Explained: SOC as a Service and Its Role in Improving Security

Cybersecurity services are an especially intense field that requires a combination of resources, training, and intelligence. Cybersecurity professionals are in short supply these days, making the existing experts incredibly valuable to companies trying to staff their teams. Unfortunately, access to the appropriate professionals is only one issue modern cybersecurity teams face since they need several other resources. 

Between the hardware and software needs, a cybersecurity team needs a workspace from which to conduct their work. In-house cybersecurity teams can provide the buffer your database needs to avoid being breached by hack attempts. Providing them with the resources and space necessary for their work is essential to establishing a SOC. This serves as the nerve center for your cybersecurity needs and provides the baseline for your protection.

Establishing a SOC can make all the difference in the world insofar as protecting your database is concerned. Without a SOC, your network will be vulnerable, and you could lose large quantities of sensitive data to criminal elements. The problem is that some companies might lack the resources necessary to maintain an in-house SOC. 

This has led some companies to seek alternative sources of cybersecurity that can protect their networks without needing an in-house center. Fortunately, there is an industry for companies that need a SOC but cannot maintain an in-house department for it. This is known as SOCaaS, and it can play a significant role in improving your network security.

An In-House Cybersecurity Team

What is SOC/SOCaaS?

“SOC” is an acronym for “security operations center,” referring to the professional resources necessary for a cybersecurity team. While the term “operations center” might infer a location, a SOC is a team of analysts, engineers, and programmers that are well-versed in computer security. A SOC combines the skills and abilities of these professionals to ensure the highest level of protection for the network. 

Without the proper expertise, a network’s security becomes compromised, and the odds of a breach skyrocket. Large-scale companies tend to have an in-house SOC to reduce response times and ensure instant access to professionals. Smaller companies or companies with other financial priorities might not have the resources necessary to have an in-house SOC. This is why SOCaaS has become a common tool for companies worldwide.

A Security Operations Center

SOCaaS is another acronym for “security operations center as a service,” an industry term for outsourcing cybersecurity services. Companies that might not have the resources to fund an in-house department turn to 3rd party firms specializing in the associated field. We see this always with customer service or resale platforms (i.e., Amazon), where the company finds another organization to handle those services on their behalf. 

Cybersecurity is no exception to this trend, and several cybersecurity firms have begun offering their staff and resources to clients who need protection. This has enabled companies that might need extra help to acquire the service and protection they need to maintain a secure network for their own consumers. Some companies voluntarily forgo an in-house SOC in favor of SOCaaS to keep costs down and for added convenience. 

Ultimately, both models have pros and cons but are viable methods for enhancing your network’s security and protecting the data within.

How Does SOCaaS Improve Security?

Whether you opt for an in-house cybersecurity team or an outsourced firm, having them in your corner can drastically improve your network security. Modern companies host huge databases that contain proprietary schematics, customer information, financial data, and more that play a significant role in helping the business stay operational. Unfortunately, these networks become tempting targets for cybercriminals who want to pilfer this data for personal gain. 

Most operating systems and networks come with a few mundane defensive measures, though relying on the factory settings is a mistake. A proper cybersecurity team can generate a set of protocols and regulations custom-tailored to your network and business. This ensures maximum protection against threats from within and without.

One of the main methods a SOCaaS can use to shore up security in your network is putting together a set of guidelines your employees must adhere to when accessing data. For example, the SOCaaS might establish monitoring practices to identify which employee accesses the network and when thereby establishing a digital record that can be used as a baseline for automated defenses. 

These monitoring solutions occur in real-time and are supported by live operators from the SECaaS team. This monitoring can also be used in conjunction with a set of permissions given to each employee. An employee from the finance department could access the part of the network where financial records are stored, but there is no need for an employee from the marketing department to access them. The permissions would prevent this cross-traffic and minimize the risk of an internal breach.

The real benefit of monitoring is that it allows the team to create a detection system for potential breaches. These detection systems, better known as intrusion detection systems, are extremely common in cybersecurity settings. They always take advantage of certain monitoring practices to create the baseline for what constitutes a breach. 

When monitoring unusual activity within a network, a SOCaaS team will likely create an anomaly-based detection system. This detection system provides a model of “standard behavior” within the network, which monitors the network for any activity that deviates from it. For example, if an authorized user logs into the network and attempts to access financial data when their department is unrelated to finances, the system will flag the activity for the SOCaaS team.

Once the activity is flagged, the appropriate response can be selected, and the employee can be dealt with accordingly. The detection system applies to external threats, too, by monitoring for aberrant logins and unknown users attempting to access information. The model from which the detection system draws its comparisons must be updated regularly to ensure that adjustments to internal practices are accounted for. 

Otherwise, legitimate attempts to access information might be flagged as false positives. Despite the extra maintenance, a well-versed SOCaaS team can manage the model and the response plan to a successful breach, which brings us to the next benefit.

A SOCaaS Cybersecurity Expert

Knowing a breach has occurred is useless unless you are prepared to counteract it and minimize the damage it causes. Most breaches are designed to seal or steal data from the network owner so the cybercriminal responsible can profit from the information. Sealing the data with malware (ransomware) allows the criminal to try and extort the network owner for the decryption key. 

Successful ransomware breaches could leave your company unable to function because it cannot access critical data. This can be mitigated somewhat by maintaining hard copies of all relevant information, but a breach of this scale could have widespread repercussions. One of the detection systems a SOCaaS team will establish is a signature-based identification system designed to identify malware of all kinds. Once the breach is detected, the team must immediately act to minimize the fallout.

A well-defined response plan helps cybersecurity teams launch an effective counterattack that will minimize or eliminate the damage caused by a cyber-attack. A response plan outlines set procedures that the team executes when a breach is detected, with the help of a few automated systems built into the detection system. 

While the automated systems can help reduce the initial damage, it is a temporary measure that exists to give the team time to respond to the problem. The response plan can be best divided into 4 sections:

  • Identification: The IDS we mentioned before is the catalyst for a SOCaaS team to identify the issue with a network. The identification stage involves detecting security breaches or data leaks via monitoring systems or external news coverage. This set is fundamental to the SOCaaS team’s ability to counter a breach since they need to know there is a threat. Through the identification step, your SOCaaS team can identify a threat before launching the next step of the response plan.
  • Containment: One of the most important aspects of a cybersecurity response plan is containing the breach. Networks are not information dumps and are segmented into different categories so users can easily identify the appropriate data. A breach does not attack the entire network simultaneously but spreads from the initial entry point. A SOCaaS team can mitigate the spread by partitioning the infected section and cutting it off from the rest of the network. The containment stage helps prevent more data from being lost because the virus or hacker cannot access the rest of the network. Unfortunately, the data that was part of the partitioned area is still vulnerable to their efforts, but rapid detection can reduce the number of files included in the containment process. Containment also involves shutting down hardware, altering passwords, and isolating affected user accounts.
  • Investigation: Once the infected section of the network is isolated, the SOCaaS team can begin the investigation process to determine how the breach occurred. This step also identifies what information was compromised in the attack. While the investigation process will not necessarily identify the party behind the attack, it will allow the team to launch an update for the firewall and security measures. This way, the odds of another breach are reduced to the lowest possible value. Identifying the network’s security weaknesses and the subsequent patches ensures the same tactic will not work again. However, repeated firewall checks are also performed to ensure no new vulnerabilities are generated.
  • Recovery: The final step of the SOCaaS team’s response plan is launching a recovery effort to bring the network back to full form. This includes restoring backup data, updating security protocols, and enhancing the monitoring systems to prevent recurrences.

These services are available with a SOC and a SOCaaS, though their methods might vary slightly. Ultimately, you might want more information about how the 2 differ before committing to either option.

SOC vs. SOCaaS

We mentioned before that the key difference between a SOC and a SOCaaS is that the latter is an outsourced service rather than an in-house department. While this distinction is critical to any company implementing cybersecurity practices, there are other differences that are important to your decision. 

Each version of the service has pros and cons that can be driving factors behind which one you choose for your company. Ultimately, SOC’s main advantage is that the professionals operating your cybersecurity services are in the same building. Having immediate, in-person access to these experts can help expedite certain services that might take a long time when performed remotely. 

This is not to say a SOCaaS will be too slow to contain an attack, but that hardware updates and repair will be faster because the experts could be a few doors down from the device. In contrast, the experts from a SOCaaS team will need to schedule a technician who can commute to your office.

In-House Cybersecurity

Conversely, the main advantage of a SOCaaS is that they are more cost-effective because you are not expected to finance their workspace, benefits, or equipment. An in-house SOC is essentially adding a new department to an already packed workplace with the burden of financing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of hardware and software in addition to salaries and employee benefits. 

A SOCaaS team has its equipment, workspace, and benefits addressed by the firm they work for rather than the client they provide for. As a result, paying for a SOCaaS only requires a budget to pay for the service rate required by the firm.

Technically Speaking…

The most important difference between SOC and SOCaaS is that one is an outsourced service while the other is an in-house department. Regardless, maintaining a SOC or SOCaaS team is essential to securing your network and preventing cyberattacks from affecting your company. Without a reliable team of cybersecurity experts, criminals can effortlessly penetrate your firewalls and abuse the stored data. Unfortunately, companies that prefer SOCaaS over SOC might be concerned with finding a firm they can trust.

A Cybersecurity Professional

We at U.S. Cybersecurity specialize in providing full coverage for networks that need heavy-duty protection. We offer penetration testing, a well-formulated response plan, and we can implement a fully programmed IDS to ensure custom security for your network. Network security for a company database is essential to your safety and that of your customers. We urge you to visit our website today if you need cybersecurity services. We are standing by and ready to assist you.

Herman McCargo

Herman is a Microsoft Certified Security Engineer and Cybersecurity Specialist. He’s been in the technology field for over 20 years and has expertise working with the most critical technology infrastructures. He has a deep understanding of cyber risks, threat mitigation and prevention, and overseeing infrastructure.