Securing the Network—and Your Organization’s Future—with a SOC

Just as you wouldn’t give your house keys to someone you just met, organizations don’t want to do business with those they don’t trust. As digital transformation becomes the norm, it provides opportunities for growth and exposes vulnerabilities with the potential to breech the trust that businesses work so hard to build with their customers. Companies have to work harder and smarter than ever before to strategically develop and deploy talent equipped to ensure and retain customer confidence by protecting the safety of networks and the data they house.

Why a Security Operations Center, and Why Now?

Best practices for security highlight the importance of a Security Operations Center (SOC). This is true whether the SOC functions internally or is provided by a third party, such as a managed security service provider (MSSP).

A SOC is comprised of an internal team that watches for, finds, investigates and responds to cyberthreats around the clock. The SOC is charged with monitoring and protecting many assets, such as intellectual property, personnel data, business systems and brand integrity. This includes the connected controls found in networked industrial equipment. The SOC assumes overall responsibility for monitoring, assessing and defending against cyberattacks.

SOCs have grown in importance in recent years based on four factors:

  1. During a security event, it’s essential that there’s a centralized team to communicate with the rest of the organization and ensure efficient resolution. In turn, it’s also important that the organization knows who to turn to in the event of an incident.
  2. A centralized, real-time view of all digital assets and processes makes it possible to detect and fix problems whenever and wherever they occur. Centralization is critical for IoT systems. The sheer number of devices and the likelihood that they are widely dispersed make local monitoring impractical and inconsistent.
  3. Now, more than ever, it’s important that organizations maintain an environment where skilled people with the right tools can react quickly and collaborate to remediate systemwide as well as local problems.
  4. It’s crucial that cybersecurity tools and people work together with other critical IT functions and business operations. These departments align with business objectives and compliance needs for a high-performing operation that is efficient and effective.

A Variety of Roles

The roles and responsibilities of the SOC have expanded and changed over time. Having the right team with the right skills in place is essential to optimizing an organization’s front-line defense.

These roles typically include:

  • Incident Responder: Investigates, analyzes and responds to cyberincidents.
  • Forensic Specialist: Identifies, collects, examines and preserves evidence using analytical and investigative techniques.
  • Cybersecurity Auditor: Makes sure that systems, procedures and people are complying with cybersecurity policies and requirements.
  • Cybersecurity Analyst: Using cyberdefense tools, analyzes data from systems to identify, categorize and escalate cybersecurity events.
  • Cybersecurity SOC Manager: Manages the SOC personnel, budget, technology and programs, and interfaces with executive-level management, IT management, legal management, compliance management and the rest of the organization.

These individuals work together toward the common goal of identifying and responding to cybersecurity incidents in real time.

What it Takes to Build a SOC

As today’s networks become increasingly digitized and interconnected, SOCs are emerging as the enterprise’s front and best line of defense. The SOC is a strategic, risk-reducing asset that strengthens the security of an organization’s systems and data. Building a SOC isn’t as easy as simply hiring new team members, however.

Many open cybersecurity positions go unfilled because there aren’t enough people right now equipped with the needed skills. This skills shortage is one of the biggest cybersecurity challenges the industry is facing. Market intelligence firm Cybersecurity Ventures predicts there will be 3.5 million cybersecurity job openings by 2021.

There aren’t enough professionals with the right skills to fill these jobs, and that’s not all. A series of research reports from leading industry analyst Enterprise Strategy Group indicates that many currently employed cybersecurity professionals are overworked, not managing their careers proactively and not receiving the proper amount of training to stay ahead of increasingly dangerous and prevalent threats.

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This can cause job churn, which means organizations lose the precious few skilled professionals they do have unless changes are made. To fully staff a SOC, organizations can proactively encourage training, re-skilling and certification of employees. Continuous learning opportunities expand cybersecurity knowledge within the organization and increase engagement among the team. Certifications also validate skill sets during the hiring process. By utilizing these training and hiring strategies, companies are best equipped to fully staff their SOCs and lay a solid foundation of trust.

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May 29, 2018
Tom Gilheany

Tom Gilheany

Tom Gilheany is the product manager of security learning products within Cisco Services. His background is diverse; he’s worked in small startups and multinational Fortune 100 companies in product management and technical marketing positions. Prior to his transition to marketing, he spent more than a decade working in Information Technology and Operations. Tom holds a CISSP, an MBA, and is an active board member of the Silicon Valley Product Management Association and Product Camp Silicon Valley.

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