How Automation Can Enhance SOC Efficiency 

Security Operation Centers (SOCs) are the beating heart of a cybersecurity program. Analysts and managers are responsible for monitoring, detecting, analyzing, and investigating cyber threats. It’s a tough job with immense responsibility, and as attack rates increase and threat actors grow more sophisticated, that job has only become harder. 

As such, the past decade or so has seen considerable efforts toward automating SOC processes. Not only can automation reduce alert fatigue and staff burnout, but it can also improve threat response times, facilitate scalability, and more. 

SOC Automation Use Cases

SOCs typically use automation to enhance the following five capabilities:

  1. Threat Detection 
  2. Incident Response 
  3. Scalability
  4. Incident Analysis 
  5. Alert Triage 

Let’s take a closer look at how automation can improve the efficiency of each of these processes.

Threat Detection

A SOC’s most crucial function is detecting threats to their organization’s environment. Automated threat detection platforms can analyze vast amounts of data far faster than humans—however talented they are—and detect anomalies with a greater degree of accuracy. By automating threat detection in SOCs, security teams receive real-time alerts that allow them to address threats before they cause any damage. This enhances efficiency by granting security teams the time needed to investigate threats, not just detect them. 

Similarly, automated threat detection platforms can run around the clock. Threats can arise at any time, and cybercriminals are more likely to initiate attacks at awkward times to increase their chances of success. Modern SOCs cannot let their organization go unprotected because it’s a public holiday, early in the morning or late at night. Moreover, staffing a SOC 24/7 is both logistically and financially impossible for most companies. Automating threat detection means the business is always protected at a manageable cost. 

Alert Triage

By leveraging automation, security teams can quickly process incoming alerts, prioritizing them based on severity, type, and other predefined criteria. This initial triage helps prioritize alerts for further analysis, ensuring that high-priority incidents receive immediate attention. 

Incident Analysis

Automated systems can collect and correlate data from various sources, including network logs, endpoint data, and threat intelligence teams, much faster than humans can. This provides SOC teams with a comprehensive, real-time view of a security incident and eradicates the need for them to investigate it manually. 

Incident Response 

However, detecting a threat is pointless if you can’t respond to it. Automating incident response capabilities reduces the need for security teams to respond to threats manually. This saves time for staff to focus on other areas, dramatically reduces incident response times, and minimizes the potential impacts of a breach.

SOCs typically leverage automation to improve their incident response capabilities by configuring solutions to execute a playbook for more common, low-risk threats. These playbooks outline predefined response actions and workflows, which the automation solution initiates to remediate threats. By automating playbook execution, security teams no longer need to respond to low-level threats manually and can instead spend their time on more advanced tasks. 

Scalability

Automation can dramatically increase a SOC’s ability to scale up without requiring proportional hiring adjustments. It allows SOCs to deal with more threats, a more significant workload, and an expanding attack surface with a small team of analysts by: 

  • Reducing manual work – Automation reduces the need for staff to carry out high-effort, low-skill tasks such as data enrichment and alert triage, allowing SOCs to handle higher workloads without hiring more staff. 
  • Facilitating continuous improvement – Automated systems capture data that informs improvement efforts. Security teams can use this data to improve SOC efficiency further and handle more work. 

How to Automate a SOC

Now that we better understand how automation can enhance SOC efficiency, we can look at how organizations can automate their SOC in order to address some of its core challenges. Here’s a step-by-step guide: 

Assess Existing Processes: Evaluate your current SOC workflows to identify which areas you could automate. The use cases above are an excellent place to start.

Define Your Objectives: As with any project, it’s important to know what you want to achieve. Which of the above use cases is most important to you? Deciding will help you allocate resources more effectively.

Select the Appropriate Tools: It is essential to choose automation tools that align with your goals and can integrate with your existing SOC infrastructure. A typical example is a Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) platform, but don’t feel limited to this: you could even opt for a fully automated SOC provider. 

Develop and Integrate Workflows: Design detailed automation workflows for your identified use cases. Ensure these workflows are documented and integrated with existing SOC tools, and use APIs and integration platforms to ensure your solutions can communicate with each other. 

Test and Validate: Conduct testing in a controlled environment to ensure your automation works as it should. 

Deploy and Monitor: Gradually deploy automated workflows into your production environment. Start with less critical processes and expand slowly. Continuously monitor the effectiveness of your automation efforts and collect metrics to measure impact. 

Train Your Staff: Although automation will make SOC staff’s lives more accessible in the long run, they’ll still need to get accustomed to the new automated systems. Give them time to understand the capabilities and limitations of computerized systems and learn how to interact with automated workflows effectively. 

In conclusion, automation plays a vital role in enhancing SOC efficiency. It reduces the need for manual effort, frees up time for security teams, facilitates scale-up efforts, and can dramatically improve a SOC’s efficacy. With a considered methodical approach, any organization can automate its SOC and reap the benefits of automation. 

About the Author:
Josh is a Content writer at Bora. He graduated with a degree in Journalism in 2021 and has a background in cybersecurity PR.

He’s written on a wide range of topics, from AI to Zero Trust, and is particularly interested in the impacts of cybersecurity on the wider economy.

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