Pros and cons of an outsourced security operations center (SOC)

The growing digitalization and our increasing use of online services for everyday activities have led to a proliferation of online attacks and cyber-hacking. Did you know that cybercriminals are expected to steal 33 billion records by 2023? To compound this, the Ponemon Institute’s report states that it takes an average of 280 days to identify a data breach and the average cost of a breach to a company is $8.64 million. These numbers clearly show the need for streamlined and dedicated security practices within the organization through a dedicated security operations center (SOC).

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What is a security operations center (SOC)?

A security operations center (SOC) is a dedicated platform and team that works round the clock to identify, assess, and prevent any cyberattack. When a cyberattack occurs, the SOC team responds right away to reduce exposure to the attack. This is a centralized hub that acts as a single point of contact for collaboration and coordination among different teams to thwart or respond to an attack.

Role of an SOC

The security operations center performs the following broad functions within an organization:

  • Stays on top of the company’s various resources such as intellectual property rights, devices, patents, brand name, processes, applications, and more. Since visibility and control are essential to protect resources, the SOC is responsible for regular audits and updates of resources and their availability.
  • Creates a plan to mitigate different types of attacks. To do this, it estimates the likely threats that can impact one or more organizational resources and creates a mitigation plan accordingly.
  • Proactively monitors the network and its resources 24/7 to identify vulnerabilities and imminent signs of an attack. Often, companies use a combination of personnel and systems such as SIEM to analyze the behavior of resources and protect them from attacks.
  • Makes the most out of the SIEM tools built to provide alerts and notifications of vulnerabilities. However, the team scours through the alerts to eliminate the false positives and to ensure that the available resources are used optimally to thwart attacks.
  • Acts as the first responder in the event of an attack. Most times, organizations have a disaster plan in place, and the SOC team follows the processes detailed in it. This can involve anything from isolating threats to shutting down entire systems.
  • As a part of the mitigation plan, the SOC team is responsible for recovering or restoring any lost or compromised data. While this is often difficult, the team makes the best effort possible to retrieve the data.
  • Handles negotiations in ransomware attacks and ensures that the company gets its end of the bargain.
  • Collects, maintains, and reviews logs to identify vulnerabilities and remediation in the event of an attack. It also comes in handy for root cause analysis of problems.
  • Continuously evaluates and refines its activities and processes to ensure that the team is one step ahead of cyberattackers on all fronts.
  • Complies with all security standards and practices.

Thus, these are the functions of a security operations center.

As you can see, the SOC plays a critical role in keeping an organization safe from attacks, but at the same time, it entails many resources in the form of a dedicated team and platform.

Companies that don’t want to have a SOC within the organization or can’t afford it can outsource it to security companies specializing in providing this service. But is this a good idea considering the importance of a SOC and the almost unlimited access it has to an organization’s critical resources?

Let’s find out.

Pros of an outsourced SOC

Below are some compelling reasons to outsource the SOC to a specialized security company.

On-demand skills

Cybersecurity is dynamic and requires new skills regularly. The current technological pace augurs well not just for organizations but also for hackers, as they have a wider pool of data and users to attack.

The growing sophistication of hackers requires advanced cybersecurity skills, and possibly even quickly changing and evolving skill sets that match the needs of an organization. Finding such skills and hiring them can be a hassle for organizations. Security service providers are better positioned to attract such talent as that’s their primary line of business.

Hard to manage in-house

Many organizations find it hard to manage their own SOC as it is not often readily scalable or flexible enough to meet the changing security requirements. Much of this difficulty stems from the fact that IT infrastructures are extremely complex and multilayered, and at the same, hackers are getting better at what they do.

A report by Accenture shows that 68% percent of business leaders feel their cybersecurity risks are increasing. Outsourced SOCs have the resources and skills to handle this growing threat.

Adherence to SLAs

SOC companies enter into SLAs to provide guaranteed security service to their clients. To meet this, these companies have dedicated teams that work around the clock, so the chances for a hack are greatly reduced.

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Access to intelligence

Companies identify threats and vulnerabilities by scanning not just the networks but also by gathering other pertinent information. This comprehensive information that tells you everything about a possible threat or vulnerability is called threat intelligence.

SOC providers can create highly relevant threat intelligence because of their connections and partnerships with other security agencies, and the same may be difficult to implement for internal SOC teams.

Low costs

Reduced costs are one of the biggest reasons for outsourcing, and it’s true for outsourced SOCs, too, as the resources and equipment are shared among different clients. Also, no capital costs are involved, which can help companies make the most of their IT budgets.

While these are some of the advantages of outsourcing SOC, there can also be some downsides.

Cons of an outsourced SOC

The following are some of the cons of outsourcing the SOC.

Lack of internal expertise

Your employees know more about your organization’s culture, infrastructure, and policies than people outside it. This is clearly an advantage, especially while communicating with others within the organization.

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An outsourced SOC must take extra time to understand the organization, and still, communications may not be as quick and effective as an internal SOC team.

Reduced control

When you outsource, the data related to your resources are taken out of your organization’s infrastructure and analyzed for insights. This can be a security issue, especially if the security provider does not have measures in place.

Further, you have little control over how data is stored or used.

No dedicated team

The outsourced SOC provider will share existing resources and infrastructure across multiple clients, which means you may not have a dedicated IT security team.

While this is not a huge downside because the SOC team will be available 24/7, it could be a spot of bother if you’re used to having dedicated teams.

Reduced flexibility

You have few customization choices when you outsource your SOC. Since these companies cater to a wide range of clients, you will have to choose the best one from the offerings, and this best may not be a perfect fit for your organization.

Tiered pricing and service plans can be rigid as well.

In all, outsourced SOC is a good choice if you are on a tight budget and want high-quality security experts to take care of your organization’s security.

That said, it always helps to strike a balance between your in-house and outsourced teams, which means, have a small and dedicated in-house team for handling sensitive data and communicating with other employees while the larger team can be outsourced to security service providers.

What do you think of this approach? Would you outsource SOC to a service provider? Please share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

Featured image: Shutterstock

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