Doing More with Less: The Case for SOC Consolidation
The traditional security operations center (SOC) is based on a model that has persisted for decades, yet it’s no longer effective. Too much has shifted in organizations and in the threat landscape for the “old ways” to work.
Now is the time for a change to enable a modern SOC—taking on SOC consolidation to achieve better outcomes, with faster remediation, reduced risk and overall stronger security posture.
So What Exactly Has Changed for SOCs?
In legacy SOCs, IT security staff are seated shoulder-to-shoulder in close proximity, looking at screens. Those screens are loaded with myriad details, providing views and data from dozens upon dozens of security tools and delivering a seemingly never-ending scrolling stream of alerts. This traditional SOC model was always about trying to keep up in a race against alerts and resource constraints that could never really be won.
The pandemic exacerbated multiple challenges with the traditional SOC model. Resources have become more strained than ever, and it’s often no longer possible to have everyone physically present within the SOC. At the same time, the threat landscape is exploding, with significant cyber incidents increasing at a record pace.
Answering these new realities means that modern SOCs must consolidate, do more with less, and optimize their practices for the reality and demands of today and tomorrow
Three Issues That Cause Challenges in Legacy SOCs
Within legacy SOCs, we see three primary issues that lead to poor outcomes and a weakened security posture.
Too Many Alerts
Simply put, legacy SOCs are attempting to manage an unmanageable volume of alerts. The tremendous volume leads to alert fatigue that really slows organizations down. With too many alerts, it’s also easier to miss potentially significant issues that could be buried in the high volume of noise.
The solution to the challenge of too many alerts is to improve fidelity, such that alerts are only generated on the issues that matter. Improving fidelity is about having the right processes and tools to optimize the logs and data that are ingested by the SOC.
Too Many Security Products
A key challenge we see time and again is that SOCs use a lot of security products. In fact, the average company may have dozens of cybersecurity products deployed.
We have come across organizations that may have four or five different agents on the endpoint and perhaps even multiple types of firewalls. The chaos that causes is absolutely huge. It’s just tremendous confusion where different security assets don’t communicate with each other. The amount of effort needed to manage all the tools adds needless complexity to an already overburdened operation.
The SOCs that succeed are the ones that are ruthless about prioritization and the tools they use. SOCs need to define what results they want to achieve and then identify the platforms and solutions needed for the desired result. Having a common platform, such that all tools can speak the same language and communicate with one another, is critical to SOC success.
Too Many Manual Processes
Many legacy SOCs rely on manual processes for day-to-day operations as well as for incidents. Far too many menial tasks require significant human interaction and toil that can be mind-numbing. When an incident does occur, the legacy SOC will break out a manual playbook to revisit the steps the SOC took the last time a similar incident occurred and then manually replay the steps, over and over.
Manual processes don’t scale, they burn out SOC analysts, and they can’t keep up with the high volume of activity in a modern SOC. Having a fast mean time to detection as well as a rapid time to response cannot effectively be achieved with manual processes.
What’s needed is intelligent machine learning and automation for the high-volume processes, freeing up the human resources to focus on critical tasks.
SOC Consolidation Is an Opportunity for Digital Transformation
IT as an industry is moving towards more homogeneous environments and more consolidation. In the past, every company’s on-premises environment was tremendously different in every single way. Now there’s a huge move to the cloud with organizations using common sets of SaaS and IaaS tooling. As companies move to the cloud, some of the legacy products used on-premises aren’t applicable.
What’s needed are next-generation security products that are focused on the cloud that can help drive tremendous efficiency.
Now is the time to do a reset, as companies are moving to the cloud and making the digital transformation journey. This is the right time to look at security products and tools used in the SOC and determine what the return on investment (ROI) is for each of them, consolidating those security investments into a core set of capabilities that you can define in a platform.
SOC Consolidation Helps with Prevention and Protection
Sprawl is the archenemy of security in any organization. Take the Log4j security incident that overcame SOCs at the end of December 2021. That was a security flaw in an application library found in many different locations. In a legacy SOC running 75 to 80 different tools, identifying, remediating, and protecting all vulnerable assets is not a trivial affair.
Removing the sprawl with SOC consolidation by taking a platform approach can have a very powerful impact. Protecting against an issue like Log4j can be a coordinated activity rather than a set of disparate, manual processes.
SOC Consolidation Supports Security Teams
Perhaps even more importantly, SOC consolidation can be a tremendously positive thing for an organization’s staff as well. The traditional SOC is often seen as a stepping stone to get into cybersecurity and not as a career. The reason for that is individuals in the SOC are typically inundated with events, under a tremendous amount of pressure, and have to deal with things in a manual and typically chaotic model.
When the SOC is just a transitory means to get into security as a career, that’s a terrible model. It means you don’t have people invested in building an incredibly effective SOC. Rather, you have people that “do their time” in the SOC and then move on to other more promising roles.
As you consolidate your SOC, you’re changing the way the SOC and the people within it work. So instead of SOC staff doing the same repetitive, boring tasks, they’re now focusing on working on high-value projects and innovating. They’re continuously improving the technology and being more effective at threat hunting. The result of all of these changes is that they’re much happier because they’re working on projects where they can have a meaningful impact and can reach their full promise. It’s no longer just the terrible “hamster on a wheel” mentality. And happy, fulfilled people stay longer and work to make systems even better.
No organization has the time or resources to waste on sifting through endless alerts with manual processes spread across disparate tools that don’t work well together. The time for SOC consolidation—to create a SOC that is modern and able to handle today’s complex threats—is here and now.
Consolidate. Simplify. Orchestrate. Automate.