The Different Types of Security Operation Centre (SOC)


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Are you interested in knowing more about Security Operations Centres (SOCs) and the different types of SOCs that exist?

A SOC is an important component for cyber security professionals as it helps to monitor and detect any threats or malicious activities from intruders.

In this blog post, we'll talk about the various types of modern-day SOCs, such as centralised and decentralised models, cloud-hosted solutions, shrink wrapped toolsets, open source technologies and tailored offerings.

We'll discuss each model in detail so you can decide which one best fits your organisational needs. Get ready to dive into some deep understanding of how these different Security Operations Centres work!

What is a Security Operations Centre (SOC)?

A Security Operations Centre, commonly referred to as SOC, is a centralised facility that is responsible for monitoring and analysing an organisation's security systems.

It serves as a central hub for detecting, assessing, and responding to security incidents. The Security Operations Centre is staffed by security analysts and experts who are trained in detecting and mitigating threats to the organisation's assets, including sensitive data and network infrastructure.

In addition, the SOC takes a proactive approach to security, constantly monitoring the organisation's systems, identifying potential threats, and responding accordingly.

With the increasing sophistication of cyber attacks and the growing need for data protection across industries, the role of the Security Operations Centre has become more critical than ever.

Its function is crucial in safeguarding an organisation's assets and ensuring the continuity of operations.

Types of Security Operation Centre (SOC)

Here are the four major types of SOC that you should know about:

1. Virtual SOC

One type of SOC is Virtual. Simply put, a Virtual SOC is a centralised location that provides companies with an off-site team of security analysts and experts who monitor and respond to security incidents and events.

Additionally, this can include everything from tracking network traffic and scrutinising logs to detecting and responding to security alerts in real-time.

Unlike traditional SOC models that require a physical location and on-premise staff, a Virtual SOC can be accessed remotely through the cloud.

While the concept of a Virtual SOC may be relatively new, it is quickly gaining popularity as businesses recognise the many benefits it can bring.

These benefits can range from improved threat detection and faster incident response times, to reduced costs and greater flexibility.

As the threat landscape continues to evolve and become more complex, it's clear that a Virtual SOC is an essential component of any organisation's cybersecurity strategy.

Virtual SOC has no physical/dedicated location or a dedicated infrastructure and is hosted on a web-based portal.

A vSOC team works reactively in their approach to cyber threats, which sets virtual SOC apart from other types of SOC.

Benefits of a Virtual SOC

1. Cost

Virtual SOC’s have all the capabilities and tools that physical SOC’s have, however, at a fraction of the cost. A vSOC is that it will save you the cost of on-premises infrastructure and cost of hardware.

2. Availability and Reliability

Virtual SOC is hosted in the cloud, which is a highly reliable, scalable, and accessible tool.

3. Flexibility

The work-life landscape rapidly changed in 2020, and we now see many more businesses working from home, or hybrid working, which has resulted in seeing an increase in BYOD (bring your own device).

Employing a vSOC allows flexibility not just around physical premises but also on multiple devices.

Disadvantages of Virtual SOC

1. Communication Breakdown

One key drawback of virtual SOC is the potential for communication breakdown. A virtual SOC team relies heavily on digital tools to communicate, which may be slower and less reliable than face-to-face communication.

2. Team Cohesion

Additionally, virtual SOC teams may find it difficult to maintain a strong sense of team cohesion, which is important for effective threat detection and response.

3. Monitoring and Support

Finally, virtual SOCs may struggle to provide round-the-clock monitoring and support, as team members may be located in different time zones or work schedules.

How to improve your Virtual SOC

Virtual SOC’s can be improved through automation, analytics, and the employment of SIEM technology.

Furthermore, you can outsource your vSOC to IT security experts, or managed service providers (MSP) which can increase the security capabilities as well as allow access to expert resources.

2. Managed SOC

Another type of SOC is Managed and Co-managed. A Managed SOC is a comprehensive solution that protects organisations from cyber threats. 

A Managed SOC solution is an outsourced service that provides continuous monitoring and management of an organisation's security infrastructure, including firewalls, intrusion detection and prevention systems, and other security devices.

With the increasing sophistication and frequency of cyber-attacks, a Managed SOC is becoming a popular choice for organisations that are seeking to enhance their cybersecurity posture and protect their sensitive data.

The benefits of a Managed SOC include a reduction in false positives, 24/7 monitoring and support, access to security experts, and a proactive approach to cybersecurity trends.

Benefits of a Managed SOC

1. Cost and Budget

Unlike other type of SOC options, managed or co-managed services are usually billed on a monthly subscription fee, which means there is little to no upfront investment.

This means this solution is far more accessible to small or medium businesses. Furthermore, MSPs can sometimes supply hardware and software at a discounted cost as they have partnerships with suppliers.

2. Time-efficient

Partnering with an outsourced company can significantly reduce the setup and the day-to-day running of your SOC.

An MSP should be able to get your business set up and running with minimal disruption to your organisation’s usual activities.

3. Escalation of critical threats

A downside of SOC is that it can flag multiple threats throughout the day, some of which may not be critical or could be a false alarm.

However, a managed SOC provider will only send threats and alerts through when they need your organisation’s attention.

4. Proactive threat detection

Depending on the services that your managed SOC provider offers, it is possible to permit your MSP to protect your network from being compromised if a threat is detected.

5. Resourcing

Partnering with a managed SOC provider means that your business has more flexibility around the size of your in-house team.

Moreover, instead of using your in-house IT experts to fully manage your SOC, they can focus on developing other areas of your IT.

6. Continuous monitoring

Working with a managed SOC provider will provide your business with 24/7/365 monitoring and support.

7. Access Industry Experts

Partnering with a managed type of SOC provider will give you access to a whole team of cybersecurity experts, that have a range of experience and skills surrounding IT security.

Additionally, said experts can use their knowledge to identify, analyse and escalate any potential threats.

Disadvantages of Managed SOC

1. Loss of control

One significant disadvantage is the loss of control over critical security processes. With a managed SOC, the provider will have access to sensitive data and be responsible for maintaining security operations.

This means that businesses will have limited visibility and control over security measures and may not be able to respond quickly to threats.

2. Expensive

Additionally, managed SOC services can be expensive, making it difficult for smaller businesses to afford the increased security. 

3. Issue Monitoring 24/7

Virtual SOC is a mostly reactive approach. Furthermore, the nature of a virtual SOC means that it is not being monitored 24/7, which makes the tool potentially less reliable compared to other SOC systems.

3. Co-managed SOC

A Co-managed SOC is a collaborative approach to managing an organisation's cybersecurity needs.

In a Co-managed type of SOC model, the organisation partners with a third-party security provider to share the responsibilities of monitoring, detecting, and responding to security threats.

Additionally, this type of partnership allows organisations to leverage the expertise and resources of a specialised security provider while maintaining in-house control and visibility.

Co-Managed type of SOCs are particularly useful for organisations with limited resources or expertise in the cybersecurity field.

They offer an efficient and cost-effective way to improve an organisation's security posture and reduce the risk of cyber threats.

By working together, organisations can ensure that their security needs are met while minimising the burden on their internal staff.

Benefits of a Co-managed SOC

1. Cost Savings

A Co-managed Security Operation Centre (SOC) can help to reduce costs for organisations by providing access to experienced security personnel without the need to hire additional staff.

This can be especially beneficial for small and medium-sized businesses who may not have the resources or budget to hire their own in-house security team.

Additionally, a co-managed type of SOC can provide access to specialised expertise and technology that may not be available in-house, further reducing costs.

2. Improved Visibility

A Co-Managed SOC can also help organisations improve their visibility into their security posture.

By leveraging the expertise of an external provider, organisations can gain better insights into their security environment and identify potential threats more quickly.

This improved visibility can also help organisations prioritise their security efforts more effectively and ensure they are taking appropriate steps to protect their data and systems from malicious actors.

3. Increased Efficiency

A Co-Managed SOC can also help organisations increase their efficiency by allowing them to focus on core business activities rather than managing day-to-day security operations.

An external provider can handle routine tasks such as monitoring alerts, patching systems, and responding to incidents, freeing up internal staff to focus on more strategic initiatives.

4. Enhanced Compliance

Finally, a Co-Managed SOC can help organisations enhance their compliance with various regulations and standards such as PCI DSS, HIPAA, GDPR, etc.

An external provider will have the knowledge and expertise necessary to ensure that all applicable requirements are met and that any necessary documentation is in place.

This can help organisations avoid costly fines or other penalties associated with non-compliance.

Disadvantages of  a Co-managed SOC

1. Complexity

One of the disadvantages of a Co-Managed SOC is its complexity. Co-managed SOCs involve multiple layers of security, which can be difficult to manage and monitor effectively.

Additionally, different vendors may have different requirements for their products, which can further complicate matters when it comes to managing and monitoring the system.

2. Dependency on Third Parties

Another disadvantage of a co-managed SOC is its dependence on third parties. Co-managed SOCs rely on third party vendors for hardware, software, and maintenance services, which can be costly and time consuming to manage.

Additionally, if one of these vendors fails or stops providing services, it can cause major disruptions in the operation of the system.

4. Dedicated SOC

A Dedicated Security Operation Centre (SOC) is a centralised unit within an organisation that is responsible for the cybersecurity management of all its systems and networks.

In addition, this unit is dedicated to monitoring, detecting, and responding to all security-related incidents and threats.

A dedicated SOC is a specialised team of experts who work tirelessly to ensure that the organisation's IT infrastructure is always secure and protected from cyberattacks.

The team uses advanced technologies like Intrusion Detection Systems (IDSs), Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) Systems, and Firewalls, among other tools, to monitor and respond to any threats.

A dedicated SOC is essential for any organisation that takes its cybersecurity seriously, as it ensures that critical data and systems are always secure.

The experts at the dedicated type of SOC have the expertise and skills required to safeguard the organisation's IT assets from modern-day cyber threats.

Benefits of a Dedicated SOC

1. Continuous monitoring

Cybercriminals often attempt hacks after office hours, or on weekends as they are aware that there will be less possibility of being caught.

However, having a dedicated SOC ensures you that your IT infrastructure will be monitored 24/7/365 days a year.

2. Centralised visibility

Networks are becoming more complex as more businesses are working from home, hybrid working or and employing BYOD.

To effectively secure this type of IT environment, an integrated visibility solution is required which will enable an organisation full visibility into its network infrastructure and potential attack paths.

Disadvantages of Dedicated SOC

1. Cost

One disadvantage of a Dedicated type of SOC is the cost associated with building and maintaining it. Due to the complexity of the technology involved, it requires a significant investment of both time and money.

In addition, it can also be challenging to find and hire qualified IT security professionals to run and manage the SOC, which can further increase costs.

2. Lack of flexibility

Another disadvantage relates to the lack of flexibility that a Dedicated SOC provides. Because it is tailored to the needs of a single organization, it can be challenging to scale up or adapt to changing circumstances.

5. Command SOC

A Command Security Operation Centre, or Command SOC, is a central hub for monitoring and managing security operations within a given organisation or agency.

Its primary function is to ensure the safety and security of personnel, information, and assets through the coordination and deployment of trained security professionals, sophisticated monitoring technologies, and a vast network of communication channels.

The Command SOC is responsible for tracking and analysing potential security threats, initiating crisis management protocols in case of an emergency, providing situational awareness to on-site security staff, and sharing relevant intelligence with law enforcement agencies.

A well-run Command SOC enhances overall security posture, increases operational efficiency, and helps safeguard against potential security breaches or attacks.

Command SOCs are large and spread out, usually having locations globally. This type of SOC is usually used by Global 2000 companies, defence organisations and large telecoms providers.

Benefits of a Command SOC

1. Access to security experts

Command SOC’s are made up of hundreds of IT and IT security experts that have vast expertise and experience within the cybersecurity fields.

2. Knowledge and expertise

Due to the size, and type of client a command SOC deals with, Command SOC’s usually have dedicated security research teams that are researching the latest threats and latest security processes.

3. Threat detection

Due to the nature of Command SOC’s they house greater capabilities to proactively hunt down threats which decreases the number of effective threats.

Disadvantages of Command SOC

1. High Cost

Perhaps, one of the main drawbacks is the high cost of setting up and maintaining such an operation centre. The equipment, personnel, and management required for a Command SOC can be quite expensive, making it unaffordable for smaller organisations.

2. Risk of human error

Additionally, there is also the risk of human error, which can lead to false alarms and unnecessary responses, as well as inadequate protection in the event of a real security incident.

Nevertheless, despite these disadvantages, a Command SOC remains an essential component in any organisation's security framework.

Does your business need a SOC?

Unfortunately, there is no black and white answer to this question. It all depends on your business.

When deciding whether your business needs a SOC you will need to factor in variables such as company size, IT budget, IT security teams, turnover, and industry. We recommend that businesses with around 30 employees+ should have a SOC in place.

However, smaller businesses, those with less than 30 employees should consider employing a SOC if they deal with sensitive data such as those in the finance or medical industry or companies who regularly experience attempted and/or successful cyberattacks.

Another factor to consider when deciding whether you should have a SOC or not is to consider the cost of a cyberattack on your business. It has been reported that UK businesses spend an average of £3.4million responding to incidents.

If you have any questions or concerns about your cybersecurity, we offer a free cybersecurity assessment performed by one of our experts here at AZTech, or you can download our cybersecurity assessment checklist. View our full range of cybersecurity services.