Building a Future-proof Intelligent Security Operations Center

I have to admit that I find the very concept of a Security Operations Center extremely… cinematic. As soon as you mention it to somebody, they would probably imagine a large room reminiscent of the NASA Mission Control Center – with walls lined with large screens and dozens of security experts manning their battle stations. From time to time, a loud buzzer informs them that a new security incident has been discovered, and a heroic team starts running towards the viewer in slow motion…

Of course, in reality most SOCs are much more boring-looking, but still this cliché image from action movies captures the primary purpose of an SOC perfectly – it exists to respond to security breaches as quickly as possible in order to contain them and minimize the losses. Unfortunately, looking back at the last decade of SOC platform development, it becomes clear that many vendors have been focusing their efforts elsewhere.

Traditional Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) platforms, which have long been the core of security operations centers, have gone long way to become really good at aggregating security events from multiple sources across organizations and providing monitoring and alerting functions, but when it comes to analyzing a discovered incident, making an informed decision about it and finally mitigating the threat, security experts’ job is still largely manual and time-consuming, since traditional SIEM solutions offer few automation capabilities and usually do not support two-way integration with security devices like firewalls.

Another major problem is the sheer number of security events a typical SOC is receiving daily. The more deperimeterized and interconnected modern corporate networks become, the more open they are for new types of cyberthreats, both external and internal, and the number of events collected by a SIEM increases exponentially. Analysts no longer have nearly enough time to analyze and respond to each alert. The situation is further complicated by the fact that an overwhelming majority of these events are false positives, duplicates or otherwise irrelevant. However, a traditional SIEM offers no way to differentiate them from real threats, drowning analysts in noise and leaving them only minutes to make an informed decision about each incident.

All this leads to the fundamental problem IT industry is now facing: because of the immense complexity of setting up and operating a security operations center, which requires a large budget and a dedicated team of security experts, many companies simply cannot afford it, and even those who can are continuously struggling with the lack of skilled workforce to manage their SOC. In the end, even for the best-staffed security operations centers, the average response time to a security incident is measured in days if not weeks, not even close to the ultimate goal of dealing with them in real time.

In the recent years, this has led to the emergence of a new generation of security solutions based on Real-Time Security Intelligence. Such tools utilize Big Data analytics technologies and machine learning algorithms to correlate large amounts of security data, apply threat intelligence from external sources, detect anomalies in activity patterns and provide a small number of actionable alarms clearly ranked by their risk scores. Such tools promise to dramatically reduce the time to mitigate a breach by performing data analysis in real time, eliminating statistical noise and false positives and, last but not least, providing a high degree of automation to make the security analyst’s job easier.

Although KuppingerCole has been promoting this concept for quite a few years already, the first real products have appeared a couple years ago, and since then the market has evolved and matured at an incredible rate. Back in 2015, when KuppingerCole attempted to produce a Leadership Compass on RTSI solutions, we failed to find enough vendors for a meaningful rating. In 2017, however, we could easily identify over 25 Security Intelligence Platform solutions offered by a variety of vendors, from large veteran players known for their SIEM products to newly established innovative startups.

To be continued...

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