Modern vs. Legacy SOC: Why it’s time for an upgrade

by Riversafe


You can’t solve a modern problem with old tools, and that certainly rings true in cybersecurity.

When threats evolve so quickly, the platforms and processes that organisations use to protect their digital environments can become irrelevant in the blink of an eye.

Today, threat actors are investing in the latest technology to break through cyber defences, by exploiting new vulnerabilities, and getting illicit access to our most valuable assets; organisations that don’t keep pace put themselves at serious risk.

As the nerve-centre of any cybersecurity operation, a good SOC should be stacked with smart technology and operated with the latest best practices in mind. However, many organisations are still running a traditional SOC.

These legacy SOCs tend to be reactive, with limited visibility and a reliance on manual processes—and in an age where more than 2,200 attacks are launched every day, that’s not enough to keep a business safe.

Think your SOC is letting you down? Let’s size up a typical legacy SOC against its modern descendant, and find out why your SOC is overdue for an update.

Looking to build a optimise your SOC? Check out this blog.

Legacy SOC

Built around a ‘helpdesk’ model

The majority of legacy SOCs were designed in much the same way as the traditional IT helpdesk: a problem occurs, a ticket is issued, and the appropriate team member is notified so that an investigation can begin and the issue can be rectified.

It’s a model that’s worked for decades in IT, allowing users to access support when something goes wrong. But when it comes to cybersecurity, this break-fix philosophy simply doesn’t cut it.

The helpdesk approach is reactive, initiating a response only when an issue is raised. In today’s complex and fast-changing threat landscape, relying on reactive SOC processes leaves organisations vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breaches. If organisations want to stay one step ahead and reduce the impact of security issues, a proactive mindset is essential.

Not equipped for the real cadence of threats

Legacy SOCs were built for a different era; one where a direct cyberattack on a business maybe wasn’t as common an occurrence as it is now. These older SOCs are designed to sit back and wait for one of these incidents to happen, and fire off an alert if, and when something suspicious crops up.

But times have changed. This night-watchman defence is completely inadequate to defend against the sheer scale and complexity of the cyber threats we face today.

Again, it’s about being proactive, and a system that views security incidents as anything other than the norm can’t possibly prepare for or respond to the near-constant bombardment of cyberattacks that are levelled at organisations now.

Unchecked alert pipelines

Older SOCs use alert pipelines to get information about potential security issues to an analyst, who can then look into the situation. As we mentioned above, these pipelines weren’t built with a constant curtain of fire in mind, leading to a potential inundation of information for analysts to sift through.

In legacy SOCs, there’s little functionality available to manage these pipelines, or examine the validity of the alerts being fed into them to help analysts prioritise the most significant potential issues.

Using a legacy SOC that’s constantly, mindlessly funnelling alerts through its pipeline to analysts can severely impact the effectiveness of your security response. Too many alerts coming through the pipeline slows analysts down and creates alert fatigue that can lead to serious incidents being missed.

Creates silos between alert handlers and alert tuners

Alert handlers and tuners are critical cogs in the cybersecurity machinery. One takes in information and then triggers whatever action it deems appropriate, like issuing an alert to the security team or blocking the source that triggered the alert. The other adjusts those responses to help filter out false positives and prioritise the most pressing issues to foster more effective responses.

And it’s just common sense that the components that process alerts and the components that fine-tune them to improve the efficiency of the overall SOC should be interconnected.

In a well-integrated, modern system, they are. But due to a lack of proper integration, these functionalities are typically walled off from one another within legacy SOCs. Without the ability to share information between alert handlers and alert tuners, the SOC misses out on important data and context, preventing the formation of a bigger, more informed picture of the threats it’s up against.

SIEM-centric

A good SOC is a harmonious collection of specialised but interconnected products and activities that work together, providing smart security functionality that covers the entire breadth of an organisation’s digital environment.

A SIEM, for example, is a central part of any SOC. Legacy SOCs, however, can rely too heavily on SIEM solutions to provide information about what’s going on across the organisation. Without a varied tool stack and proper integration, the SOC won’t perform as well as it could.

Legacy SOCs that put all their eggs in the SIEM basket miss out on important insight and context. This can lead to limited visibility and a deluge of false positives that eat up analysts’ valuable time.

Limited consumption of threat intelligence

If you want to keep your organisation secure, keeping on top of emerging cyber threats is non-negotiable. Consuming threat intelligence on a consistent and regular basis helps SOCs stay a step ahead of current trends and equips teams with the information they need to plan their defence strategy.

In cybersecurity, knowledge truly is power, and SOCs should be aiming to ingest as much threat intelligence as possible, from open source, commercial and internal data sources. The more relevant information a SOC has access to, the better it can produce actionable responses to potential threats.

Legacy SOCs aren’t set up to consume threat intelligence on the scale that’s needed to stay informed today. This inability to collect, process, and contextualise threat intelligence data puts legacy SOCs at a significant disadvantage, leaving them behind the curve and therefore vulnerable to emerging threats.

Poor metrics on handling time

The time it takes for a SOC to handle a potential incident is an undeniable indicator of how well it’s performing. Time-bound metrics like Mean Time to Detect, Mean Time to Respond/Resolve give you an idea of how vigilant, agile, and responsive your SOC is—and in turn, how well it’s able to minimise the impact of a possible security issue.

Since traditional SOCs don’t tend to utilise newer technologies and processes like automation, machine learning, and active threat hunting, analysts aren’t able to get to work as quickly.

In addition to lacking tools that make it easier to detect and respond to incidents more quickly, relying on older solutions and manual workflows also increases the workloads of SOC operators, further compounding slower response times and creating poorer outcomes.

Modern SOC

Built to respond to threats, not alerts

Not every alert generated by your SOC is a genuine threat. With security solutions monitoring every inch of an organisation’s digital environment, the stream of alerts flagging possible breaches or anomalies can become problematic very quickly. It’s a big problem for SOC teams; 67% of daily security alerts overwhelm SOC analysts.

Modern SOCs are far more capable of using data and machine learning to separate the real issues from the noise, reducing alert fatigue and allowing SOC teams to prioritise actual security threats and mitigate potential damage.

AI is on the horizon too. Many leading cybersecurity vendors like Fortinet and Exabeam are already working on building AI-driven SOCs that will utilise artificial intelligence to manage cybersecurity operations, and automatically and appropriately respond to threats.

Proactive threat hunting functionality

Shape-shifting cyber threats can infiltrate systems without ever triggering an alert. That’s why proactive threat hunting is a critical part of any successful SOC.

By using advanced tools and techniques (the kind you won’t find in a legacy SOC), SOC teams can analyse network traffic, logs, and other data to detect hidden threats that may have been missed by other mechanisms before they can impact the organisation.

Using the threat hunting functionalities offered by modern cybersecurity platforms, SOCs can catch issues that might otherwise go undetected, vastly improving their security posture and mitigating the massive amounts of damage that can be done by stealthy cyberattacks.

Increased visibility that goes beyond logs

Traditional SOCs, especially those that lean heavily on their SIEM solutions, gather much of their information from analysing event logs. Crucial though this kind of scrutiny is, it provides a blinkered view of the digital landscape that can lead to security issues being overlooked.

Modern SOC philosophy aims to put eyes on every corner of IT environments and ensure no area goes unscrutinised. And the key to achieving this expansive, all-encompassing visibility is to go beyond log analysis.

A robust SOC will ingest event data from a wide range of sources, often in real time. Adding these extra layers, such as network detection and response (NDR) and endpoint detection and response (EDR), enables the SOC to significantly boost visibility and protect every possible point of entry for malicious actors.

Automation using SOAR

SOAR (Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response) solutions are another key pillar of the modern SOC, and allow organisations to optimise core duties like threat and vulnerability management and incident response.

Another nifty trick that SOAR can deliver is security operations automation, and this process can revolutionise cybersecurity management in ways that a legacy SOC could only dream of.

By creating repeatable, automated processes informed by real-time system data, SOAR can reduce the need for SOC teams to perform time-consuming manual processes like vulnerability scanning and auditing. With a machine-learning-powered SOAR platform, automation can also be used to prioritise and escalate incidents and trigger actions against them.

Automating security processes means that the modern SOC can detect threats on a far larger scale, respond faster, and simplify operations to give teams more time to focus on tasks that make a tangible impact on security posture.

Better testing and coverage analysis

Partly thanks to the automation capabilities mentioned above, and partly due to the advanced nature of modern security platforms, a modern SOC can run tests that are more comprehensive, more far-reaching, and more accurate than its traditional counterpart.

Our digital estates are getting larger and more complex by the day, and protecting those estates is no mean feat. Ensuring maximum test coverage and depth across your organisation is a challenge even for modern SOCs, but the tools are there.

Modern SOCs, and the tools contained within them, are far better positioned to analyse detection coverage, and help teams spot any gaps or potential vulnerabilities, especially when this functionality is combined with security frameworks like MITRE ATT&CK.

Threat intelligence is consumed and created

Given their advanced ability to process large quantities of information, modern SOCs are typically far better at sourcing, ingesting, and utilising threat intelligence.

A more cohesive, well-integrated tech stack gives SOCs access to proprietary threat intelligence from vendors. There are also huge amounts of crowdsourced threat intelligence available in the industry that SOCs can draw on.

Where modern SOCs really come into their own, however, is in their ability not only to consume but actually generate threat intelligence through their operations. Data from solutions like SIEMs can be enriched with other external intel sources to create insightful context that helps SOC teams spot patterns and prioritise incidents.

This heady combination of tactical, strategic, and operational threat intelligence from a variety of sources allows modern SOCs to conduct more effective investigations and responses to better deal with future incidents.

Connects seamlessly with third-party services

One of the great powers of a modern SOC is its capacity to integrate its solutions together to create a seamless, interconnected security centre that delivers maximum visibility.

A unified SOC eliminates siloes that can prevent important information from getting to where it needs to be. It also reduces the amount of data that’s being passed manually between tools, and cuts down on the chance of issues cropping up due to human error.

Essentially, the more solutions integrated, the more informed the SOC will be, and the more preventative measures can be taken to protect its digital assets.

Attracts and retains talent

The cybersecurity industry’s skills gap problem is making it a real challenge to find and keep quality talent. Running an outdated SOC does nothing to help retain that talent.

Traditional SOCs create unnecessarily high workloads and exhausting amounts of unverified alerts, bogging SOC teams down and making it nearly impossible to effectively protect systems against cyber threats. Overworked, demotivated, and fighting a losing battle, who could blame security professionals for turning away from legacy SOCs in favour of a more modern working environment?

The best talent doesn’t shy away from a challenge, but they do want to work with innovative tools that give them a better chance of success. A modern, well-equipped SOC is a place that cybersecurity talent wants to be a part of, and one that has the best possibility of keeping it.

Incorporates UEBA and IAM tools

UEBA and access management tools are key factors in creating a robust cybersecurity posture, and a modern SOC will incorporate these kinds of solutions into its operations.

UEBA is a critical tool for enhancing a SOC’s detection abilities. By building a baseline of ‘normal’ user and application behaviour and using machine learning to spot changes in the standard conduct of users or entities, UEBA tools can help detect suspicious or anomalous actions that could point to a security threat. Because these solutions collect and process data from a vast range of network devices, they thrive within a modern, interconnected SOC environment.

IAM is another valuable tool that can utilised in a modern SOC, enabling SOC teams to manage digital identities and control user access to data, systems, and resources. This ability to authenticate users’ identities across the network streamlines the assessment management process, and ensures that users have appropriate access levels to the data they need while keeping digital assets secure.

If you’re looking to build a SOC, check out our free guide which walks through the key areas to consider. Click here for your copy. 

Upgrade your cybersecurity with RiverSafe

Cyberattacks are constantly evolving. To protect your organisation from innovative threats, you need innovative security solutions for your SOC.

RiverSafe provides perspective and insight on the status of your security infrastructure, creating a unified solution that puts you in control. Supported by advanced technology, a robust implementation model and team training, RiverSafe ensures your business is secure, informed and future-proofed.

We align our solutions with your internal workflows, making implementation seamless. Extensive training and round-the-clock support give you autonomy over the projects that matter most.

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Riversafe

By Riversafe

Experts in DevOps, Cyber Security and Data Operations