Enterprise SOCs: How They Work and Why Most Are Insufficient

In the realm of cybersecurity, the concept of a Security Operations Center (SOC) serves as a bastion against the relentless tide of cyber threats. However, delving deeper into the intricacies of how a SOC operates reveals that the notion of an enterprise SOC can sometimes be misleading, akin to a company attempting to run its own power plant in an era of renewable energy, or building their own data center amidst an abundance of cloud services. As we peel back the layers of SOC operations, it becomes evident that enterprise-launched SOCs can quickly prove insufficient in the face of today’s cyberthreats.

Decoding the Inner Workings and Challenges of a SOC

A SOC is the vigilant guardian standing between an organization’s sensitive data and the multitude of cyber adversaries seeking to breach its defenses. Its arsenal is comprised of a concoction of technological marvels, including Artificial Intelligence (AI), log analysis, and real-time threat detection mechanisms. To build and maintain an effective SOC, organizations invest in a spectrum of expertise from cybersecurity analysts to incident response teams. All of this sounds great; you want a well-structured SOC to act as your organization’s digital sentry, shield, and sword.

Realities begin to hit when significant challenges emerge for SOC environments, though. These challenges include:

  • Overwhelming Alert Volumes: The rapidly evolving threat landscape results in an avalanche of alerts from various security tools. Amidst this influx, critical alerts may become lost or buried beneath a sea of false positives or low-priority notifications.
  • Visibility Gaps: The lack of comprehensive visibility into an organization’s entire digital ecosystem leaves blind spots ripe for exploitation. Attackers then exploit these gaps.
  • Sophisticated Threats: Cybercriminals are adept at crafting attacks that evade conventional security measures. Advanced malware, zero-day vulnerabilities, and sophisticated social engineering techniques evade detection and call for heightened vigilance.
  • Alert Fatigue: Overburdened analysts grappling with a barrage of alerts can experience alert fatigue—a condition where the volume of alerts diminishes their ability to discern genuine threats from false positives.
  • Ineffective Contextualization: Isolated alerts provide limited context, making it challenging for analysts to gauge the severity and scope of an incident. This lack of contextualization hampers timely and accurate decision-making.
  • Legacy Solutions: Some SOCs rely on legacy technologies that lack the agility and sophistication needed to combat today’s modern threats. These outdated solutions struggle to keep pace with rapidly evolving attack techniques.

The flaws of an enterprise SOC begin to emerge with one subtle yet impactful component that can break everything in one cyber event: Why are you doing this anyway?

The Limited Lens of an Enterprise SOC

An enterprise SOC, no matter how robust, can only glimpse the threats present in its own digital kingdom. If Coca-Cola were to launch a SOC (and they might have), for example, that SOC has no insights into the flow of threats across the entire spectrum of the digital realm. Threat feeds are, at best, a backfill. This isolated perspective hinders a comprehensive understanding of the evolving threat landscape. Coca-Cola’s SOC probably knows a lot about threats to the food and beverage industry, but they are myopic by nature when it comes to the complex landscape of threats affecting organizations at large.

Service-Based Collective Security

Today’s cyber threats transcend company borders, necessitating more collective defensive capabilities than before. The digital landscape is brimming with cunning, malicious adversaries who are constantly evolving their tactics. Today’s cybercriminals seem to care more about attack opportunities than specializing in specific targets, and this interconnectedness of threats necessitates an equally interconnected defense mechanism.

Service-based SOCs wield the power of detection and protection for thousands of clients. They have assembled teams of seasoned cybersecurity professionals, implemented the best monitoring practices, incorporated cutting-edge technologies, and achieved scalability, flexibility, cost-efficiency, collaboration, and more. This reduces the burden for organizations, allowing them to focus on their core business competencies and what they were created to do. Going back to the Cola-Cola example, it allows them to focus on making and selling soft drinks.

Within the service-based SOC model, the intelligence gleaned from a single incident has immense value. Knowledge from a single event ripples across the entire network and all clients, allowing the service-based SOC to better fortify others against similar threats. By pooling resources, expertise, and insights, organizations can elevate their defense capabilities through security services that utilize a breadth of telemetric data from various sources.

It is time to challenge the notion of siloed defenses, often represented through the enterprise SOC. More importantly, it is time for organizations to break free from the idea of building their own.

This article was originally published in Forbes, please follow me on LinkedIn.