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Next-generation Security Operations Center (SOC): build or buy?

At some point in its development, every company encounters the need for a security center, whether in-house or outsourced (which we'll discuss later). Establishing your own Security Operations Center (SOC) can be a costly and time-consuming process, marked by pitfalls and specific rules and procedures. This article aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of creating a SOC and guide you in choosing the most suitable type for your needs.

Let's begin with the fundamentals of a Security Operations Center The Security Operations Center (SOC) serves as the core of an organization's cybersecurity. It functions as a central hub where skilled cybersecurity professionals collaborate with technology, engaging in real-time monitoring and incident investigation. Their mission is to promptly identify, investigate, and respond effectively to cyber threats, employing a blend of human expertise, established procedures, and advanced technology.

Let's delve into the key components of the security center, which form the bedrock of the SOC and guarantee its ongoing operation:

  • Human Resources: Comprising analysts and incident response managers, the cybersecurity team is composed of highly skilled professionals. Their primary objective is to assess events, enabling a swift response to potential issues.

  • Processes: SOC processes are strategically crafted to oversee and manage the security of information systems. Their purpose is to ensure a seamless monitoring of information security, timely detection and resolution of security incidents, and ongoing improvement of the SOC. This improvement is driven by process evaluation, analysis of threat evolution, and adaptation to regulatory changes.

  • Technologies: The array of tools employed to collect, correlate, store, and report security events is collectively referred to as key solutions for a SOC and include:

SIEM (Security Information and Event Management):

SIEM systems collect, aggregate, and analyze log data from a wide range of sources across an organization's IT infrastructure. This includes devices like servers, firewalls, antivirus systems, and more. By correlating this data and applying rules and logic to identify patterns or anomalies, SIEM helps organizations detect and respond to security incidents more effectively.

EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response):

EDR, or Endpoint Detection and Response, stands as an endpoint cybersecurity solution equipped to identify threats, respond to them automatically, and analyze them based on predefined rules.

NDR (Network Detection and Response):

NDR, or Network Detection and Response, is a solution dedicated to detecting suspicious network activities, providing a robust defense against potential threats.


A honeypot serves as a tool designed to act as a decoy for hackers, allowing the collection of valuable information about attackers, their tactics, and methods.

Vulnerability Assessment:

Vulnerability Assessment involves a systematic examination of a system to identify security weaknesses, flaws, and vulnerabilities, assigning them a level of risk based on their potential impact.

The organizational structure of SOC

The security staff and organizational structure of a SOC typically consists of:

  • SOC Manager leads the team, is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the security center, oversees all operations and reports to the organization's CISO (Chief Information Security Officer).

  • SOC analysts or security researchers, play a critical role as the frontline responders to cybersecurity threats and incidents. Their primary responsibilities include identifying, investigating, and prioritizing threats. Once a threat is identified, they determine the affected hosts, endpoints, and users, and take necessary actions to mitigate and contain the impact, threat, or incident. It's worth noting that in certain organizations, these responsibilities may be divided into separate roles, with investigators and incident responders categorized as Level 1 and Level 2 analysts, respectively.

  • Threat Hunters are experts in identifying and containing advanced threats, which can be new or evolved variants that evade automated protection systems.

  • Security Engineers/Architects are responsible for developing and maintaining the organization's security architecture. This involves assessing, testing, recommending, implementing, and managing security tools and technologies, such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and antivirus software. They also collaborate with development or DevOps/DevSecOps teams to integrate security measures into the organization's application development cycles.

The composition of the SOC team can vary based on the organization's size and industry. In larger companies, a Director of Incident Response may be present to handle communication and coordination during incident responses.

Additionally, some SOCs employ forensic investigators who delve into the structure, components, source, purpose, and impact of threats on business systems. Another potential role within the SOC team is a compliance auditor, responsible for standardizing processes and ensuring adherence to protocols. The SOC usually reports to the CISO, who in turn reports to the CIO or directly to the CEO of the company.

Choosing between an in-house or outsourced SOC

The decision between an internal cybersecurity center and an external (SOC as a Service) hinges on the individual needs, resources, and strategic objectives of each company. ESKA experts have identified several key factors that can play a significant role in making this decision:

Company Size and Composition

The size and structure of the company are crucial considerations. Large corporations often have the resources to establish and sustain an internal SOC. In contrast, smaller companies may find it advantageous to opt for a SOC as a service, leveraging the expertise of qualified professionals without incurring substantial costs.

Budget Establishing and sustaining an in-house SOC demands substantial investments in hardware, software, and personnel. For companies with constrained budgets, opting for an outsourced SOC can prove to be a more cost-effective solution.

Expertise An in-house SOC offers heightened control and the flexibility to tailor the system to the company's specific requirements. Conversely, an external SOC opens doors to a diverse pool of expertise and experience that might be absent in an in-house team. The choice depends on the balance between customization needs and the breadth of available external skills.

Flexibility Outsourcing offers flexibility, ideal for companies dealing with dynamic cybersecurity needs. On the flip side, an internal SOC allows for greater customization to meet specific company requirements and policies.

Compliance Certain industries, like finance or healthcare, have strict compliance mandates. An external SOC can guarantee adherence to legal and regulatory requirements, providing peace of mind.

In summary, a comprehensive analysis of the company's needs, capabilities, budget, and internal/external factors is crucial for making an informed decision on the optimal SOC option.

What is SOC-as-a-Service?

SOC-as-a-Service is a solution that allows businesses to access Security Operations Center services through cloud technologies or external providers, rather than establishing and maintaining their own SOC.

The cybersecurity center plays a crucial role in actively monitoring, detecting, and responding to potential security threats to information and computer systems in real time. SOC-as-a-Service offers companies the flexibility to leverage the expertise, infrastructure, and technology of a service provider on a subscription basis, either monthly or annually. This approach eliminates the need for companies to build and manage their own SOC, providing a streamlined and cost-effective security solution.

This strategy can be especially beneficial for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) that lack the resources or inclination to establish and oversee their own Security Operations Center. Instead, these businesses can turn to external vendors with expertise in delivering SOC services.

Benefits of SOC-as-a-Service

By opting for a SOC-as-a-Service solution, you place your security in the hands of a team of cybersecurity professionals. There are several advantages that companies can gain from managed SOC services, such as:

🛡 Strengthening Staffing:

In the current cybersecurity landscape, recruiting skilled security personnel can be challenging. A SOC-as-a-Service provider proves invaluable by bolstering and supplementing an organization's existing security team, filling in gaps, and ensuring continuous monitoring.

🛡 Tap into Seasoned Cybersecurity Professionals:

Occasionally, businesses require specialized security skills, like incident response experts, malware analysts, and cloud security architects. A SOC-as-a-Service provider grants access to proficient cybersecurity professionals, enabling you to access the necessary expertise without the challenges of recruitment and staff retention.

🛡 Cost Savings on Maintenance and Services:

Establishing, maintaining, and running an internal cybersecurity center can be a pricey endeavor. Adopting SOC as a Service empowers organizations to cut costs on technology procurement and implementation, operational expenses, and personnel, enabling them to concentrate on other critical business matters.

🛡 Enhanced Security Maturity:

The journey to building a sophisticated cybersecurity program and accumulating expertise is often time-consuming. Collaborating with an external SOC provider grants companies access to a pre-configured solution stack and experienced security professionals, accelerating the maturation process significantly.

🛡 Cutting-edge Security:

In a landscape of constrained IT and security budgets, staying abreast of the latest Security Operations Center tools and capabilities can be challenging. A managed SOC, leveraging its scalable infrastructure, offers customers entry to state-of-the-art security tools, delivering efficient control and protection.

SOC: Trends and Forecasts 2024

Our team consulted with ESKA experts to bring you insights into key trends and forecasts for the upcoming year. Here are some highlights identified by our experts:

  • Integration of Artificial Intelligence in the SOC:

The rise in the adoption of artificial intelligence to automate the detection and response processes for cyber threats. AI excels at identifying anomalies and leverages extensive data for precise predictions and instant responses. The incorporation of AI greatly streamlines the tasks of SOC specialists, easing their workload and enabling them to focus on more critical responsibilities.

  • Extended Detection and Response (XDR):

A comprehensive strategy that combines data from diverse security solutions, offering complete visibility across the entire IT landscape, including network, cloud, endpoint, and email security domains.

XDR streamlines the processes of threat detection, investigation, and response by simplifying the management of multiple security tools. This unified approach is anticipated to gain increased popularity in 2024.

  • Zero Trust Architecture Evolution:

In 2024, the zero-trust approach will evolve from being solely a technical model of network security to a dynamic and all-encompassing model. Anticipated is the increased adoption of a zero-trust security model, wherein no entity, whether internal or external, is inherently trusted. This concept, incorporating continuous authentication, enhances security to a higher degree.

  • Cloud Security and SOC Integration:

The transition of infrastructures to the cloud, the formulation of novel security strategies tailored to the unique nature of cloud infrastructures, and the seamless integration of these strategies into Security Operations Center (SOC) operations.

  • The Increasing Appeal of SOC as a Service (SOCaaS):

Establishing an in-house SOC poses significant challenges, and not every company is equipped to tackle them. The IT job market is exceptionally constrained, with a scarcity of qualified professionals. While the demand for skilled IT professionals is high, sourcing them is a formidable task. Additionally, managing and sustaining an independent SOC proves to be a costly endeavor, encompassing expenses for cybersecurity solutions and technologies.

Consequently, an increasing number of organizations are turning their focus to SOC services provided by external vendors. A managed SOC, commonly known as SOC as a Service, enables you to harness the services and knowledge of external cybersecurity specialists who actively monitor your environment, devices, logs, and network for potential threats. This managed SOC operates on a subscription model, requiring a monthly or annual fee for threat detection and response.

By opting for SOC as a Service, you enjoy the advantages of continuous 24/7 monitoring of your IT infrastructure without the substantial upfront investments in security software, hardware, cybersecurity experts, and training.

Emerging Security Threats in 2024:

  1. Escalation of Advanced Ransomware Attacks: Anticipation of more intricate and sophisticated ransomware attacks.

  2. Targeting Supply Chain Vulnerabilities: A rise in the exploitation of vulnerabilities within supply chains.

  3. Surge in IoT and Edge Device Attacks: Increased incidents of attacks targeting the Internet of Things (IoT) and Edge devices.

  4. Stringent Regulatory Cybersecurity Requirements: Growing imposition of stricter regulatory standards for cybersecurity.

  5. Evolution of Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks: Advancements in social engineering and phishing attacks to a more sophisticated level.

  6. Heightened Threats to AI Systems and Big Data: A growing number of threats directed at artificial intelligence systems and big data, encompassing attacks on machine learning models.

Determining the Suitability of SOCaaS:

In evaluating whether SOCaaS is the appropriate choice, organizations should conduct a thorough analysis of their requirements, objectives, and capacities.

Considerations when designing a SOC:

Company Strategy: Consult the overarching business and IT strategy to ascertain the most suitable operating model.

Industry Sector: The sector in which a company predominantly operates significantly influences the extent of SOC needed.

Size: The company's size is a crucial factor in the decision-making process. A smaller company might find it challenging to independently establish and operate its own SOC, making outsourcing to a service provider a more viable option.

Cost: Assessing the expenses associated with setting up and sustaining an in-house SOC is essential. It's crucial to compare these costs against the expenses incurred by outsourcing security operations. The costs related to recruiting, hiring, and training SOC personnel are particularly noteworthy. This is especially true considering the ongoing trend of escalating skill shortages and heightened market demand, which may further impact these costs.

Time: Establishing your own SOC is a time-intensive process. Therefore, it's crucial to align with the company's plans and timelines. Additionally, the time required to create an in-house SOC should be compared with the time needed to acquire a SOC as a Service.

Compliance: Different industries are subject to varying regulations. Some regulations may mandate the adoption of SOC as a service, while others may restrict outsourcing SOC operations, either entirely or to specific providers compliant with relevant regulations.

Expertise: Developing expertise demands both time and financial investment. Finding the necessary skills for SOC work can be challenging. Recruiting and retaining skilled personnel are critical factors for internal SOCs. Conversely, external SOC-as-a-service providers already possess the requisite skills.

When contemplating the establishment of a Security Operations Center for your business, it's crucial to clearly outline your requirements and compare them with the capabilities offered by each option—having an in-house SOC or opting for SOC as a Service. If you find yourself uncertain about the final decision or lack experience within your company, seeking advice from an expert is important.

At ESKA, we specialize in developing and implementing solutions for both creating an in-house SOC and providing Should you require assistance, feel free to reach out. Our team of cybersecurity experts is ready to guide you through the distinctions between proprietary and third-party solutions, addressing any questions you may have.

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