Security Operations Center Skills: Everything You Need To Know

Security Operations Center Skills: Everything You Need To Know

By Special Guest
Stuart R. Crawford

The fast-evolving technology world has exposed companies and users to multiple new challenges. Cybersecurity has become a significant area of concern within the tech community, with different players trying to find lasting solutions to the growing menace. Unfortunately, some tech experts feel that the business community has not given cybersecurity the attention it deserves.

Discussions about cybersecurity can help businesses to create awareness and resolve potential damage from damning attacks. A company's success against cyberattacks depends on its ability to restrain data leaks and infections. Experts project that spyware and ransomware's cost implications may rise to $20 billion by the end of 2021, highlighting the value of securing your networks. 

Many service providers turn to Security Operations Center Analysts (SOC Analysts) to help with their cybersecurity initiatives. SOC analysts have critical skills, including watching for network anomalies, monitoring & configuring services like data leak protection, monitoring systems for ransomware, and watching out for data breaches. 

Finding the right SOC with proper certifications and appropriate skill sets is beneficial to service providers. Ferrell Fuller of ChaceTech LLC believes that hiring SOC analysts with dynamic skills increases your chances of securing your networks. "Given that cybersecurity has multiple moving parts, a SOC with more skills can secure your systems against evolving cyber threats," he said. 

What is the most important skill to look for in a SOC?

Sarah McAvoy from CyberUnlocked believes that SOCs' automation levels can prove decisive in the current cybersecurity landscape. With such skills, SOCs can flash out false positives and focus on threat hunting with ease. These skills can also help them auto remediate low and medium-level alerts, secure your networks consistently, and minimize expensive downtime. The demand for automation will go hand in hand with vulnerability-scanning, threat hunting, and compliance monitoring skills.

Today's security operations centers are flooded with alerts, and automation can improve their organizational structure. Numerous alerts can burn out cybersecurity experts with tedious manual labor, obscuring legitimate threats. Emerging technologies and automation are enhancing SOCs organizational structures, bringing a new paradigm to these centers. Level 1 and 2 SOC analysts who focus on security incident investigation and event monitoring may have their roles automated to enhance efficiency. 

SOCs also need to think outside the box to analyze gathered data accurately and make conclusive judgments from the data. Problem-solving is also a top requirement for today's SOCs. Regardless of your SIEM tools or NOC systems, security breaches will still occur. SOCs need to identify the root cause of such violations and set up controls that prevent repeat occurrences.

According to SemTech IT Solutions' Nick Allo, SOCs need to keep up with internal compliance to remain functional in today's evolving cybersecurity market. "Companies can get audits, but without an in-house staff who understands their compliance requirements, they may fall behind. SOCs who understand and appreciate compliance can help you ensure compliance with industry regulations and keep documentation to prove the same," he said.

Why is this skill so important?

The tech industry is steadily moving towards Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR) tools to step up the fight against rogue cybercriminals. According to Sarah McAvoy, Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) tools may soon become obsolete. "The key role of SOCs will soon become a blend of threat hunting and incident response. For threat hunting, they'll need to focus on finding anomalies within network activity and watching for sophisticated targeted cyber threats," she said.

Many SOCs spend most of their time monitoring client's infrastructure and security alerts. These level 1 and 2 analysts fail to go out of their way to offer lasting solutions to their customers. With the advent of modern SOC requirements, automation will soon become a must-have, forcing analysts to resolve low and medium alerts proactively. Organizations seek SOCs who can leverage automation, response tools, and security orchestration to implement automation projections like workflow and remediation processes.

Often people assess SOCs based on how they respond to incidents. Incident responders manage incidents from escalated alerts to help maintain smooth business operations. Analysts also need to manage a breach's effects to minimize the impact. Highly-skilled SOCs will suggest modifications in the current security controls to mitigate the risk of future attacks. 

As artificial intelligence becomes available in the cybersecurity landscape, organizations will embrace automated solutions to replace tedious, mundane tasks. SOCs will, therefore, need data analytics skills to interpret collected information and foster active defense. These skills allow SOCs to predict hackers' behavior and work on preventing their activity within their networks. 

What's the most overrated SOC skill?

While overrated SOC skills are far apart, the most underrated skills are the soft skills that SOCs require to keep in touch with the rest of their technical team. SOCs typically need listening skills, discretion & trustworthiness, communication skills, and tact and diplomacy to remain effective within the job setting. 

How important is certification?

The SOC analyst role requires specific education, and recruiters tend to hire professionals with work-ready skills. Certification demonstrates that an analyst is proficient with managing the operating systems, application security, and SIEM tools. With the certification, level 1 and 2 SOC analysts can boost their entry-level and intermediate-level operations, offering better value to their organizations.

Cybersecurity certification provides an accurate understanding of different security frameworks. SOC analysts will learn about ethical hacking and enhance their proficiency in exposing vulnerabilities and identifying potential threats. With certification, SOCs can also improve their penetration testing ability, ensuring the systems remain secure. However, experience in handling multiple threat scenarios and keeping networks secure is more valuable for any company.  

Adapting for Success

The cybersecurity industry is ever-evolving, with new threats introduced to the market daily. The current pandemic has forced IT security experts to fast-track solutions to maintain security and compliance in a dynamic market. Modern SOCs, therefore, need to keep abreast of the evolving market to remain valuable to their employers.

In the current security model, organizations go through a cycle of hiring-training-replacing with security analysts. A fully-staffed SOC still experiences a tough time dealing with the numerous alerts. With the adoption of automation, companies can make the most of their available security analysts. 

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