Security Operations Center: Building, Operating, and Maintaining your SOC

Posted on by Ben Rothke

Large enterprises have numerous information security challenges. Aside from the external threats; there’s the onslaught of security data from disparate systems, platforms and applications. Getting a handle on the security output from numerous point solutions, generating millions of messages and alerts daily is not a trivial endeavor. As attacks becoming more frequent and sophisticated and with regulatory compliance issues placing an increasing burden, there needs to be a better way to manage all of this.

Getting the raw hardware, software and people to create a SOC is not that difficult. The challenge, and it’s a big challenge, is integrating those 3 components to ensure that a formal SOC can operate. In Security Operations Center: Building, Operating, and Maintaining your SOC (Cisco Press 0134052013), authors Joseph Muniz, Gary McIntyre and Nadhem AlFardan have written an indispensable reference on the topic. The authors have significant SOC experience, and provide the reader with a detailed plan on all the steps involved in creating a SOC.

As Mike Rothman noted about managed services providers, and something that is relevant to a SOC, you should have no illusions about the amount of effort required to get a SOC up and running, or what it takes to keep one current and useful. Many organizations have neither the time nor the resources to implement a SOC, but do, and are then trapped on the hamster wheel of pain, reacting without sufficient visibility, but without time to invest in gaining that much-needed visibility into threats that the SOC had the potential to provide them with, had they done it right. Those considering deploying a SOC and not wanting to be in the hamster wheel of pain will need this book.

The authors have done a great job in covering every phase and the many details required to build out a SOC. After going through the book, some readers will likely reconsider deploying an internal SOC given the difficulties and challenges involved. This is especially true since SOC design and deployment is something not many people have experience with.

The book is written for an organization that is serious about building an enterprise SOC. The authors spend much of the book focusing on the myriad requirements for creation of a SOC. They constantly reiterate about details that need to be determined before moving forward.

Chapter 4 on SOC strategy is important as the way in which a firm determines their strategy will affect every aspect of the outcome. The authors wisely note that an inadequate or inaccurate SOC strategy, and the ensuing capabilities assessment exercises would produce a SOC strategy that does not properly address the actual requirements of the organization.

Ultimately, failing to adequately plan and design is a guarantee for SOC failure. That in turn will affect and impact deployment timelines, budgets and cause frustration, dissatisfaction and friction between the different teams involved in the SOC program.

The author’s expertise is evident in every chapter, and their real-world expertise quite obvious in chapter 5 on facilities, which is an area often neglected in SOC design. The significant issue is that if the facility in which the SOC team operates out of does meet certain baseline requirements, the SOC effectiveness will be significantly and often detrimentally impacted. The chapter details many overlooked topics such as: acoustics, lighting, ergonomics, and more.

Staffing a SOC is another challenge, and the book dedicates chapter 8 to that. The SOC is only as good as the people inside it, and the SOC staff requires a blend of skills. If the organization wants their SOC to operate 24x7, it will obviously require a lot more manpower of these hard to find SOC analysts.

Another helpful aspect is found in chapter 10 which has a number of checklists you can use to verify that all the required pieces are in place prior to a go live data, or be able to identify area that many not be completed as expected.

Building a SOC is an arduous process which takes a huge amount of planning and work. This work must be executed by people from different teams and departments, all working together. Based on these challenges, far too many SOC deployments fail. But for anyone who is serious about building out a SOC, this book should be a part of that effort.

The reason far too many, perhaps most SOC deployments fail is that firms makes the mistake of obsessing on the hardware and software, without adequately considering the security operations functions. The authors make it eminently clear that such an approach won’t work, and provide you with the expert guidance to obviate that.

For anyone considering building a SOC, or wants to understand all of the details involved in building one, Security Operations Center: Building, Operating, and Maintaining your SOC, is an absolute must read.

Ben Rothke

Senior Information Security Manager, Tapad

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