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The six pillars of a robust Security Operations Center

The six pillars of a robust Security Operations Center
November 9, 2011in Opinion2011-11-092013-02-15opinionen
The increasing use of virtual infrastructure and mobile working has propelled security to the forefront of corporate strategy. Kenneth Ho describes the six key pillars that make up an effective Security Operations Center.The Security Operations Center (SOC) is a key part of the enterprise...
“The increasing use of virtual infrastructure and mobile working has propelled security to the forefront of corporate strategy.”
Kenneth Ho
Security Practice Head, Asia Pacific
Orange Business Services
The increasing use of virtual infrastructure and mobile working has propelled security to the forefront of corporate strategy. Kenneth Ho describes the six key pillars that make up an effective Security Operations Center.
The Security Operations Center (SOC) is a key part of the enterprise security infrastructure. It enables an organization to establish effective protection against any security threats. The SOC ensures total protection by implementing incident detection and executing key remediation activities. In order to create and develop a SOC that can counter such cyber threats as hacking and data theft, there are six key points that should be considered. These are outlined in detail below:
1. determine the correct policy
Security policy lies at the heart of an effective Security Operations Center. It identifies the scope of protection and shares the responsibility between all relevant parties. The first step in designing a policy is to determine the exact role that you want the SOC to play. Does it simply observe, record, report and communicate recurring attacks or will it be actively involved in mitigating the threats? For example, if your primary goal is to have a prompt response to any security incident, you should consider including compliance monitoring. The second step is to agree on the scope of your SOC's activities, such as whether it is restricted to the network only, or includes suspicious behavior from users' activity. With an effective policy, you can delegate clear responsibility for certain actions within the SOC. The main benefit of this delegation is to maintain close involvement among related parties in the SOC, who need to work closely to accomplish a shared purpose. This will be much easier if they are driven by a sense of responsibility shown by the executive management to its stakeholders.
2. perform risk analysis 
Risk is the main driver for security and the SOC should respond to emerging organizational risks. With a careful analysis, you can expect to reveal critical issues that you previously considered insignificant, or vice versa. For example, perhaps you were focused on network monitoring to the detriment of anti-virus updates . As a result, your organization is more vulnerable because it did not update anti-virus signatures. Conducting risk analysis will enable you to pinpoint any threats and take corrective action. The result of the risk assessment should be used as the foundation of your security policy and must be reassessed periodically. It is crucial that the SOC meets the strategic needs of business and it is usually appropriate to revise the risk assessment on annual or biannual basis.
3. define appropriate procedures
Your procedures will inform the actions you take in case of any attack. This is the first step that should be considered when your people start to implement the SOC procedures. You need to make everything clear about your SOC best practices. If you need to amend current procedures, the changes should be agreed by multiple departments involved.
Further, a clear set of procedures should guarantee that all parties know how to execute their responsibilities properly. It will be very beneficial if you can provide instruction on how to employ the tools. Also, small but significant details about business operations should be stated clearly and used as reference in any incident procedures.
Of course, there will be many cases that can't be included in a written procedure. Your analyst may experience a threatening attack in which they come up with several options to address the threat. Your procedures, in this case, should incorporate those circumstances and options. These procedures are required to help determine the correct decision in response to an incoming attack.
4. focus on staffing
Your SOC staff are in a key position as they prevent any incoming threats from further disrupting your business. Therefore it is vital to hire experienced staff, such as incident responders, IDS analysts, or knowledgeable forensics analysts with proper network experience. You will not be able to find such people easily among job seekers and they may be expensive to hire. However, they will be a good investment for your company, because it is difficult to provide training to develop the role. They are valuable people who search for tiny details in an ocean of data and the bottom line is you will get what you pay for. It is too risky to let a security incident go unnoticed due to unidentified attack. This is quite common in the world of incident response.
5. consider the organizational dynamics
When you start to implement your SOC, you need to define your organizational dynamics. This stage will help you to describe the role of each tier in the process of managing threats. There are three tiers you should consider, namely:
  • Tier 0: core services in which the operational procedures for security center runs monitoring, preventing, and mitigating incoming attacks. Tier 0 is responsible for performing incident response, complete monitoring, and providing the patches and updates appropriate to the business needs of organization.
  • Tier 1: internal customer base. This tier incorporates the other departments within your organization who receive security protection. Protection and monitoring Tier 1 are parts of your daily description.
  • In Tier 2: external customer or business partner. When they are doing business over the shared network with your company, you protect them with your security operational procedures and monitor them directly.
  • These three tiers require different levels of security, ranging from Tier 0, which needs offers optimum protection and control over any incoming threats, through to Tier 2, where the SOC only provides the minimum cover. Ideally, the critical assets in Tier 0 should be kept closer to the core of security operations center.
6. integrate SOC into organization
It is necessary to integrate the SOC into your organizational information flow and activity. If there is any valuable information that can optimize the work of SOC, such as preventing a new technique of attack, this integration will bring plenty of benefits. It also allows the security operations manager to obtain information within the organization that may be relevant and applicable to detect threat incidents. Fully integrating the SOC into the organization will allow them to provide rapid response for any attack that occurs.
Kenneth Ho is the Security Practice Head, Asia Pacific, for Orange Business Services. If you would like further details on the Security Operations Centre or to receive an extended version of this article, then please contact

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