SOC as a Service: Outsourcing Your Security Operations Center

What Is SOC as a Service?

SOC as a Service, also known as a managed SOC, allows organizations to outsource threat detection and incident response activities to a third-party provider. The idea of a managed SOC is to provide the same capabilities of an internal Security Operations Center (SOC) as a subscription-based cloud service. This allows organizations to monitor security events across the IT environment, identify threats, and respond to them, without maintaining an on-premises incident response team.

A 24/7 SOC is considered an essential part of an effective cybersecurity strategy for large organizations, and many small-to-medium organizations are establishing virtual or hybrid SOCs that can provide some SOC capabilities. However, implementing a SOC can be complex and expensive. A full-scale SOC can take years to establish and cost millions of dollars.

SOC as a Service provides organizations with a team of cybersecurity experts specializing in threat monitoring, detection, and investigation. The same team handles response and mitigation of detected threats, in coordination with in-house IT or security teams. Organizations can leverage SOC as a Service immediately, without waiting for recruitment of staff and with minimal upfront expenses.

Related content: Read our guide to CISO as a Service

What Can a Managed SOC Protect?

A managed SOC can protect all visible applications, processes, devices, and systems. The goal is to gain complete visibility and control into the entire threat landscape, including clouds, various endpoints, on-premises servers and software, and third-party services. This level of visibility enables the managed SOC to protect the entire ecosystem against cyber attacks.

Preparation and Preventative Maintenance

Managed SOC services strive to prevent as many issues as possible while preparing for likely scenarios. Preparation involves keeping informed on the latest security innovations, cybercrime trends, and new threats, using this research to inform cybersecurity efforts. Preventive maintenance involves setting up controls to prevent threats, such as system updates, patching vulnerabilities, allowlists, and updating firewall policies.

Continuous Proactive Monitoring

A managed SOC continuously and proactively monitors the environment, looking for anomalies and suspicious activity. Using advanced tools like endpoint detection and response (EDR) and security information and event management (SIEM), a managed SOC can achieve 24/7 monitoring. Advanced tools with behavioral analysis can automatically detect suspicious activity to minimize the scope of human triage and analysis.

Alert Ranking and Management

A managed SOC receives alerts from monitoring tools and then investigates. It involves discarding false positives and determining the threat level of actual threats. The managed SOC also attempts to determine what the attack is targeting. The managed SOC triages emerging threats during this process and prioritizes the most urgent incidents.

Threat Response

A managed SOC acts as the first responder during security events. It involves performing the relevant response and remediation actions, for example, deleting files, isolating endpoints, and terminating harmful processes. The managed SOC strives to initiate the necessary response while minimizing the incident's impact on business continuity.

Recovery and Remediation

In addition to performing incident response, a managed SOC coordinates recovery and remediation on behalf of the organization. It involves taking the appropriate steps to recover critical systems and data so that the organization can maintain business continuity. The managed SOC also remediates to fix damages caused during the incident and prevent similar incidents from occurring again.

Log Management

A managed SOC collects, maintains, and regularly reviews all network activity logs and communications across the organization's entire ecosystem. This data helps create a baseline for normal network activity and reveal the existence of threats. It also supports forensics efforts during post-incident investigations.

Root Cause Investigation

A SOC strives to determine the root cause of a security incident. It involves determining the incident's what, when, why, and how. Typically, the managed SOC uses various sources, like log data, to trace the root cause. The goal is to prevent similar issues from occurring in the future.

Security Refinement and Improvement

A managed SOC implements improvements continuously to ensure that security controls and policies are updated with the latest cybercrime tools and tactics. The goal is to stay ahead of cybercriminals, keeping strategies updated and the team prepared through tests and training.

Compliance Management

A managed SOC helps ensure the organization complies with the relevant security requirements and data protection and regulations. It involves implementing the relevant security policies and external standards, such as ISO 27001x, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and the NIST Cybersecurity Framework (CSF).

Benefits of Managed SOC Services

Key benefits of a managed SOC service include:

  • Expert security staff—due to the cybersecurity skills shortage, many organizations are struggling to attract and retain skilled security staff. Partnering with a managed SOC can fill this gap.

  • Access to specialized expertise—many security incidents require specialized security experts such as incident responders, cloud security specialists, digital forensics experts, or malware analysts. Such skill sets are rare and difficult to recruit internally. SOC-as-a-Service providers provide access to trained cybersecurity specialists on an as-needed basis.

  • Lower total cost of ownership—a managed SOC allows organizations to share equipment, software licensing, and payroll costs with other customers. This can reduce both capital investment and operating costs of cybersecurity operations.

  • Improving security maturity—building a mature cybersecurity program and the required organizational knowledge can take time and requires a major investment, which not all organizations are able to make. Partnering with a SOC as a Service provider can accelerate this process, giving organizations access to a provider's existing solution stack and advanced security practices.

  • Modernizing security—with limited IT and security budgets, most organizations find it difficult to keep up with the latest SOC technologies and security practices. Managed SOC providers operate at large scale so they can afford to adopt the latest techniques and technologies, allowing customers to benefit from state-of-the-art security.

Be sure to check out what is a Security Operations Center.

How to Evaluate SOC as a Service Providers

Use the following criteria to see if a SOC as a Service provider is suitable for your needs:

  • Integration with existing security infrastructure—if you already have an on-premises security team or security technology, identify if the managed SOC will replace those existing resources, or if it can make use of them, and if so, how collaboration will work.

  • Deploying agents or servers—most SOC as a Service providers require you to deploy security technologies in your environment, for example proxies and endpoint agents that can collect data and enable access by remote security experts. Identify whether these agents can have a performance impact on production systems, and whether they support operating systems and endpoints in your current environment.

  • Typical client size and industry—check what is the typical customer profile for the SOC as a Service provider. Prefer a provider that focuses on clients similar to your own organization—whether it is a small business or a large enterprise. Also check if the service works with other clients in your industry and whether they have experience with the threats and concerns specific to your field.

  • SOC personnel—investigate who are the security experts working in the managed SOC, including their training, certifications, and other important skills.

Additional Readings