An Information Security Operations Center (ISOC or SOC) is a facility where security staff monitor enterprise systems, defend against security breaches, and proactively identify and mitigate security risks.
In the past, the SOC was considered a heavyweight infrastructure which is only within the reach of very large or security-minded organizations. Today, with new collaboration tools and security technology, many smaller organizations are setting up virtual SOCs which do not require a dedicated facility, and can use part-time staff from security, operations and development groups. Many organizations are setting up managed SOCs or hybrid SOCs which combine in-house staff with tools and expertise from Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs).
Motivation for Building a SOC
A SOC is an advanced stage in the security maturity of an organization. The following are drivers that typically push companies to take this step:
Requirements of standards such as the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), government regulations, or client requirements
The business must defend very sensitive data
Past security breaches and/or public scrutiny
Type of organization—for example, a government agency or Fortune 500 company will almost always have the scale and threat profile that justifies a SOC, or even multiple SOCs
Challenges When Building a Security Operations Center
Security teams building a SOC face several common challenges:
Limited visibility—a centralized SOC does not always have access to all organizational systems. These could include endpoints, encrypted data, or systems controlled by third parties which have an impact on security.
White noise—a SOC receives immense volumes of data and much of it is insignificant for security. Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) and other tools used in the SOC are getting better at filtering out the noise, by leveraging machine learning and advanced analytics.
False positives and alert fatigue—SOC systems generate large quantities of alerts, many of which turn out not to be real security incidents. False positives can consume a large part of security analysts’ time, and make it more difficult to notice when real alerts occur.
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