Effective cybersecurity is one of the most relevant topics for any business owner today. When you consider the nature of the modern enterprise and the many working parts that need protection, finding the right cybersecurity tools and specialists can be a challenge. Most modern businesses use a combination of internal infrastructure, third-party software, cloud platforms, and web-based tools to keep operations running efficiently. Extending security to all these network components can require a variety of tools and methods to keep your organization's sensitive data safe.
Your company's Security Operations Center (SOC) is the hub of your organization's cybersecurity framework. It is the headquarters that houses the professionals who take care of your company's security needs and the advanced tools required to address cybersecurity concerns in real-time. As the centralized location for all of the activities responsible for threat detection and incident response, your SOC is the single most important factor in your organization's security capabilities.
Yet, no two organizations have the same infrastructure, regulatory requirements, data storage and handling needs, or budget. With the many varied models of networks and tools used to run different businesses and organizations across such a wide variety of industries, it's understandable that different types of SOCs are available to meet the individualized needs of companies.
In the past, a SOC was an in-house operation dedicated to defending the walls of an enterprise. Essentially, a company's network was confined within the walls of a facility. This meant sensitive data was in a highly controlled area on the premises of the business. As business models have changed at the speed of modern technology, the amount of data storage required for any company has grown exponentially. New tools make collaboration and communication easier than ever, but they also increase the ways bad actors can exploit vulnerabilities and attack networks.
Consumers depend on modern businesses to provide products and services at the click of a button, which is accomplished through a complex network of connected vendors, suppliers, and shipping carriers. Yet, these added connections bring about added security woes as well. Remote work has evolved to allow employees to work whenever and wherever they want with connected devices that can access company networks at any time.
Each of these conveniences comes with improved business processes that increase profits and add new cybersecurity risks. While in-house SOC models (also known as dedicated SOC) still exist, the infrastructure to keep one running effectively can be costly, and sourcing the talent required to defend your network against modern cyberthreats can be nearly impossible. This is why many organizations are turning to a virtual SOC for effective security to protect all components of the modern enterprise.
What Is a Virtual SOC?
A virtual security operations center (VSOC) is a secure, web-based tool used to monitor the events of your systems in real-time. In its most complete form, a VSOC will offer the same capabilities as a dedicated SOC with outsourced technology and maintenance provided by a security vendor or managed security service provider (MSSP). A true virtual SOC challenges the notion of a center since your security operations don't actually require a designated physical space. A SOC is composed of people, processes, and technologies. Your virtual SOC coordinates the processes and elements with cloud connectivity, allowing your team to work remotely and coordinate processes through secure communications, while the necessary hardware is located in a server room in a different location.
In the same way that every organization is unique, virtual SOCs are unique as well. Besides being customized to an organization's network, there are several different types of VSOCs to choose from. These choices allow companies to complement their existing security team with additional resources or find the level of security and support that best meets their organizational needs and compliance requirements.
Types of Virtual SOCs
Unlike a dedicated SOC, a virtual SOC does not reside in a dedicated facility, nor does it have a dedicated infrastructure. It is a decentralized cloud-based portal that connects your company infrastructure to an off-site monitoring and event response team. Virtual SOCs follow different service models and are supplied by a variety of security vendors. A virtual SOC offers organizations the chance to invest in a comprehensive security solution without the prohibitive cost of on-premises hardware and other infrastructure. Virtual teams supply additional support with the installation and optimization of tools and incident response.
Security Operations as a Service
The as-a-service model provides you with cloud-connected modern technology and expertise to deliver security results on demand. Security Operations as a Service (SOCaaS) is a managed service provided by an MSSP. Through the use of cloud services, security vendors can provide integrable infrastructure, systems, applications, data storage, and IT and cybersecurity resources to provide businesses with security results in real-time.
Essentially, SOCaaS works to provide businesses with the same benefits as a dedicated SOC. However, like all products and services, not all SOCaaS offerings include the same technology and support. When you invest in SOCaaS from a reputable security service provider, you should expect services to include the installation and optimization of critical tools including SIEM for visibility and threat detection, SOAR for incident response, built-in compliance reporting, and 24/7 monitoring from experienced security experts.
As cybersecurity threats continue to evolve in cost and complexity, organizations are turning to managed services as a solution. SOCaaS is an ideal solution for small and medium growing businesses that can't afford the cost of infrastructure and staff for an on-prem SOC. There is little to no start-up cost and the monthly cost of maintaining SOCaaS is much cheaper than buying, deploying, and maintaining a dedicated security center. For businesses seeking a rapid deployment and fast time to value, SOCaaS offers the most comprehensive option.
Potential Challenges of SOCaaS
While SOCaaS has the potential to provide front-line cyber threat intelligence and the most up-to-date technologies, not all solutions have the same benefits and offerings. For this reason, the biggest challenge for businesses hoping to invest in reliable SOCaaS could be finding the right provider. When searching for an MSSP that offers SOCaaS, it's essential to look for an expert with years of industry expertise and experience providing a comprehensive SOCaaS model.
A co-managed SOC complements the on-site monitoring solutions employed by your team while some responsibilities may be offloaded to external staff. Like SOCaaS, a co-managed SOC is a managed service that provides both technology and professional expertise. Sometimes called a hybrid approach because it utilizes on-site tools as well as external staff and monitoring, co-managed SOC is often a solution for growing businesses or those seeking a way to update their security solution.
A co-managed SOC solution should provide you with the opportunity to prioritize specific security skills and technologies based on their on-prem capabilities. For instance, an organization may wish to delegate low-risk security processes to an off-site provider to free up time for in-house professionals to concentrate on high-level tasks. When your company invests in co-managed SOC, you should be able to expect additional resources in the form of newer technologies and monitoring and support from a professional team that acts as an extension of your internal team.
Co-managed SOC can be an ideal solution for businesses hoping to improve their security posture while maintaining some control and the security professionals who work within the organization. Businesses may choose a co-managed SOC to extend the efforts of the in-house team to achieve 24/7 monitoring and response capabilities. Other benefits include updating legacy-type security operations with outsourced services to protect cloud platforms or scaling security for a growing business. A co-managed SOC can also be useful in helping organizations with an on-prem SOC navigate staff and skills shortages.
Potential Challenges of Co-Managed SOC
Like SOCaaS, it's crucial to find the right partner for an effective co-managed SOC. This solution requires your MSSPs off-site team to work in conjunction with your team in all security efforts to orchestrate a complete solution. Organizations hoping to fill security gaps with additional technologies and services will need extensive information to ensure they're getting the exact services they need.
An additional concern that organizations must consider with a co-managed SOC is achieving the perfect balance. When tasks are divided among two teams, it's crucial to have a firm plan in place that outlines the responsibilities of each team. To avoid potential conflicts and errors, the terms of such agreements should be discussed before making a final selection.
A SOC/NOC combines your organization's security operations and network operations centers. NOC teams utilize a complex tech environment to keep your IT systems up and running. By combining your security operations center with your IT team, you can reduce costs by sharing critical infrastructure and balancing critical tasks. Typically, a network operations center exists on-site and may include some security functions. This team may outsource additional security tasks, like the co-managed model, or seek to outsource a combination of IT and security functions.
Essentially, a SOC/NOC is designed to increase the integration of IT and security functions to bridge incident workflows and develop common processes. For some small businesses, the SOC/NOC design might seem like the only obvious option due to budget constraints. However, a fully functioning multifunction SOC/NOC shouldn't be confused with an IT team that's been stretched to cover security capabilities.
Companies may choose a SOC/NOC if they have a team that serves some of the critical functions for both centers but is missing crucial aspects for both network operations and security operations. Additionally, some companies outsource both NOC and SOC functions and may be seeking a way to join the two in hopes of cutting costs or finding a more uniform solution.
Challenges of a Virtual SOC/NOC
A true, complete integrated SOC/NOC requires both teams to rethink the way they address tasks and processes. While there are developing models discussed for the integration of SOC and NOC teams, a complete, fully-outsourced solution would likely be in its infancy. For companies hoping to achieve a co-managed SOC/NOC solution, the act of combining NOC and SOC responsibilities in-house threatens to split the focus of professionals and leave oversight errors or gaps in security.
A command SOC includes multiple SOCs distributed across several locations, often globally. The command SOC acts as a central management team to oversee security operations centers for a business with segmented operations centers divided by geographic location or by business units. An enterprise that requires a command SOC is typically a large organization with numerous high-level experts that implement, manage, and enforce cybersecurity.
While a command SOC structure offers the most comprehensive security structure available, it typically isn't designed to meet the needs of day-to-day security operations for a single business. This model is generally reserved for large enterprises, public institutions, and government agencies with extensive resources and a large threat profile.
Challenges of a Virtual Command SOC
The sheer complexity and expansive nature of a command SOC put it out of reach for most companies. The organizations that depend on a command SOC are those most likely to have the resources for dedicated, on-prem SOC solutions. This could mean finding an MSSP with complete command SOC tools and capabilities will be difficult. It's also important to note that a command SOC isn't designed to address low-level attacks and day-to-day security tasks, since it is the command center to oversee multiple SOCs staffed to handle such concerns.
What Virtual SOC Model is Right for My Business?
A virtual SOC can be designed to provide a complete comprehensive solution for end-to-end security for your organization and all of its IT components. It can also be used to provide a portion of your security requirements to complement your internal efforts. Determining the right virtual SOC model for your business will require careful consideration of your industry and individual needs, as well as your security requirements now and in the future. To find a suitable VSOC model that will suit your unique business needs and situation, you'll need to consider a variety of factors about your organization.
Your Internal Security Efforts
Your existing security efforts will likely be the biggest determining factor in choosing the virtual SOC model best for your organization. Which organizations might need a VSOC to improve their cybersecurity efforts? Small, medium, and large businesses that have a dedicated SOC, an IT team attempting to handle security operations, or a partial security solution managed by a third-party MSSP. Yes, in today's cybersecurity landscape, all types of organizations could benefit from a virtual SOC. However, the model that best suits your organization will take your internal team and tools into consideration.
Some organizations with a dedicated SOC seek the added security of a virtual SOC to extend critical monitoring and response features through off-time and gain additional support during staff vacations or leave. A business seeking this type of solution will likely prefer a co-managed VSOC. Other reasons to seek a co-managed solution might be scaling to company growth or increased data storage needs, limited internal staff, and falling victim to a breach or other attack.
An organization with little or no security features will likely require the more robust services of completely outsourced SOCaaS. This option will offer businesses everything they need for vastly improved cybersecurity posture with little startup costs or on-prem infrastructure and tools. SOCaaS providers typically have the advantage of a preferred security stack that will be ready to implement quickly for rapid time-to-value.
Businesses that already have a well-oiled NOC that efficiently manages security operations but is stretched thin could benefit from an outsourced SOC/NOC or co-managed SOC. The ability to choose which skills to prioritize will help your organization decide where your internal staff's strengths lie. It's also important to consider how outsourced SOCs can educate internal teams for more advanced results.
While the idea of investing in a complete outsourced may seem expensive, a virtual SOC can help you cut costs in many ways. For instance, a company with a dedicated SOC that needs to update tools and processes may choose to divert the internal team to IT practices and invest in a fully outsource SOCaaS. This would allow the company to eliminate the costs of new infrastructure and software as well as make them prepared to scale more in the future. On the other hand, an institution with a fully functional SOC that includes highly trained professionals may wish to keep that talent in-house and invest in co-managed SOC that will take care of low-level tasks so the internal team can focus on critical issues like incidents response.
When considering your security budget, it's always important to remember that without adequate security you will fall victim to an attack. Every successful cybersecurity attack will cost your business significantly more than your cybersecurity investments. Your budget considerations should weigh the costs of infrastructure and internal staff against the costs of outsourcing part or all of your solution instead of limiting crucial tools and practices that could leave you open to attack.
A virtual SOC includes software and tools that help you meet your security objectives. Recent high-level attacks have affected government agencies, large corporations, and SMBs. As a result, a variety of new compliance requirements are on the horizon to help organizations defend against similar attacks. For many businesses, preparing for and maintaining compliance with regulations are a huge drain on internal resources and staff time. For this reason, a company may choose to invest in co-managed SOC or turn security operations over to fully outsourced SOCaaS to reduce the internal costs and efforts of compliance.
A dedicated SOC requires internal infrastructure, software, tools, and staff. This means any on-prem SOC will likely require considerable cost and effort to scale to company growth and increased data storage needs. It's common for growing businesses to increase the use of external tools and third-party software during periods of growth. If the internal team is barely keeping up with the security requirements before new tools are added, the organization will likely be open to a variety of new threats.
Virtual SOCaaS and co-managed SOC offer practically unlimited scalability to meet the needs of businesses across all industries. Since these solutions utilize cloud storage and have robust security teams, they are equipped to meet the needs of growing businesses.
Choosing a VSOC Provider
There are currently around 435,000 cybersecurity job openings available in the United States. At the same time, the threat landscape is growing exponentially. This massive skills gap makes it more difficult than ever for every organization to maintain an effective on-prem security operations center. As a result, many companies are meeting their cybersecurity objectives with third-party assistance through a co-managed solution or fully outsourced SOC. No matter what model of virtual SOC you need to effectively protect your company, the vendor you choose to provide these services will be critical to your success.
When choosing a VSOC provider, it's essential to ensure you'll have access to the appropriate tools and staff to protect your network effectively. This means you'll want to know about the tools and technology used by the MSSP, the level of support provided by off-site cybersecurity professionals, and the services provided by your virtual security operations center. When choosing between SOC providers, determine whether they provide these functions and tools.
- A Next-Gen SIEM service with logging and machine learning capabilities
- 24/7 professional support
- Cloud and application security
- Security audits and pentesting
- Installation and optimization of vendor-provided software
- Security compliance
- Experience with businesses in your industry
- Threat intelligence alerts
- Hands-on incident response
- Rapid time to value
- Technology that supports use cases like those outlined in the MITRE ATT&CK framework.
When it comes to security, no organization can afford to settle. Your VSOC should work as an extension of your team to provide you with the most comprehensive security available. Whether you have a limited budget and are looking for a complete solution or you're seeking an outsourced SOC that will complement your internal team, consider reaching out to BitLyft. Our security operations center team is a group of highly trained and multi-faceted experts dedicated to understanding your environment and how it's affected by the ever-changing threat landscape. Schedule a needs assessment to see how our teams can work with yours to provide an individualized approach that will provide you with the most complete security solution available.