The SOC Technology Stack: XDR, SIEM, WAF, and More
A SOC is composed of a wide range of processes and technologies, as well as a team of security experts. The team often employs automation to support their efforts.
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What is a Security Operations Center (SOC)?
A SOC is responsible for maintaining, monitoring, and protecting information security in an organization. It is considered a hub of intelligence that gathers real-time information as it streams across the assets of the organization, including servers, networks, and endpoints, and uses it to identify security events and respond to them in an effective and timely manner.
A SOC is composed of a wide range of processes and technologies, as well as a team of security experts. The team often employs automation to support their efforts. For example, automation processes can help identify cybersecurity threats, prioritize based on risk levels and other factors, and respond to events as needed.
Here are the main activities and responsibilities of a SOC:
- Network monitoring — providing visibility into all digital activities while continuously improving the detection of anomalies.
- Prevention techniques — implemented for the purpose of preventing and blocking a wide range of known and unknown risks.
- Threat detection and intelligence — capabilities that help assess and determine the origin, severity, and impact of each security event.
- Proactive incident response and remediation — supported by automated tools and human intervention.
- Reporting capabilities — ensuring all events and threats are timely fed into a data repository, where they can be analyzed. Ideally, reports should help make future responses more accurate and timely.
- Risk and compliance — ensuring government and industry regulations are enforced and maintained.
Essential Components of the SOC Technology Stack
A SOC cannot function without technology. Here are some of the critical tools that make up the security stack.
Security Information and Event Management (SIEM)
A SIEM automatically aggregates massive amounts of security data from multiple sources across the network, and then correlates and analyzes the information. It lets you consolidate log data and network traffic into dashboards, making the information available for all relevant parties.
SIEM solutions typically come with built-in analytical features that let security teams visualize data to identify trends and suspicious patterns. By collecting data from a range of sources and correlating it, a SIEM system can help analysts identify relations between what appear to be unrelated activities and events, but in reality, maybe signals to indicate an attack.
Another advantage of SIEM platforms is that they can consolidate data into reports. These reports can define the risk profile of the organization, and display it in a manner that helps all relevant stakeholders understand, including executives and other decision-makers not versed in cybersecurity. SIEM platforms can also be used to automatically generate audits and reports for compliance purposes.
A threat intelligence platform can integrate with SIEM systems and provide context for alerts. Today’s organizations use a comprehensive stack of security tools, each generating alerts. SIEM technologies centralize the information generated by all tools and then threat intelligence tools can enrich the information with data about threat actors and their techniques.
The main advantage of using threat intelligence in combination with SIEM is the ability to prioritize alerts, reduce alert fatigue, and ensure teams and automated processes remain productive. This ensures teams respond to genuine attacks, rather than all suspicious abnormal behaviors.
In addition to prioritizing alerts, threat intelligence teams provide the context analysts need to assess and determine the risk level of each alert. Analysts and other stakeholders can use threat intelligence platforms to quickly determine the origin of the alert, identify affected systems and devices, and discover the type of threat. Analysts can then quickly start a deeper investigation, if needed, and hunt other malicious activities.
Web Application firewalls (WAF)
A WAF protects the network against malicious traffic. It helps secure business-critical web applications from a wide range of threats, including OWASP Top 10 vulnerabilities, zero-day threats, unknown application vulnerabilities, and other web-based threats.
There are several types of WAF, but they all have a similar goal — analyzing HTTP interactions for the purpose of reducing or eliminating malicious traffic before it reaches the server.
When compared to traditional firewalls, a WAF offers greater visibility into sensitive information communicated via HTTP. This means that a WAF can prevent attacks that usually manage to bypass traditional network firewalls. Another key advantage is that WAF does not require changes to application source code in order to protect the application — it can detect malicious traffic and block it, preventing attackers from exploiting a vulnerable application.
eXtended Detection and Response (XDR)
XDR technology introduces proactive defense into the security stack. It offers complete visibility across multiple data sources, using alert triage and threat hunting to patrol digital assets in search of unknown threats.
While searching for threats, XDR solutions analyze the current behavior of entities, actions, and users across all data sources. The technology correlates all of this information and then creates a benchmark of what is considered normal behavior. Once the benchmark is created, the technology searches for abnormal behavior, analyzes it, and enables analysts to hunt for threats.
XDR solutions provide intelligent search capabilities, data correlation, and rich attribution. It uses big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically hunt for threats across all environments — including clouds, networks, and endpoints.
SOCs often employ XDR technology to discover the point of origin and current location of threats. Additionally, teams can leverage XDR to streamline workflows and reduce the time and complexity of several tasks, including incident investigation and response, threat hunting, and event triaging.
The zero-trust security model is based on the principle that no component on the network should be trusted. It assumes user accounts and devices are already compromised, only grants the minimal possible permissions to any user or device, and continuously verifies identities. This ensures that more security layers are added and enforced to prevent malicious actors from entering the network, or from insider threats to perform unauthorized actions.
Since both external and internal networks are susceptible to threats, they require equal protection. Organizations adopting zero trust implement technologies that perform physical and logical network segmentation, to ensure that entities on the network can only connect to the relevant assets, and cannot move laterally to other parts of the network.
Another aspect of zero trust networks is the technology that enables strong authentication of users connecting to corporate systems, as well as applications and service roles, with a policy engine that determines who is allowed to access what, under which circumstances.
Security Automation, Orchestration, and Response (SOAR)
SOAR is a platform for automatically detecting and responding to alerts, using an array of integrated tools. SOAR is not an independent system, rather it makes it possible to orchestrate and make more effective use of other systems deployed in the SOC.
SOAR provides the following capabilities:
- Automation of manual tasks — including vulnerability scans, logs queries, provisioning new users, as well as deprovisioning inactive accounts.
- Automated response — SOAR automates responses to alerts, according to predefined playbook response plans.
- Orchestration — SOAR manages operations that involve two or more security tools. SOAR technology enables you to automate the analysis of events by integrating and correlating outputs from multiple security tools.
SOAR can significantly speed up response to alerts using automated playbooks. Additionally, SOAR technology ensures security analysts are not wasting time on repetitive manual tasks, and are free to employ their analytical skills to more complex threats.
Blockchain cybersecurity is increasingly gaining recognition and momentum. Blockchain technologies establish an identification communication between two transaction parties. Typically, this involves peer-to-peer network design.
In this model, each member within a blockchain is held responsible for verifying the authenticity of any added data. This creates a network that is almost impossible to penetrate, providing a high level of security for data.
Putting it All Together
By combining all these technologies, a SOC can effectively detect and respond to a huge range of security threats. Here is how effective SOCs put these advanced tools to use:
- SIEM systems make it possible to collect security events from across the organization and generate actionable alerts.
- Threat intelligence makes it possible to enrich events originating from one organization with data from millions of security events around the world.
- Web Application firewalls (WAF) provide a real-time security layer for application traffic, making it possible to set policies and rules and apply them dynamically to traffic patterns.
- eXtended Detection and Response (XDR) enables unified visibility, detection, and response for attacks that span multiple parts of the IT environment.
- Zero trust enables tighter control over the traffic within the network and protects against a compromise of privileged accounts and lateral movement.
- Security Automation, Orchestration, and Response (SOAR) makes it possible to define complex, automated activities combining several security tools, to enact automated responses to security events.
- Blockchain cybersecurity can safeguard sensitive data, rendering it useless to an attacker.
I hope this has helped you gain a better understanding of the modern SOC and the technologies that enable its day-to-day operations.
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