6 Tips For Stronger SOCs

New guide offers ways for companies to more effectively organize, manage, and staff their security operations centers.

Security operations centers (SOCs) are not as ubiquitous and well-run as you’d think.

Gartner research has found that by 2019, only 50% of large and midsized companies will conduct security work from a SOC, and that’s up from 15% in 2015.

So with just half of organizations expected to run a SOC by the end of the decade, it’s clear that the vast majority of organizations are either starting with a SOC for the first time or still working out the kinks.

“We found that our customers came to us asking how they could more effectively manage their SOCs, as well as reduce staff,” says Kerry Matre, senior manager of security portfolio marketing at HPE.

Dark Reading’s all-day virtual event Nov. 15 offers an in-depth look at myths surrounding data defense and how to put business on a more effective security path. 

HPE’s response was to develop a new white paper, Intelligent security operations: A staffing guide, a 20-page booklet that outlines the management, personnel, and technical decisions companies must make to run effective SOCs.

With the staffing shortage for qualified security workers still an issue, automation plays an important role in organizing a SOC, notes Sharon Rosenman, vice president of marketing at Israeli company Cyberbit.

Here are six ways to better manage a SOC:

1.      Hire the right SOC manager. The SOC manager has to be right or else the rest of the operation won’t fall into place. Look for someone who’s worked in an effective SOC and who understands SOC best practices and procedures. Don’t expect to put a good networking technician or IT infrastructure person in the SOC role and get good results. And don’t just hire a good manager, that won’t work either. This work is too specific.

2.      Use flexible staffing models. Some SOCs have as few as three people. But if the company plans to roll out new security tools or needs to comply with new compliance regulations, it makes sense to bring on contract workers or consultants to get the group through the busy period. Then the company can scale back when the work stabilizes.

3.      Be open to new ideas. The security field changes constantly. Every day researchers are finding out new threats and new ways to combat those threats. Create an environment where the company can bring on at least one new employee every year. If there’s no room in the budget, then bring in a consultant and send key staffers to conferences and training sessions so they can learn about the latest research and remediation techniques.

4.      Automate where it makes sense. Cyberbit’s Rosenman said orchestration tools can help companies more effectively analyze firewalls, IDSes, DLP systems and threat intelligence. They can also help the SOC staff automate processes and workflows so the security team can more effectively communicate what’s going on to the business staff. However, Matre warns that companies should not rely too much on automation. While automated tools can generate to-do lists on how to comply with HIPAA or PCI regulations, companies still need people to do the physical remediation work.

5.      Hire people with varied backgrounds. Consider this a follow-on to the fourth point. The best SOCs consist of people with different experiences. Try to have a mix of networking, application security, military and governance, risk and compliance. For example, if the vice president of finance’s computer becomes infected, the company probably wants a risk person to explain to the vp of finance what the risks are of letting him work another couple of hours versus wiping the computer right away. Matre adds to keep in mind that humans still have to make those decisions.

6.      Practice good configuration management. Companies are always looking for ways to run SOCs as cost-effective as possible. Automation helps. But 90 percent of security events can be prevented if the security infrastructure is tuned properly. Frequent patching and updating firmware will reduce alerts, which lets companies reduce staff. 

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Steve Zurier has more than 30 years of journalism and publishing experience, most of the last 24 of which were spent covering networking and security technology. Steve is based in Columbia, Md. View Full Bio

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