and Privacy Compliance: Policies for handling sensitive data, ensuring compliance with privacy laws and regulations.
Continuous Monitoring Practices: Guidelines for the continuous monitoring of the organization’s network and systems.
Training and Awareness Programs: Regular training and awareness sessions for SOC staff on the latest threats and security practices.
Post-Incident Review and Reporting: Procedures for conducting post-incident reviews, documenting lessons learned, and reporting to relevant stakeholders.
- Regular Reviews: Regularly review and update SOPs based on evolving threats and technologies.
Prioritize Mental Health and Wellness
The American Institute of Stress states that job stress is a major source of mental health problems. Given the notoriously high-octane nature of the SOC team grind, focusing on team wellness can’t be overlooked, and SOC leaders must seek solutions in how to avoid burning out at work:
- Regular Breaks: Encourage regular breaks to prevent professional fatigue.
- Mental Health Resources: Provide access to mental health resources/support and inspirit a culture of approachability.
- Encourage Work-life Balance: Schedule fair cover and promote the use of holiday entitlement so that staff can set appropriate boundaries between work and personal life.
The Importance of Streamlining the SOC
An efficient SOC isn’t just a component of your security strategy; it is a cornerstone of overall cyber-resilience.
Enhancing the effectiveness of a Security Operations Centre is an ongoing challenge that requires a combination of the right tools, processes, skills, and, importantly, the right approach to team well-being. By implementing these steps, organizations can greatly improve SOC efficiency, making it a better place to work and a more robust shield against ever-evolving cyber threats.
Streaming SOC efficiency is a calling for us here at TrueFort, and we’re always happy to talk to security teams about their challenges. We’re here to help; if you’d like to know more about how TrueFort Platform can magnify the performance of your cybersecurity command center, please contact us for a no-obligation chat.